January 18, 2022
Senate Democrats are beginning to believe that there is a good chance the Department of Justice will prosecute former President Donald Trump for trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election—and, as part of that effort, for inciting the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, reports The Hill.
Democratic lawmakers say they don’t have any inside information on what might happen and describe Attorney General Merrick Garland as someone who would make sure to run any investigation strictly “by the book.” But they also say the fact that Garland has provided little indication about whether the Department of Justice has its prosecutorial sights set on Trump doesn’t necessarily mean the former president isn’t likely to be charged.
Given the weight of public evidence, Democratic lawmakers think Trump committed federal crimes. However, they also warn that Garland needs to proceed cautiously. Any prosecution that fails to convict Trump risks becoming a disaster and could vindicate Trump—just as the inconclusive report by former special counsel Robert Mueller’s team was seized upon by Trump and his allies to declare his exoneration on a separate series of allegations.
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) said “clearly what [Trump] did” in the days leading up and the day of the January 6 attack on Congress “falls in the ambit of what’s being investigated and perhaps is criminal.”
Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) said it’s up to the prosecutors at the Justice Department whether to charge Trump, although he believes that the former president’s actions on and before January 6 likely violate federal law. “They have all of the evidence at their disposal,” he said.
According to The Hill, Kaine believes federal prosecutors are looking seriously at charges against Trump, although he doesn’t have any inside information about what they may be working on.
“My intuition is that they are” looking carefully at whether Trump broke the law, he said. “My sense is they’re looking [at] everything in a diligent way and they haven’t made a decision.”
“I believe there are federal statutes that are very much implicated” by Trump’s efforts to overturn President Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, Kaine added.
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said, “I think anybody who it’s proven had a role in the planning of [the Jan. 6 attack] should be prosecuted—not just the people who broke in and smashed the window in my office and others.”
“I think anybody that’s shown to have had a role in its planning absolutely should be prosecuted,” he added. “I mean it was treason, it was trying to overturn an election through violent means.”
Asked whether Trump broke the law, Brown said “I’m not going to say he’s guilty before I see evidence,” but he also said there’s “a lot of evidence that he was complicit.”
Garland gave Democrats a tantalizing hint when he announced the day before the first anniversary of the January 6 attack that he would prosecute those responsible “at any level” for what he called “the assault on our democracy.”
“The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6 perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law—whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible,” he said.
It was a potentially significant statement from an attorney general who otherwise keeps his cards close to the vest.
On the other side of the equation, a Democratic senator who requested anonymity to comment on the possibility of a federal prosecution of Trump warned that it would take only one pro-Trump juror to derail a conviction and that failure to win any case in court would have disastrous consequences.
“If you pull the trigger on this one, you have to make sure that you don’t miss, because this is one if you miss it essentially validates the conduct,” the senator warned.
Research contact: @thehill