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Jack Smith
Special counsel Jack Smith speaks to reporters in Washington, D.C., on June 9, 2023.Alex Brandon / AP file

Trump talks up firing, locking up special counsel Jack Smith

The fact that Donald Trump wants to fire Jack Smith is a problem. The fact that he wants to see the special counsel "in jail" is a bigger problem.


During Robert Mueller’s investigation into Donald Trump’s Russia scandal, the then-president was so terrified of the probe that he ordered the firing of the then-special counsel. Trump backed off, not because he realized this was ridiculous, but because his White House counsel threatened to resign.

That was in 2017. In 2023, firing another special counsel is very much on the former president’s mind. The conservative Washington Times reported:

Former President Donald Trump said his plans for a second term in the White House include firing special counsel Jack Smith. Mr. Trump pointed to Mr. Smith’s unsuccessful track record of prosecuting politicians, though Mr. Smith’s charges against the ex-president have yet to be adjudicated.

In an interview with Breitbart News, the Republican specifically said, in reference to Smith, “I wouldn’t keep him. Jack Smith? Why would I keep him? He is deranged.”

To be sure, this wasn’t exactly shocking rhetoric given the circumstances. The special counsel’s office has already indicted him once, including a superseding indictment unveiled last week, and it’s likely additional charges will soon follow. Of course the Republican wants to fire him.

But that’s not all Trump wants. On Friday afternoon, the former president used his social media platform to declare, “They ought to throw Deranged Jack Smith and his Thug Prosecutors in jail.”

To the extent such details are relevant, he didn’t explain who “they” might be, or what exactly the special counsel and his team might be charged with.

But never mind that. Trump has a habit of calling for the incarceration of all kinds of people who stand in his way, and as recently as 2020, the then-president called for both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden to be locked up for reasons he never got around to explaining.

This rhetoric about Smith is, however, a notable rhetorical escalation. Revisiting our earlier coverage, the former president was initially content to label Smith a “Trump Hater” and “political hit man” who shouldn’t be “allowed” to investigate him. But as the investigation progressed, the Republican’s rhetorical choices evolved.

Last fall, Trump labeled Smith a “fully weaponized monster.” In January, the former president went further, calling Smith a “thug” in a “mental state of derangement” who “may very well turn out to be a criminal.” A month later, he condemned the special counsel as a “mad dog psycho.”

The former president has also accused Smith of overseeing “a Gestapo type operation,” as well as being an “animal” and a “lunatic.” In May, Trump suggested the special counsel’s investigation was “treasonous.”

And now the former president has broken new ground once again, telling the public that he also wants to see Smith “in jail” for reasons unknown.

When Trump wanted to fire Mueller, he received some GOP pushback. At least so far, I haven’t seen any prominent Republicans suggesting Trump’s anti-Smith rhetoric is a bridge too far.

This post updates our related earlier coverage.