An independent lawyer has been appointed to oversee the US justice department's criminal investigations into former President Donald Trump. Jack Smith, a former war crimes prosecutor, was named special counsel by Attorney General Merrick Garland in a news conference. He will lead inquiries into how Mr Trump handled classified documents and his alleged role in the Capitol riot. Mr Trump, who is the subject of several other probes, denies any wrongdoing. Mr Smith will ultimately decide whether the former Republican president, who announced his 2024 candidacy just three days ago, will face criminal charges. "In certain extraordinary cases it is in the public interest to appoint a special prosecutor to independently manage an investigation and prosecution," Mr Garland said on Friday. "Due to recent developments, including the former president's announcement that he is a candidate in the next election, and the sitting president's intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest." He said the move would give the public confidence in the investigation. In a statement on Friday evening from his Florida estate Mar-a-Lago, Mr Trump slammed the "horrendous abuse of power" by a "corrupt and highly political" justice department in appointing a "super-radical left" special counsel. Mr Smith is a former prosecutor in New York and most recently served as a chief prosecutor in The Hague where he investigated war crimes in Kosovo. He will be returning to the US to begin his work immediately, Mr Garland said. To pre-empt claims of partisan bias, the justice department said Mr Smith was a registered political independent.

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