US Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special prosecutor to oversee criminal investigations into former President Donald Trump on Friday.
Jack Smith, a former war crimes prosecutor, is appointed special counsel.
Smith will lead investigations into how Donald Trump handled classified documents and his alleged role in the Capitol riots in 2021.
He will decide whether the former president will face criminal charges.
The appointment of the veteran attorney general comes just three days after Trump officially announced his 2024 presidential bid.
Special Counsels are semi-independent prosecutors who may be appointed to conduct high-level investigations when there is a conflict of interest.
Their goal is to provide a way for the Department of Justice to shield itself from political considerations in indictments.
“Based on recent developments, including the former president’s announcement of his candidacy for president in the upcoming election, and the sitting president’s stated intent to also be a candidate, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special official,” Garland said in a statement.
Trump attacked the appointment within hours, in an interview with Fox News.
“I’ve been through this for six years, and I’m not going through it anymore,” Trump said.
“This is unacceptable. It is unfair. It is very political.”
A Trump spokesperson responded to the appointment by calling it “a completely predictable political stunt by a futile, politicized and weaponized Biden Department of Justice.”
Smith, who led the Justice Department’s public integrity division in Washington and later served as acting chief federal prosecutor in Nashville, Tennessee, is set to begin work immediately.
Since 2018 he has been working as Chief Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal in The Hague charged with investigating international war crimes.
The Department of Justice described Smith as a registered independent, trying to fend off an onslaught of perceived political bias.
In a statement released by the Department of Justice, Smith said he intends to do his work independently and “in the best traditions of the Department of Justice.”
He pledged that “the pace of investigations will not stop or dance under my watch.”
Although Smith was empowered to prosecute federal crimes arising from his investigation, Garland still retained ultimate supervision of his work.