About 10 days ago, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Jack Smith as a special prosecutor in the two government investigations of former President Donald Trump.
There are a couple of ways to think about that appointment. The first and most obvious is that it is yet another attempt by the Department of Justice to reassert its dominance over the political processes of the United States. That would be a fair interpretation. Whatever the voters might want, the Department of Justice might want something else.
Here’s a second — and not necessarily contrary — possibility: The Department of Justice appointed the special prosecutor specifically to manage all of the interactions Mr. Trump has with the legal system with an eye toward matching the tempo of those interactions with the 2024 election cycle.
In other words, Mr. Smith was not appointed to hurry things along. He was hired to make sure DOJ could manage all of the legal attacks on Mr. Trump in a way that maximizes their benefit to the Democrats in the 2024 election cycle.
To those with a conspiratorial bent of mind, using the criminal justice system to affect the outcome of an election might seem like a threat to democracy.
There is no other substantive reason to appoint a special prosecutor. Federal prosecutors have been steadily moving toward indicting the former president, perhaps as early as the first half of next year. Such a schedule would suggest trials that could be completed before the New Hampshire primary and certainly before the November 2024 election.
That clearly would not do for the political operatives that run the Department of Justice. They need an open prosecution file on Mr. Trump for the entirety of the 2024 campaign so they can share (leak?) relevant morsels at appropriate moments during the campaign. It doesn’t even matter whether Mr. Trump is the nominee. The experience in the most recent cycle is that the mere presence of Mr. Trump in the headlines is enough to drive Democratic turnout.
Such a plan would require the sort of prosecutor who would be willing to play ball with the thoroughly political and morally compromised Merrick Garland.
Enter Jack Smith with a bright, shiny prosecutorial résumé: Harvard Law, career prosecutor, bringer of war criminals to justice.
Oops. Turns out he gave Lois Lerner, the Obama IRS official who targeted conservative nonprofit groups, legal advice. Turns out his wife is a Biden donor who has produced documentary films/puff pieces on former first lady Michelle Obama.
That’s all OK from the perspective of Mr. Garland and his boss. Mr. Smith isn’t there to indict and bring the former president to trial; he’s there to make sure Mr. Trump doesn’t get indicted or tried anywhere on any timetable other than the one preferred by his bosses at the Department of Justice.
Fortunately for them, the special prosecutor process was designed ab initio to ensure a long, drawn-out ordeal that could easily last through the 2024 election calendar. The Whitewater investigation lasted four years. John Durham — the special prosecutor examining the origins of the Russian hoax and the FBI’s involvement in it — has been wandering in the desert looking for sand for 3½ years.
Moreover, the statute of limitations on the nominal subjects of Mr. Smith’s investigation — the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and the Mar-a-Lago documents kerfuffle — doesn’t require him to indict until long after the 2024 election cycle is over.
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, co-hosts “The Unregulated Podcast.” He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.