US Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special prosecutor to oversee criminal investigations related to former President Donald Trump on Friday.
Jack Smith, a former war crimes prosecutor, was named special counsel.
Smith will lead investigations into how Donald Trump handled classified documents and his alleged role in the Capitol riot in 2021.
He will decide whether the former President will face criminal charges.
The appointment of the veteran prosecutor comes just three days after Trump formally launched his 2024 presidential candidacy.
Special counsels are semi-independent prosecutors who can be hired for high-profile investigations when there are conflicts of interest.
Their goal is to provide a way for the Department of Justice to protect itself from political considerations in charging decisions.
“Based on recent developments, including the former President’s announcement that he is a candidate for President in the next election, and the sitting President’s stated intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel,” Garland said in a statement.
Trump attacked the appointment within hours, in an interview with Fox News.
“For six years I have been going through this, and I am not going to go through it anymore,” Trump said.
“It is not acceptable. It is so unfair. It is so political.”
A Trump spokesperson responded to the appointment by calling it “a totally expected political stunt by a feckless, politicized, weaponized Biden Department of Justice.”
Smith, who led the Justice Department’s public integrity section in Washington and later served as the acting chief federal prosecutor in Nashville, Tennesse, is set to begin his work immediately.
He has been serving since 2018 as chief prosecutor for the special court in the Hague that is tasked with investigating international war crimes.
The Justice Department described Smith as a registered independent, an effort to blunt any attack of perceived political bias.
In a statement released by the Justice Department, Smith said he intended to do his work independently and “in the best traditions of the Department of Justice."
“The pace of the investigations will not pause or flag under my watch," he vowed.
Though Smith will be empowered to prosecute federal crimes arising from his investigation, Garland still retains ultimate oversight of his work.