In his opening speech to the Ministry of Justice employees last week, the Attorney General Merrick Garland Male chose only one of his ancestors. After skipping Bobby Kennedy, William Barr and other prosecutors whose tenures made headlines, Garland identified Edward Levy, chosen by President Gerald Ford as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, in the immediate aftermath of Watergate. Levy was a conservative legal scholar and president of the University of Chicago, and he was celebrate For his integrity and impartiality. Ford’s target in the appointment was Restore the public’s confidence In the idea that federal officials would apply the law as equals, not misuse it for political gain, as Nixon’s allies did. “The only way we can succeed and retain the confidence of the American people is to adhere to the standards that have become part of the DNA of every Justice Department employee since Edward Levy’s tenure as the first public prosecutor after Watergate,” Garland said. These rules require that similar cases be handled equally. That there is no rule for the Democrats and the other for the Republicans, a rule for friends and another for enemies, a rule for the powerful and another for the weak, a rule for the rich and the other for the poor, or different rules depending on one. Race or ethnicity. “
Levi’s standards are, no doubt, the standard every American prosecutor should stick to, but the political landscape – and the nation – that Garland inherits is significantly different from those that Levy faced nearly fifty years ago. On Wednesday, the intelligence community released him report Warning that the threat of local violent extremism is increasing. Partisan It is at its highest level in decades. Public trust in institutions, from Congress to the courts, in a Near a record low. Increasingly, Republicans and Democrats get their information from cables and over the Internet Environmental Information Systems Describing the opposite facts. This division reached its peak on the 6th of January insurgency At the Capitol, which left five people dead after trying to prevent Congress from ratifying last year’s election results, and in the second subsequent questioning of Donald Trump for his role in inciting violence. at A recent opinion poll– 81 percent of Democrats said Trump was primarily responsible for the violence and destruction. separately voteFifty-eight percent of Trump voters said the attack was primarily inspired by Antifa.
In the weeks that have passed since the Senate acquitted the former president in its second session The impeachment trialIn Congress, efforts to establish a nonpartisan investigation modeled on the 9/11 Commission to Investigate Riots have turned into partisan bickering. The initial congressional hearings on the attack are hers, too. Legal experts, including Stephen Gillers, professor of legal ethics at New York University School of Law, contend that the ongoing federal criminal investigation – which has led to the arrest of more than three hundred people from more than forty states, and which Garland now controls – is probably the best way to determine To what degree were Trump and his partners involved in fueling the blockade? “The public understands that if you find the same clues to someone else, they will be investigated,” Gellers told me. “Garland should approach January 6th with the same enthusiasm that was used with crime bosses and drug dealers and the 9/11 bombing of Oklahoma City. It should be unlawful. Start with the insurgents themselves and then try to turn them around and see if there are ties to the White House.” (A Ministry of Justice spokesman declined to comment.)
Federal prosecutors and FBI agents appear to be using the tactics described by Geelers. In a lawsuit last week, prosecutors said that “the investigation and prosecution of the Capitol attack is likely to be one of the largest investigations in American history, both in terms of the number of defendants tried and the nature and size of the evidence.” Last Friday, Washington Mail mentioned Investigators were trying to gather evidence to charge the founder of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia, with charges of conspiring for the role played by members of the group. On January 6, four far-right Proud Boys leaders were charged with leading about a hundred members of that group in the attack, as part of the attack. A coordinated plan To prevent Congress from certifying the defeat of Trump. For weeks, speculation circulated about the relationships between former Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone and the department guards, who had served as unofficial bodyguards in the past. Him the stone Condemned violenceHe denied any role in the attack and has not been charged.
Civil rights groups are also calling for Garland to enact reforms in the FBI, which, they argue, has abused surveillance powers since 9/11 and unjustifiably focused on Muslim Americans as threats to national security. Mike Germain, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University and a former FBI agent, said that prosecutors should investigate the Capitol attack as the culmination of a series of violent attacks by far-right groups in the past several years. A German said he believed a bias among FBI officials caused them not to take the proud boys or department guards seriously. “All they had to do was look at the newspaper,” German said. “This was happening all over the United States.”
On March 2, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee for the first time since the attack. Opinion She said That domestic terrorism was “spreading across the country” and revealed that the number of white supremacists arrested in the United States in 2020 has nearly tripled since 2017. Despite the risks, some senators have used the time of their questioning to inflate narratives. Resonate in a political room echo. Democrats have correctly highlighted Trump’s role in exacerbating extremism, but they have focused little on how to suppress disinformation and the social forces that help drive it. Republicans described antifa and government surveillance as the most serious risks facing the nation. (Senator Josh Hawley Demand to know If the FBI had collected cell phone metadata from those close to the Capitol at the time of the riots.) The country’s political polarization hinders the ability of the legislature to function as a credible fact-finding body.
In an interview, a federal law enforcement official told me that investigators are eager to arrest and prosecute anyone who breaks the law, but hate being drawn into Washington’s party soup. “There is determination to ensure that everyone who has participated in acts of violence and destroys property faces justice, regardless of ideology or motives,” said the official, who requested anonymity. But he said federal law enforcement officials do not have the authority, or willingness, to declare local groups terrorist organizations. “These decisions are up to the elected officials and policy makers, not the law enforcement authorities,” he explained. “This is not our role.”
Garland’s Dilemma of January 6 is a microcosm of that Joe Biden Faces. Should the prosecutor adopt an aggressive approach, strictly investigate the former president and his comrades, and crack down on far-right groups and militias? Or should he follow a more cautious path, try to appeal to centrists, and avoid sparking far-right conspiracy theories about bypassing the federal government? A key part of Trump’s political project has been to discredit the notion that impartiality is even possible. at A dark vision of public lifeNon-partisan public servants, from public health experts to prosecutors, were politically biased, incompetent, or corrupt. Gillers told me he hoped Garland would prove that he is a “legal romantics” who “truly believes” that “law is a distinct space, with its own methodology and responsibility, and should be separated from political considerations.”
If Garland hopes to revive Levi’s ideals, his path is clear. The Federal Criminal Investigation is a relatively blunt tool, but it is the last and best way to unravel the truth about one of the most violent attempts to topple the outcome of a presidential election in American history. During his confirmation session, Garland said, From the blockade, “This was the most heinous attack on democratic processes I have ever seen, which I did not expect to see in my life,” and I vowed to follow the strings “wherever they take us.” However, the stakes for the new attorney general are high. Prosecutors at the Ministry of Justice may struggle to find sufficient evidence to substantiate the plot beyond a reasonable doubt. Stone and other partners in Trump and Trump himself have brilliantly worked in gray legal areas for decades. Garland could be forced to announce the end of the investigation without charges being brought against them. In this case, he will likely be barred, by law, from disclosing any evidence gathered, since most criminal investigations are conducted in secret, with subpoenas before a grand jury. Garland could also announce the charges, go to trial, and fail to obtain convictions, a disaster that would reinforce Trump’s claims that he is a victim – and the survivor who has not survived – in yet another plot against him.
However, we hope facts remain weapons. That is why Garland must use his powers of attorney to reconstruct the events of January 6 and the months preceding it in a comprehensive and impartial manner – to go, as prosecutors are supposed to do, where the facts lead him, and then determine who deserves to be criminally charged. “You can’t make that decision without an investigation,” Gellers told me. “You follow the facts, you learn the facts, and then you make a decision.” Our growing inability to agree on basic facts is, of course, the greatest challenge and tragedy of our time.