Attorney General Merrick Garland finally delivered a speech on the January 6 insurrection, 364 days after the attack on American democracy. Some experts appeared to be satisfied, but many more casual observers and critics continue to be frustrated at his focus on prioritizing investigating and indicting those who perpetrated violence that day while continuing to, apparently, ignore those responsible for inciting the insurrection and creating and disseminating “the big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen.
One popular social media commentator seemed to sum up the feelings of many watching and responding via social media, calling Garland’s remarks “a July 2021 speech not a ‘One Year After a Coup Attempt’ speech.”
Merrick Garland is delivering the speech he should have given six months ago.
This is a July 2021 speech not a “One Year After a Coup Attempt” speech.
— The Hoarse Whisperer (@TheRealHoarse) January 5, 2022
“The Justice Dept. remains committed to holding all January 6 perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law — whether they were present that day or otherwise criminally responsible,” Garland said in his speech (full video via C-SPAN), addressing DOJ employees. “There are questions about how long the investigation will take, and about what exactly we are doing. Our answer is — whatever it takes for justice to be done.”
But critics point out that Garland’s speech was largely focused on “statistics,” including how many arrests have been made. None of those arrests include Trump administration officials, or those who were behind the attack on American democracy.
“So, one thing you should notice about Garland’s framing of Jan 6 is that he *starts* at storming of the Capitol, *not* at the rally before,” wrote The Nation’s Justice Correspondent Elie Mystal, as Garland was speaking. “This goes to his general way of framing this as individual bad actors instead of a wider criminal conspiracy.”
MSNBC legal analyst and former U.S. Attorney Joyce Alene responded to Mystal, saying: “This is a fair criticism. One of the things I’m looking for in this speech is whether he will suggest that Jan 6 was the culmination of an effort to overturn the election, or whether he views the events that took place at the Capitol in a vacuum.”
Alene appeared less concerned, adding:
Garland: “We will follow the facts wherever they lead.”
He says this with emphasis. It’s a commitment. He says he’ll take as long as it takes to do it right. “We will & we must speak through our work.”
This is prosecutor speak for, game on.
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) January 5, 2022
Well-known, retired FBI Assistant Director Frank Figliuzzi, now an NBC News National Security Contributor appeared more hopeful:
AG references “Watergate”. “Same norms for the powerful or the powerless”. DOJ will pursue those “whether present that day or not”. Get it? Merrick Garland pledges pursuit of Jan 6 suspects at ‘any level’ https://t.co/5zn3m5Lnyp
— Frank Figliuzzi (@FrankFigliuzzi1) January 5, 2022
And the highly-respected President and Director-Counsel of NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), Sherrilyn Ifill, also seemed satisfied:
Critical points I heard frm the Garland speech:
1) DOJ is prosecuting the full web of participants involved in Jan 6 & following all leads.
2)No one is off the table for prosecution if they were involved.
3) elaborate prosecutions of this sort take time & begin at the bottom /
— Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) January 5, 2022
So was Daniel Goldman, the former Lead Counsel of the House Impeachment Inquiry,a nd a former Asst. U.S. Attorney at SDNY:
Strong, emphatic, and determined speech by Garland. The key quote is when he referred to perpetrators who may not have been at the Capitol on Jan 6. But open question remains whether investig has or will extend to efforts to overturn the election, separate from Jan 6 culpability.
— Daniel Goldman (@danielsgoldman) January 5, 2022
The Guardian’s congressional reporter Hugo Lowell observes Garland “effectively left open the possibility of a criminal investigation into the Trump WH over the Capitol attack, vowing to hold accountable the perpetrators — at any level — of the Jan. 6 insurrection.”
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