Jack Smith adds war crimes prosecutor — his deputy from the Hague — to special counsel team

Jacquelyn Martin/AP
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Special counsel Jack Smith has added a veteran war crimes prosecutor — who served as Smith’s deputy during his stint at the Hague — to his team as it prepares to put former President Donald Trump on trial in Washington and Florida.

Alex Whiting worked alongside Smith for three years, helping prosecute crimes against humanity that occurred in Kosovo in the late 1990s. The Yale-educated attorney also worked as a prosecutor with the International Criminal Court from 2010 to 2013. He has taught law classes at Harvard since 2007 as well, hired as an assistant professor by then-Dean Elena Kagan — now a Supreme Court justice — and rising to a visiting professorship in 2013.

Whiting’s precise role on Smith’s team is unclear. A spokesperson for Smith declined to comment, and Whiting did not immediately return requests for comment. The prosecutors’ office in the Hague and Harvard University also did not respond to requests for comment about Whiting’s current employment status.

But a POLITICO reporter observed Whiting at the U.S. district courthouse in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday and Thursday, spending several hours monitoring the trial of a Jan. 6 defendant. The judge in the case is Tanya Chutkan, who is slated to preside over Trump’s trial in March on federal charges stemming from his efforts to subvert the 2020 election.

During a break in the Jan. 6 trial this week, Whiting introduced himself to prosecutors as a new member of Smith’s team, saying he “just joined” the office.

From 2018 to 2022, Smith served as chief prosecutor in the Kosovo Specialist Chamber in the Hague. Whiting temporarily took over that office last year after Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Smith as special counsel to lead the Trump investigations. Boston attorney Kim West was appointed to permanently succeed Smith in June but did not assume the role immediately.

Whiting has been a frequent commentator on the previous special counsel to investigate Trump: Robert Mueller, who investigated links between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign. Whiting wrote numerous articles and gave interviews assessing the strength of Mueller’s case against Trump, often siding with those who saw extreme legal peril for Trump over his efforts to curb the investigation. Though he was once active on Twitter, his account appears to have been deleted and a Wayback Machine search suggests it was dormant since mid-2022.

Whiting’s addition to the team shows Smith is gearing up for a new phase of his efforts — preparing for trials that could send a former president to prison for the first time in U.S. history.

The hire is also another example of Smith turning to allies he has worked closely with at different phases of his career. His top deputies, David Harbach and Raymond Hulser, worked closely with Smith during his Obama-era stint at the Justice Department, where Smith headed the Public Integrity Section.

Harbach, too, was recently spotted observing a potential adversary in the Washington, D.C., federal courthouse. He attended portions of jury selection for former Trump adviser Peter Navarro, who is represented by attorney Stanley Woodward. Woodward also happens to represent Walt Nauta, Trump’s co-defendant in Smith’s other criminal case against the former president, related to his stash of highly sensitive national security documents at his Florida estate.

It’s unclear whether Whiting’s attendance at Chutkan’s trial was on his own initiative or if he was observing on assignment from the special counsel’s office.

In addition to his war crimes work — which also included a five-year stint as a trial lawyer for three war crimes prosecutions stemming from the war in Kosovo — he also spent seven years prosecuting organized crime in Boston for the Justice Department from 1995 to 2002.

Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.