A.G. Merrick Garland Resisted Investigating Trump’s Connection to January 6: Washington Post
The Department of Justice delayed plans to investigate Donald Trump and his associates’ links to January 6 and attempts to overturn the 2020 election, according to a bombshell investigative report by The Washington Post.
It took nearly a year after the Capitol attack for a DOJ inquiry to commence, and the FBI only opened its investigation into the fake electors’ plot in April 2022.
The Post attributed the DOJ’s slow-walking to “a wariness about appearing partisan, institutional caution, and clashes over how much evidence was sufficient to investigate the actions of Trump and those around him.”
High-ranking officials at the DOJ, including Attorney General Merrick Garland, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, and FBI Director Christopher Wray remained wed to this approach “even as evidence emerged of an organized, weeks-long effort by Trump and his advisers before Jan. 6 to pressure state leaders, Justice officials, and Vice President Mike Pence to block the certification of Biden’s victory.”
“A decision was made early on to focus DOJ resources on the riot,” one former Justice Department official familiar with internal debates over department strategy told the Post. “The notion of opening up on Trump and high-level political operatives was seen as fraught with peril. When Lisa [Monaco] and Garland came on board, they were fully onboard with that approach.”
The strategy came even as Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C. during the early months of 2021, promised soon after the attack that prosecutors were “looking at all actors, not only the people who went into the building.”
The approach generated dissension within DOJ ranks. The Post investigation revealed that “some prosecutors” below Garland and Monaco “chafed, feeling top officials were shying away from looking at evidence of potential crimes by Trump and those close to him.”
Department employees tasked with putting together briefing materials for the attorney general and his deputy were told to steer clear of mentioning Trump or Trump allies. One former Justice official told the Post, “You couldn’t use the T word.”
“You can take it to the extreme,” Peter Zeidenberg, who was part of a special counsel probe of the Bush White House in the 2000s, said of the department’s desire to avoid the appearance of political impropriety. “You work so hard not to be a partisan that you’re failing to do your job,” he told the Post.
When the DOJ finally began investigating the fake elector scheme in early 2022, the bipartisan House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack was already conducting its own inquiry into top Trump officials and allies. The Post quoted a person familiar with internal DOJ discussions who “felt as though the department was reacting to the House committee’s work as well as heightened media coverage and commentary,” drawing attention to the scheme. “Only after they were embarrassed did they start looking,” the person said.