Speaker Johnson Says Lawmakers ‘Actively’ Discussing Ways to Rein in Jack Smith, Including Defunding

Speaker Johnson Says Lawmakers ‘Actively’ Discussing Ways to Rein in Jack Smith, Including Defunding
(Left) Special Counsel Jack Smith on Aug. 1, 2023. (Right) Former U.S. President Donald Trump on May 14, 2024. (Alex Wong, Justin Lane/Getty Images)

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) on Wednesday once again waded into the debate about defunding special counsel Jack Smith’s office amid allegations of a political vendetta in his prosecution of former President Donald Trump, with the speaker saying lawmakers are “actively” considering ways to “rein in” the special counsel, including using the Congressional power of the purse.

A day after accusing Mr. Smith of bias in his prosecution of President Trump and vowing to rein him in, Mr. Johnson was asked by a reporter during his weekly press conference on Capitol Hill on May 15 to detail what that effort actually looks like.

“There’s a lot of different ideas,” Mr. Johnson replied. “People are alarmed that the special counsel, in that capacity, has been abused in recent years.”

“How does Congress rein that in? How does Congress correct that error and ensure that a special counsel is not abusing their authority? You know, we have oversight, of course—but we also have the power of the purse,” he continued. “And so there’s a lot of different ideas being discussed right now on what that would look like.”

The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the primary authority to raise and spend money, known as the “power of the purse.” Conservatives have long argued that billions in taxpayer dollars have been channeled to fund left-leaning agendas and that a way to push back on progressive policies is to withhold funding. More recently, Republicans on the House Oversight Committee have called for defunding federal agencies that refuse to cooperate with congressional investigations. And now, Mr. Johnson said Republicans are “actively” considering whether some form of defunding Mr. Smith’s office is feasible.

A spokesperson for the special counsel’s office declined to comment on Mr. Johnson’s remarks.

‘It Has to Be Dealt With Very Carefully’

At Wednesday’s press conference, Mr. Johnson described Mr. Smith’s cases against the former president as an example of the “weaponization” of the Department of Justice (DOJ) under President Joe Biden against political opponents, which is an allegation the president and members of his administration strenuously deny.

“The Department of Justice has clearly been politicized. Some of us consider this, actually, to be a weaponized DOJ,” Mr. Johson said at the presser. “They have used the system of justice against political opponents. Of course, the most prominent of which is Donald J. Trump.”

The idea of defunding Mr. Smith’s office amid allegations of political bias came up earlier, with Mr. Johnson confirming on May 7 that House Republicans were looking at that “very intently.”

However, the speaker later seemed to throw cold water on the idea, saying that considering using the appropriations process was a preliminary idea at “the very beginning stages of even beginning to investigate what that would look like.”

In an update during Wednesday’s press conference, Mr. Johnson clarified that using the regular appropriations process to defund the special counsel’s office was not technically possible—though he left open the door to some other means.

“Do you defund the entire special counsel office? What most people don’t realize is that is not funded in the regular appropriations process. It’s a separate, distinct account, and it’s effectively on auto-fund … on autopilot, and so it’s not part of the regular appropriations process,” he said.

“So it has to be dealt with separately, it has to be dealt with very carefully and very methodically,” Mr. Johnson added. While the speaker did not elaborate on what possible ways outside of the regular appropriations process could be used to defund or otherwise “rein in” Mr. Smith in his prosecution of President Trump, he said the matter is the subject of ongoing discussions.

“We haven’t yet come to a consensus on what that remedy looks like but we are actively discussing it,” said Mr. Johnson, who’s a former constitutional law attorney. “Stay tuned on that.”

Much like he did in his remarks on May 8 where he said eliminating the statute that established the institution of the independent counsel was not something that could—or should—be pursued, Mr. Johnson said there’s a role for special counsels, such as when there are conflicts within the DOJ itself.

“But [the special counsel] has to maintain and follow the rule of law. We can’t have special counsels engaged in political vendettas either and that’s what a lot of people see right now,” he said.

Mr. Smith is leading two prosecutions of President Trump—a classified documents case and another involving allegations of 2020 election interference.

In one case, Mr. Smith has charged the former president with 37 felonies in connection with his removal of documents from the White House when he left office. In another, the special counsel has charged President Trump with four felonies in connection with his efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 election.

President Trump has pleaded not guilty and insists the cases are politically motivated.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has defended Mr. Smith’s integrity and impartiality, arguing that the special counsel is upholding the rule of law.

“He has assembled a group of experienced and talented prosecutors and agents who share his commitment to integrity and the rule of law,” Mr. Garland said before meeting with U.S. attorneys in June 2023.

“As I said when I appointed Mr. Smith, I did so because it underscores the Justice Department’s commitment to both independence and accountability,” he added.

Mr. Garland appointed Mr. Smith in November 2022, saying in a statement at the time that he believes the appointment was in “the public interest” and is “the right thing to do.”

From The Epoch Times

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