Merrick Garland: Where Are You?
The mission of the Justice Department is clearly stated on their website: “To enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.”
Unfortunately, as we approach the one-year anniversary of the assault on our Capital, this mission statement looks to be unfulfilled. Sure, over 600 arrests have been made in connection with the direct attack on personnel and property at the Capital, but those crimes are small potatoes relative to the conspiracy to block the lawful election of Joe Biden and overturn the will of the people. Where are Garland and the Justice Department with regard to investigating these crimes? It’s possible — even likely — that such an investigation is either underway or under consideration without our knowing, but some indication that these transgressions will be addressed by the Justice Department would certainly be welcome.
Even before this week’s bombshell revelations that came from the information released to the January 6th Committee by Mark Meadows, the public has long known about Trump’s hour-long conversation with Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, when Trump pressured Raffensperger to “find” 11,780 votes. This revelation should have been enough to precipitate an investigation; but by the time it happened, the norms of appropriate limits on Executive power had been so corroded, this crime was never popularly recognized as such. It was given a bye by William Barr’s Justice Department, but whether the new administration will countermand any earlier decisions is still uncertain.
In contrast to the reaction of Barr’s Justice Department, in February of this year, Fulton County in Georgia opened an investigation into Trump’s attempts to influence their election results. This investigation has not yet been concluded, but a 114-page Brookings Study meticulously recounts the relevant history and details considerations underlying the prospective course of future judicial actions. Given the contents of that report, at least from my reading, it would appear that the State of Georgia has an overwhelming arsenal of damning evidence to support moving forward.
Now, with the recent public release of Meadows’ texts and emails, the justification for expanding Georgia’s investigation into one overseen by the Justice Department is reinforced. Too much smoke is in the air to ignore communications between Trump and his circle about the January 6th rally. Real crimes have been committed; but thus far, only the foot soldiers on the ground on that day have been held to account. That’s just not right. With scores of January 6th defendants citing Trump’s big lie and his encouragement to go to the Capital in the first place, it’s appropriate to inquire as to who, besides those who physically entered the Capital, bears responsibility for the attack. Instead, Republicans are stonewalling every step of the way.
Their damage isn’t simply shielding Trump and others (possibly themselves) from accountability — which is bad enough — but perhaps even more importantly, their votes relating to the January 6th investigation are serving to dismantle checks and balances that are critical to the well-being of our democracy. Congress has the constitutional authority and responsibility to oversee the actions by the Executive branch, which is the essential guardrail protecting us from abuses of power. Failing to support the authority of Congress to issue subpoenas sets a precedent that will inhibit Congress’ ability to carry out its constitutional duties, possibly for generations to come. Unfortunately, Congress is broken. Republican fealty to Trump has superseded any commitment to honor their oath to protect the Constitution; and as Republicans have abrogated their responsibility, it is all the more important for the Justice Department to step up.