(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday made his first public remarks after the historic indictment of former President Donald Trump on federal criminal charges.
Garland, taking questions at an event on combating violent crime, said he couldn't discuss particulars of the case but offered general praise for special counsel Jack Smith and his team after being asked about accusations made by Trump and other Republicans that the Justice Department has been "weaponized."
"As I said when I appointed Mr. Smith, I did so because it underscores the Justice Department's commitment to both independence and accountability," the attorney general said. "Mr. Smith is a veteran career prosecutor. He has assembled a group of experienced and talented prosecutors and agents who share his commitment to integrity. Any questions about this matter will have to be answered by their filings in court."
Garland has been under pressure to speak out since the Trump indictment was revealed.
When asked about his role in the indictment process, he said he followed regulations set forth for an attorney general in special counsel investigations, and that his role was "completely consistent" with those regulations.
Pressed by ABC News Senior Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas on why an indictment was the "best and most appropriate step" and why were there were no other alternatives, Garland repeated he was not going to get into particulars of the case.
Trump was indicted over his alleged mishandling of classified documents after leaving the White House. He has been charged with 37 felony counts, including willful retention of national defense information and obstruction.
Trump surrendered to authorities Tuesday in Miami and appeared in court, where his defense attorney entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.
The former president has denied all wrongdoing, and after his arraignment unloaded on the Department of Justice and Smith in a speech at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club.
"Today we witnessed the most evil and heinous abuse of power in the history of our country. Very sad thing to watch," Trump said.
He accused Smith of "doing political hit jobs" and called him a "thug."
Smith, who gave a brief statement after the indictment was released last week, said the country has "one set of laws and they apply to everyone."
"The men and women of the United States intelligence community and our armed forces dedicate their lives to protecting our nation and its people," he said. "Our laws that protect national defense information are critical to the safety and security of the United States and they must be enforced. Violations of those laws put our country at risk."
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