Special Counsel Jack Smith is now preparing to address the public Friday afternoon after the Justice Department has faced criticism over its silence in the wake of Donald Trump’s announcement the agency has indicted him.
It’s a familiar pattern for prosecutors dealing with Trump, who have seen him beat law enforcement to the punch in announcing both the search of his home in the Mar-a-Lago documents case and charges in a New York hush money probe. Still, critics have argued the dynamic lets the former president shape the narrative.
But the Justice Department (DOJ) declined to comment on the matter Thursday night after Trump broke the news. Smith is expected to make remarks at 3 p.m. Friday.
While the department often likes to say it prefers to speak in court than to the public, the fact it has not yet unsealed the indictment is a departure from how it has publicized other major cases recently.
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Anthony Coley, who served as director of public affairs at the Justice Department until stepping down in January, called it a “critical period” in the case and argued for those handling the investigation to move to unseal the charges.
“I’d imagine my [former] colleagues at DOJ are petitioning/will soon petition the Court to unseal the charges,” Coley wrote on Twitter. “Not doing so would allow Trump to fill the space w/ misinformation. Imperative for DOJ to get records unsealed w/n next 24 hours.”
Even some Republicans have pushed for more transparency from the DOJ, arguing that the nature of charging a former president and current White House candidate requires a fuller explanation of the charges.
“I think the Justice Department should immediately move to unseal the indictment. I think the sooner we bring the facts forward to the American people, the better,” former Vice President Mike Pence, who is running for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, said Friday morning.
Pence told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that Attorney General Merrick Garland should hold a news conference to explain the facts of the indictment “before the sun sets tonight.”
The appointment of Smith for special counsel prompted a swift press conference from Garland, who broke down the rationale behind the assignment as well as the scope of his work.
Since then, the DOJ has been almost entirely mum on the investigation in keeping with department protocol.
But many expected the DOJ to be more public-facing following an indictment of this magnitude.
“When Trump disclosed the existence of the Mar-a-Lago search warrant, DOJ ultimately moved to unseal to prevent Trump from spinning one-sided narratives,” tweeted Joyce Vance, a former federal prosecutor. “They should do the same here & move to unseal US v. Trump in advance of arraignment on Tuesday.”
Doug Heye, a former GOP aide on Capitol Hill and at the Republican National Committee, called it “puzzling” that the department would remain silent and potentially allow Trump and his allies to define the narrative around the case.
Trump isn’t expected in court until 3 p.m. Tuesday, which could provide the first glance at the indictment if the DOJ doesn’t secure its unsealing before then.
Trump’s legal team likewise says it has not seen the indictment — attorney Jim Trusty said he’s received a summons for Trump to appear in court which outlined the charges but falls short of the information that would be provided in an indictment.