On November 18, 2022, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to oversee the Justice Department's Trump investigations.

Garland gave two reasons for this appointment:

  1. Trump's announcement that he is a candidate for President in the 2024 election
  2. Biden's stated intention to be a candidate for President in the 2024 election

I understand reason #1, but I don't know why Biden running for re-election would be a reason to appoint a special counsel. Biden's presidency had not prevented the investigations from proceeding this year without a special counsel, so why would him stating his intention to run for re-election change that?

2 Answers 2


Simply to minimize the look that it is Biden and his appointed officials who are investigating a political opponent. The goal of appointing a special counsel is to ensure that the investigation happens and is not influenced by politics and the presidential primaries/general election.

Honestly it is more about appearances than anything else.

  • Is it more about appearances because the investigation wasn't influenced by politics/election before the special counsel was appointed? Or because it is still influenced by politics/election after the appointment of the special counsel? Nov 20, 2022 at 9:18
  • 6
    To point out the obvious, the "more about appearances than anything else" statement came without any reasoning nor any references that in turn provide such. Imagine if an investigation finds prosecution worthy materials, Biden Admin would then wish they had appointed a special counsel because by that point, they would have given a free and stronger defense to Trump in the form of political bias. Whether for the cause of advancing justice or punishing Trump, the Special Counsel arrangement is meant to a) stand better chance at court (ie. =/= appearance) ; b) be more credible with the public.
    – Argyll
    Nov 20, 2022 at 13:48
  • @Argyll How much criticism did we see Trump get for trying to use the DOJ, IRS and other agencies to target his opponents?
    – Joe W
    Nov 20, 2022 at 16:01

I understand reason #1, but I don't know why Biden running for re-election would be a reason to appoint a special counsel.

Biden's intent to run for re-election doesn't seem like it would be a good independent reason to appoint a special counsel. And indeed, the fact that none was appointed before now suggests that Garland didn't think so either. As far as I know, Biden has not formally announced candidacy yet, but his messaging has long been suggestive of a re-election bid, and that's the context from which Garland's second reason was drawn. It's not new.

But Biden's apparent intent to run for re-election magnifies the significance of Trump's candidacy, because Trump is not just a candidate of the opposing party, but a potential personal opponent of Biden himself.

Garland's motivations and reasoning are ultimately his own, but here are some of the effects of him giving both reasons rather than just the first:

  • it strengthens the argument for appointing a special counsel, and in particular,

  • it leaves open the argument that reason (1) would not have been sufficient by itself. Also,

  • it serves as a kind of place-holder for a future announcement of Biden's own candidacy.

  • 1
    I would have thought that reason #1 would have been sufficient by itself, but I suppose one could argue that since the investigations were started before Trump's announcement, then the investigations could be allowed to finish without the appointment of a special counsel. Nov 20, 2022 at 19:37
  • @pacoverflow, I would also have thought that reason #1 would have been sufficient by itself, and I'm sure some would argue that the ongoing investigations have enough political flavor that a special counsel would have been a wise choice regardless. But my intent is to analyze what actually happened, not to opine on what should have happened. Nov 20, 2022 at 19:54

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