Jack Smith, the bearded, avid triathlon-racer leading the prosecution of Donald Trump’s classified documents case, burnished his reputation taking on war criminals in the Hague.
The 54-year-old has had a wide-ranging career which has included prosecuting drug gang leaders and mob bosses in Manhattan, and complex corruption cases against US politicians of all stripes.
He left his role as chief prosecutor for a special court in The Hague investigating war crimes in Kosovo to become the special counsel overseeing Mr Trump’s case last November.
The US attorney general, Merrick Garland, chose to appoint a special counsel given the “particularly sensitive” circumstances involved in investigating a former US president.
As a special counsel, Mr Smith has an extra layer of independence from the Department of Justice (DOJ) than one of its own prosecutors would.
Probe into Capitol attack
In addition to investigating Mr Trump’s retention of classified documents after leaving the White House, Mr Smith is probing the former president’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and his role in the January 6, 2021 Capitol attack.
Mr Smith was an obvious choice. A registered independent, he has expressed few political beliefs that might indicate any bias. And he has garnered a reputation as a dogged investigator, reportedly just as determined in seeking to have criminal charges dropped for the innocent as he is in pursuing convictions against the guilty.
“If I were the sort of person who could be cowed – : ‘I know we should bring this case, I know the person did it, but we could lose, and that will look bad,’ I would find another line of work,” he once told the New York Times.
“I can’t imagine how someone who does what I do or has worked with me could think that.”
Mr Smith’s tenacity is often referenced by his former colleagues. “If the case is prosecutable, he will do it,” said Mark Lesko, who worked alongside Mr Smith at the US Attorney’s Office in New York. “He is fearless.”
When Mr Smith is not pursuing cases, he spends his time participating in gruelling fitness competitions.
He has completed more than 100 triathlons and at least nine Ironman competitions – including in Germany, Brazil and Canada.
He has a daughter with wife Katy Chevigny, an award-winning documentary filmmaker.
Mr Smith attended the State University of New York at Oneonta before graduating from Harvard Law School.
He started his career as a prosecutor in 1994 at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office under Robert Morgenthau, who was best known for prosecuting mob bosses. A few years later he moved to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, where he worked on a high-profile police brutality case.
From 2008 to 2010 he supervised war crimes investigations in The Hague.
He returned to the DOJ to head up its Public Integrity Section until 2015, working complex cases against public officials.
Under his leadership the department brought a corruption case against John Edwards, a Democratic former senator and vice presidential candidate and Bob McDonnell, at the time Virginia’s Republican governor.
He oversaw another investigation into a former Republican congressman but decided against bringing charges.
While he has received distinguished service awards, having spent the past four years overseas, Mr Smith has a relatively low profile at home and has been shielded from the hyper partisan legal battles of the Trump and Biden administrations.
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