The attorney general of the United States, Merrick Garland, has warned this Wednesday that the Department of Justice will persecute those implicated of “any level”. To those present at the assault on the Capitol and those who committed crimes “in another way” on the fateful day of January 6, 2021. The figure of Garland, leader responsible for the largest criminal investigation in US history, has It has been the object of public scrutiny in recent weeks by several former prosecutors and academics who accuse him of not directing the investigation to the accountability of former President Donald Trump and his circle. “We will follow the facts wherever they take us,” he advanced this afternoon during the appearance in which he also asked citizens for patience.
A year after the attack on the core of power in Washington, only 71 protesters have been convicted, and not half of them have received jail time. Of the nearly 2,500 implicated who could be charged with federal crimes, some 725 people have so far been indicted; almost a third for crimes of aggression, resisting arrest or obstructing the work of the police. About 165 have pleaded guilty, the majority of misdemeanors. About twenty of them face penalties for serious crimes, which can reach 20 years in prison.
“We solve simpler cases first because they provide the evidentiary basis for more complex cases,” Garland explained, adding, “There can be no different rules for the powerful and the powerless.” In recent weeks, major US newspapers have published a string of tribunes criticizing the slowness of the Justice Department’s work and the apparent lack of urgency in pursuing Trump’s responsibilities. The attorney general clarified that the actions carried out so far by the Department of Justice “will not be the last.” The violent episode of the assault opened a debate on the First Amendment, which protects freedom of expression in the US Garland took the occasion to clarify that “peacefully expressing a point of view or ideology, no matter how extreme,” is protected by the Constitution, “but illegally threatening to harm or kill another person, no.”
Parallel to the work of Garland’s team, a House of Representatives commission of inquiry is also investigating what happened before and during the attack, with special interest in the belated response from the White House. So far, the evidence that has been released does not suggest that Trump and his circle conspired to bring about the assault, but that they were alerted to stop the chaos. One of the people who tried to dissuade the Republican president from stopping the violence was his daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump, according to members of the committee, made up of seven Democratic congressmen and two Republicans.
The commission of inquiry has requested thousands of documents from various federal agencies to reconstruct Trump’s footsteps that day and find out why it took him three hours to ask his supporters to leave the Capitol. Also if his inaction in the face of the threat that the protesters would prevent the official confirmation of the electoral victory of President Joe Biden in Congress is the meat of crime. If they find enough evidence, the congressmen can refer the material to the Department of Justice, which has the power to press criminal charges.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.