Speaker Mike Johnson Rejects Calls to Defund Special Counsel Jack Smith

Samantha Flom
By Samantha Flom
May 10, 2024Congress
Speaker Mike Johnson Rejects Calls to Defund Special Counsel Jack Smith
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) speaks to members of the press after Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-Ga.) introduced a motion to vacate on the floor of the House of Representatives seeking to remove Johnson from his leadership position at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on May 8, 2024. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) will not target defunding special counsel Jack Smith despite calls from within his conference to do so.

After soundly defeating an attempted ousting led by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) on May 8, the speaker told Politico’s “Playbook Deep Dive” podcast that he would not capitulate to the congresswoman’s demand that he defund the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

“I think that there’s been a terrible dereliction of duty with regard to the special counsel on how the whole system has been abused, how they’ve engaged in lawfare against President Trump. I mean, all of these things are, to me self-evident truths,” Mr. Johnson noted.

“But that’s not something you wave a wand and just eliminate the special counsel as a provision. It’s been part of the law, you know, the tradition in the lawyer system for 25 years.”

Mr. Smith is prosecuting former President Donald Trump over his handling of classified documents and his alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The former president and his supporters have decried those cases as “witch hunts” with the sole purpose of thwarting his 2024 presidential bid, a claim Mr. Smith and the Biden administration have denied.

Ms. Greene, an avid supporter of President Trump, had identified defunding the special counsel as her top demand for the speaker to put her ouster threat to rest.

Mr. Johnson, a former constitutional law attorney, said that he had tried to explain his position to her, noting that a special counsel is sometimes necessary because the Justice Department, as part of the executive branch, cannot always investigate or prosecute the president or his family members without encountering a conflict of interest.

Asked whether he might try to defund Mr. Smith using the appropriations process, Mr. Johnson again said he would not do so.

“We were in the very beginning stages of even beginning to investigate what that would look like,” he said.

He added, however, that he did think there needed to be some form of accountability for special counsels operating outside the bounds of their mandate. He said he had approached Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, to discuss potential remedies, but those talks were still in the early stages.

“You have to be very thoughtful about how you handle this,” Mr. Johnson said. “There are problems, we should address them, but we were not yet at any point of conclusion on it.”

His comments came a day after he told reporters that House Republicans were “looking very intently” at defunding Mr. Smith’s office.

Trials Postponed

The speaker’s rejection of a full defunding will likely be welcome news for Mr. Smith, whose efforts to convict President Trump have recently taken a series of blows.

On May 7, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon indefinitely postponed the trial in the special counsel’s case concerning the former president’s alleged mishandling of classified documents.

The ruling followed Mr. Smith’s admission in court documents that key evidence in the case had been rearranged, and that his team may have misled the court on that fact in a previous filing.

President Trump has said the reorganization of the documents in boxes collected from his property amounts to evidence tampering. However, Mr. Smith has downplayed the significance of the situation, holding that the documents’ displacement was inadvertent and ultimately immaterial to the case.

The trial was initially set to begin on May 20. In extending the period for pre-trial motions, the judge did not set a new date.

The decision marks a win for President Trump, who would prefer that the case go to trial after the November election or not at all.

Meanwhile, the trial in Mr. Smith’s election conspiracy case against the 45th president is likewise on hold as both parties await the Supreme Court’s ruling on the extent of presidential immunity.

The court appeared skeptical of President Trump’s claim of absolute immunity from criminal prosecution during oral arguments in the case on April 25. Some members also seemed concerned about the ramifications of a complete rejection of presidential immunity, signaling support for allowing it at some level.

It is unclear when the court will issue its ruling. The decision itself could further delay the trial if it is determined, as some justices suggested, that further fact-finding needs to be done first.

Jack Phillips and Sam Dorman contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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