FIRST ON FOX: Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the Justice Department for appointing a special counsel to investigate former President Trump, saying the decision "saddens" him, while urging the DOJ to "do their job" and deliver "apolitical justice."
Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday appointed former Justice Department official Jack Smith to the role of special counsel to investigate the entirety of the criminal probe into the retention of presidential records held at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home. Smith will also oversee the DOJ’s investigation into the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
"They’ve been investigating this for an awful long time," Pompeo told Fox News Digital during an interview on the sidelines of the Republican Jewish Coalition annual conference in Las Vegas on Friday. "To now hand this over to a special counsel who is likely to continue to investigate it for a long time—makes no sense to me."
FBI agents seized classified records from former Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago during the agency's unprecedented raid on Aug. 8, including some marked as top secret, according to a warrant and property receipt. Trump and his legal team have said records held at Mar-a-Lago had been declassified when Trump was in the White House. The Justice Department argues that Trump unlawfully retained national defense information at his home.
But Pompeo told Fox News Digital Friday that he doesn't "like special counsels in the first instance."
"I think if you're going to prosecute, then the Justice Department has the responsibility," Pompeo, who is a Fox News contributor, said. "The executive branch has the responsibility to hand this off to someone whose quote independent end quote—it strikes me as inconsistent with our nation's understanding of how we actually execute power."
He added: "So it saddens me that they made this choice. We'll see how it proceeds from here."
As for the timing of the appointment of a special counsel, just days after Trump announced he would run for president again in 2024, Pompeo pointed to Attorney General Garland’s remarks.
"I think if I understood the Attorney General correct, the reason he did it was because of the announcement the president made, at least in part, that was the reason, because President Biden's indicated he's gonna run, and President Trump has now announced his candidacy, and so they said, well, we now have a conflict," Pompeo said.
"Do your job," Pompeo said. "For the DOJ, they should do their job. If they've got what they feel like they should prosecute, bring it."
"If you don’t, you should not continue to go after this—then you can’t deliver what you're supposed to deliver, which is apolitical justice."
Meanwhile, Trump told Fox News Friday after the announcement from the Justice Department that he "won’t partake in" the investigation, and called it "the worst politicization of justice in our country," while urging the Republican Party to take action.
"I have been going through this for six years — for six years I have been going through this, and I am not going to go through it anymore," Trump told Fox News Digital in an exclusive interview Friday shortly after the announcement. "And I hope the Republicans have the courage to fight this."
"I have been proven innocent for six years on everything — from fake impeachments to [former special counsel Robert] Mueller, who found no collusion, and now I have to do it more?" Trump said. "It is not acceptable. It is so unfair. It is so political."
"I am not going to partake in it," Trump told Fox News Digital. "I'm not going to partake in this."
Trump, who announced his 2024 presidential campaign on Tuesday, said it is "not even believable."