U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed Wednesday that the Justice Department will hold all those responsible for the deadly attack on Jan. 6 to account, whether they were physically present at the Capitol or not.
Garland’s comments come as he faces mounting calls from lawmakers, legal experts and former elected officials to step up the department’s investigation into the events of the Capitol bombing, and in particular to prosecute those who have helped orchestrate the failed attempt to wipe out the 2020 election results, which included former president, Donald Trump, and his associates.
In a solemn speech on the eve of the first anniversary of the attack on the government seat, Garland said it doesn’t matter whether the perpetrators were present at the Capitol riot or committed other crimes that caused chaos that day.
“The Justice Department remains committed to holding all perpetrators of January 6, at any level, legally responsible — whether they were present that day or otherwise criminally responsible for the attack on our democracy,” Garland said in his statement. speech delivered by the judiciary. the Great Hall of the Department in Washington. “We will follow the facts wherever they lead.”
Garland detailed the brutality of the day and countered a right-wing revisionist narrative that the attack was not violent. Officers were attacked with pipes and stakes, beaten and shocked with stun guns. A cop, he said, was dragged down the stairs by rioters as lawmakers and the vice president fled for their lives.
“As a result, proceedings in both chambers were disrupted for hours, disrupting a fundamental element of American democracy: the peaceful transfer of power from one government to another,” he said. “Those involved must be held accountable and there is no higher priority for us at the Justice Department.”
Garland did not mention Trump by name, and in keeping with the Justice Department’s long-standing rule not to comment on ongoing investigations, he did not provide details of possible clues the Department was pursuing regarding the former US president, his family or his allies.
But the carefully crafted speech seemed intended to allay concerns about the focus of the investigation. Garland said he understood the intense public interest in the case and promised that the actions taken by the department thus far “will not be our last”.
The department’s work thus far, he explained, laid the foundation for more serious and complicated cases. “In complex cases, the first charges are often less serious than criminal offenses charged later,” he said. “This is purposeful because researchers methodically collect and search more evidence.
“There cannot be different rules for the powerful and the powerless,” he added.
The investigation into the Jan. 6 events is one of the “largest, most complex and most labor-intensive investigations” in the country’s history, Garland said, outlining its scope.
To date, he said the investigators had issued 5,000 subpoenas and search warrants; Seized 2,000 devices, viewed 20,000 hours of video footage, searched 15 terabytes of data, and received 300,000 tips from the public. More than 700 people in nearly all 50 states and the District of Columbia have been indicted for their role in the uprising, which injured 140 law enforcement officers. Five officers who defended the Capitol that day have since died.
Garland read their names and asked for a moment of silence to remember the fallen officers.
On Thursday, Democratic leaders in Congress will host a day of commemorative events, starting with speeches from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris at the US Capitol.
Previewing his speech, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would recognize “President Trump’s special responsibility for the chaos and carnage” of Jan. 6.
“The president is going to speak the truth about what happened, not the lies some have since spread and the danger it posed to the rule of law and our system of democratic governance,” Psaki said, adding that Biden was “clear” in view of the threat the former president poses to our democracy and how the former president continues to work to undermine fundamental American values and the rule of law.”
Garland’s comments went beyond the events of January 6. He lamented an increase in violence that has affected nearly every aspect of American life. He pointed to attacks on election officials, airline personnel, teachers, journalists, police officers, judges and members of Congress.
“These acts and threats of violence are not associated with a range of partisan or ideological views,” he warned. “But they permeate so many parts of our national lives that they risk becoming normalized and routine if we don’t stop them.”
The Justice Department, he promised, would work within the confines of the First Amendment to prosecute all those who make unlawful threats. He also required the department to use “the enforcement powers we have” to protect voting rights, warned of efforts in some states to monitor election results, oust election officials or allow state legislators to control the will of voters in their state. to overthrow.
“As with violence and threats of violence, the judiciary – even Congress – cannot defend the right to vote alone,” he said. “The responsibility to preserve democracy — and to maintain confidence in the legitimacy of its essential processes — rests with every elected official and every American.”