Attorney General Merrick Garland took some reporters’ questions during a press briefing Wednesday, saying that any questions on former President Trump’s indictment would have to be answered by the special counsel’s court filings.
In November Garland appointed prosecutor Jack Smith, whose previous stint was at The Hague, to investigate among his duties Trump’s handling of classified documents post-Presidency.
“So, as you know, I can’t talk about the particulars of this or any ongoing criminal matter,” Garland said Wednesday. “As I said when I appointed Mr. Smith, I did so because it underscores the Justice Department’s commitment to both independence and accountability. Mr. Smith is a veteran career prosecutor. He has assembled a group of experienced and talented prosecutors and agents who insure his commitment to integrity and the rule of law. Any questions about this matter will have to be answered by their filings in court.”
Trump was arraigned at the federal courthouse in Miami on Tuesday following a federal grand jury’s indictment of the former President last week on 37 criminal counts related to his retaining classified documents. The charges include 31 counts for willful retention of national defense secrets in violation of the Espionage Act, as well as one count of making false statements, one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, one count of withholding a document or record, one count of corruptly concealing a document or record, one count of concealing a document in a federal investigation, and one count of a scheme to conceal.
Trump attorney Todd Blanche pleaded “not guilty” on his client’s behalf to all charges Tuesday.
Despite beefed up security by the Miami police and other authorities, both Trump supporters and opponents outside the courthouse remained energetic but relatively peaceful amid the arraignment proceedings.
A reporter on Wednesday asked Garland if the crowd’s behavior had been influenced by the numerous arrests—more than 1,033 by the Justice Department’s own count—of suspected rioters during the deadly January 6, 2021 insurrection upon the U.S. Capitol.
“All I can say is, we live in a democracy,” Garland answered. “These kinds of matters are adjudicated through the judicial system. The Justice Department will be vigilant to ensure that there are no threats of violence or actual violence.”
The grand jury in Florida’s indictment of Trump was a historic first—the charging of a former U.S. President with federal crimes.