John Luman Smith (born June 5, 1969) is an American attorney who has served in the United States Department of Justice as an assistant U.S. attorney, acting U.S. attorney, and head of the department's Public Integrity Section. He was also the chief prosecutor at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, an international tribunal at The Hague tasked with investigating and prosecuting war crimes in the Kosovo War.
In November 2022, attorney general Merrick Garland appointed Smith an independent special counsel, responsible for overseeing two preexisting Justice Department criminal investigations into former president Donald Trump, three days after Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign: one regarding Trump's role in the January 6 U.S. Capitol attack, and the other into alleged mishandling of government records, including classified documents. The documents case resulted in a 37-count indictment of Trump in June 2023 to which three counts were later added in July. In August, the January 6 case resulted in an indictment on four charges.
Early life and education
Smith was born on June 5, 1969. He grew up in Clay, New York, a suburb of Syracuse. He graduated from Liverpool High School in 1987, where he played football and baseball. He then studied political science at the State University of New York at Oneonta, graduating in 1991 with a Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude. Smith then attended Harvard Law School, from which he graduated cum laude in 1994 with the degree of Juris Doctor.
After graduating from law school, Smith joined the Manhattan District Attorney's office, serving as assistant district attorney. He was a member of the sex crimes and domestic violence units of the DA's office. He joined the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York in 1999. As an assistant U.S. attorney at the Brooklyn-based office, he prosecuted the police officers who brutalized and sexually assaulted Abner Louima, and led the case towards the death penalty—which was later overturned—against Ronell Wilson, who murdered two members of the New York Police Department.
From 2008 to 2010, Smith worked as investigation coordinator for the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. In that position, he oversaw cases against government officials and militia members accused of war crimes and genocide. In 2010, Smith returned to the U.S. to become chief of the U.S. Department of Justice's Public Integrity Section (PIN). Among his first responsibilities was evaluating current investigations, and he recommended closing investigations into several members of Congress. He spent five years as chief of PIN, where he prosecuted a variety of corruption cases, including those against Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, U.S. representative Rick Renzi, New York State Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver and Jeffrey Sterling, a Central Intelligence Agency agent who shared national secrets.
In 2015, Smith became an assistant U.S. attorney in the Middle District of Tennessee, at Nashville. He became the acting U.S. attorney in March 2017 upon the resignation of David Rivera, and resigned effective September 2017 after the nomination of Donald Q. Cochran. Smith became the vice president and head of litigation for Hospital Corporation of America in 2017.
On May 7, 2018, Smith was named to a four-year term as chief prosecutor for the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague, investigating war crimes in the Kosovo War, including the case of Salih Mustafa. He took up the post on September 11, 2018, and was appointed to a second term on May 8, 2022, before stepping down on November 18, 2022.
United States special counsel
On November 18, 2022, United States Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Smith special counsel to oversee the criminal investigations into Donald Trump's actions regarding the January 6 U.S. Capitol attack, and Trump's handling and storage of government records, including classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate. He worked initially from the Netherlands while recovering from a fractured leg, injured when he was struck by a scooter while cycling. By early January 2023, Smith had returned to the U.S.
On June 8, 2023, a grand jury indicted Trump on seven federal criminal charges related to his handling of classified documents. This marked the first time in American history that a serving or former president has been indicted on a federal criminal charge. On August 1, Trump was indicted by a grand jury on four more federal felony counts relating to his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and his conduct during the attack on the Capitol.
- U.S. Department of Justice Director's Award
- U.S. Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service
- Federal Bar Association's Younger Federal Attorney Award
- Eastern District Association's Charles Rose Award
- Henry L. Stimson Medal of the New York County Bar Association
- Harvard Law School Wasserstein Fellowship
Smith is a competitive triathlete, having taken up swimming when he was in his mid-thirties. He has completed more than 100 triathlons and at least nine Ironman competitions around the world. In July 2011, he married Katy Chevigny, a documentary filmmaker known for Becoming, a 2020 documentary about Michelle Obama. They have a daughter. The couple lived in the Netherlands starting in 2018, before moving to Washington, D.C. in December 2022, shortly after Smith was appointed as special counsel.