- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Special counsel Jack Smith, chosen for his supposed nonpartisan qualifications to handle criminal probes of former President Donald Trump, is nevertheless linked to an anti-conservative scheme and pro-Democratic pursuits.

He played an early role in the IRS targeting of conservative groups, and he is married to a filmmaker who produced a documentary about Michelle Obama and donated to President Biden’s campaign.

The Justice Department describes Mr. Smith as a registered independent, but conservatives and people in Mr. Trump’s orbit aren’t buying it.

Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich, pointing to the support of Democrats by Mr. Smith’s wife, Katy Chevigny, said on Twitter, “No wonder Jack Smith accepted this special assignment. … The swamp is hard at work!”

Rep. Andrew S. Clyde of Georgia, a Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said of Ms. Chevigny’s liberal background, “You just can’t make this stuff up. America cannot stand with a corrupt, two-tiered justice system.”

Mr. Smith, who served as chief of the Justice Department’s public integrity section during the Obama administration, came to the attention of House Judiciary Committee Republicans investigating the IRS scandal in 2014. They wrote to then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. seeking an interview with Mr. Smith. They said he was a key link to the IRS early in the move to investigate the tax-exempt status of conservative nonprofit groups.

SEE ALSO: Appeals court to decide future of special master in Trump document case

Rep. Darrell Issa, the California Republican who was heading the Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, cited the testimony of Richard Pilger, Mr. Smith’s subordinate at the Justice Department, who said Mr. Smith set up a meeting in October 2010 with IRS official Lois Lerner “to discuss how the IRS could assist in the criminal enforcement of campaign-finance laws against politically active nonprofits.”

“It is apparent that the department’s leadership, including Public Integrity Section Chief Jack Smith, was closely involved in engaging with the IRS in wake of Citizens United and political pressure from prominent Democrats to address perceived problems with the decision,” the lawmakers wrote.

In a subsequent interview with lawmakers, Mr. Smith said he called for the meeting with Ms. Lerner because he wanted to learn more about the issue of political nonprofits, according to a transcript obtained by CNN. He said Ms. Lerner told him that an investigation of a nonprofit’s tax-exempt status would be difficult.

“I want to be clear — it would be more about looking at the issue, looking at whether it made sense to open investigations,” Mr. Smith told lawmakers at the time. “If we did, you know, how would you go about doing this? Is there predication, a basis to open an investigation? I can just tell you that — because I know one of your concerns is that organizations were targeted. And I can tell you that we, Public Integrity, did not open any investigations as a result of those discussions and that we certainly, as you know, have not brought any cases as a result of that.”

He said he was not aware of Justice Department pressure on the IRS.

“Anybody who knows me would never even consider asking me to do such a thing,” Mr. Smith said.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United in 2010 allowed corporations, including nonprofits, and labor unions to spend unlimited sums for or against political candidates.

The Treasury Department’s inspector general eventually concluded that the IRS targeting of conservative nonprofits was inappropriate.

“The IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention,” the report said.

Last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Mr. Smith to oversee investigations of claims that Mr. Trump mishandled classified documents and that Mr. Trump and his allies attempted to subvert the 2020 election. He emphasized the need for a special prosecutor to “independently manage” the investigations, given that Mr. Trump is running for the presidency in 2024 and Mr. Biden is likely to run for reelection.

Mr. Smith, who was wrapping up an assignment as a war crimes prosecutor at The Hague, asserted his qualifications as a political independent.

“I intend to conduct the assigned investigations, and any prosecutions that may result from them, independently and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice,” Mr. Smith said. “The pace of the investigations will not pause or flag under my watch. I will exercise independent judgment and will move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate.”

In addition to questioning Mr. Smith’s connection to the IRS episode, conservatives are pointing to the liberal leanings of his wife.

Federal Election Commission records show that Ms. Chevigny contributed $1,000 each to Mr. Biden’s 2020 campaign, Biden for President and the Biden Victory Fund super PAC, in September 2020. She also donated $150 to a campaign committee supporting Democrat Rashida Tlaib in 2008, when Ms. Tlaib was running for the Michigan House of Representatives.

Ms. Tlaib now represents Michigan in the U.S. House, where she is known as one of the members of the far-left “Squad.”

Ms. Chevigny co-produced the 2020 Netflix documentary “Becoming,” a supportive look at Mrs. Obama while she was on a book tour.

Charlie Kirk, founder and president of the conservative group Turning Point USA, tweeted: “Of course the wife of Jack Smith, the special counsel appointed by Merrick Garland to investigate President Trump, was one of the producers of the Michelle Obama documentary. But don’t worry guys, the DOJ has not been weaponized against conservatives. Everything is fine!”

Mr. Smith grew up near Syracuse, New York, and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1994. He worked early in his career as a prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office and the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn.

During the Obama administration, Mr. Smith oversaw the prosecution of CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who was convicted of espionage charges in 2015 for telling a reporter for The New York Times about a secret operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. He also oversaw the separate convictions of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, and former Rep. Rick Renzi, Arizona Republican, on bribery and extortion charges.

The Supreme Court overturned Mr. McDonnell’s conviction, saying Mr. Smith’s team overreached in its interpretation of bribery statutes.

“There is no doubt that this case is distasteful; it may be worse than that,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in the majority opinion. “But our concern is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes, and ball gowns. It is instead with the broader legal implications of the government’s boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute. A more limited interpretation of the term’ official act’ leaves ample room for prosecuting corruption, while comporting with the text of the statute and the precedent of this Court.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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