Posts tagged with "Attorney General Merrick Garland"

Armed man is arrested near home of Justice Brett Kavanaugh

June 9, 2022

An armed man was arrested early Wednesday, June 8,  near the Maryland home of Justice Brett Kavanaugh after making threats against the Supreme Court associate justice, a spokesperson for the court said. The man was taken to the 2nd District Police Station in Bethesda, Maryland, reports The New York Times.

The spokesperson, Patricia McCabe, said the man, who was arrested around 1:50 a.m., was armed, but she did not specify what type of weapon he was carrying. The arrest was reported earlier by The Washington Post. In a statement, the F.B.I. said that it was aware of the arrest, and that it was working with law enforcement agencies.

Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland said in a statement that he had asked Attorney General Merrick Garland in May to increase security outside the justices’ homes.

“I call on leaders in both parties in Washington to strongly condemn these actions in no uncertain terms,” Governor Hogan, a Republican, said. “It is vital to our constitutional system that the justices be able to carry out their duties without fear of violence against them and their families.”

There have been protests outside the home of Justice Kavanaugh and those of the other justices since a leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion was published last month—suggesting that the justices are poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing the right to an abortion.

In a bulletin issued on Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security said that after the publication of the leaked draft opinion, advocates for and against abortion rights have “encouraged violence” on public forums, “including against government, religious, and reproductive healthcare personnel and facilities, as well as those with opposing ideologies.”

Research contact: @nytimes

DOJ widens January inquiry to range of pro-Trump figures

April 1, 2022

Federal prosecutors have substantially widened their January 6 investigation to examine the possible culpability of a broad range of figures involved in former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, reports The New York Times.

The investigation now encompasses the possible involvement of other government officials in Trump’s attempts to obstruct the certification of President Biden’s Electoral College victory and in the push by some Trump allies to promote slates of fake electors, they said.

Prosecutors also are asking about planning for the rallies that preceded the assault on the Capitol, including the rally on the Ellipse on January 6, 2021, just before a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.

The federal investigation initially focused largely on the rioters who had entered the Capitol—an effort that has led to more than 700 arrests. But the Justice Department appears to have moved into a new phase, seeking information about people more closely tied to Trump. This development comes amid growing political pressure on Attorney General Merrick Garland to move more aggressively on the case.

A grand jury sitting in Washington is investigating the rallies that preceded the storming of the Capitol, a person familiar with the matter told the Times.

One of the subpoenas, which was reviewed by The New York Times, sought information about people “classified as VIP attendees” at Trump’s January 6 rally. It also sought information about members of the executive and legislative branches who had been involved in the “planning or execution of any rally or any attempt to obstruct, influence, impede, or delay” the certification of the 2020 election.

And it asked about the effort by Trump supporters to put forward alternate slates of electors as Trump and his allies were seeking to challenge the certification of the Electoral College outcome by Congress on January 6.

Another person briefed on the grand jury investigation said at least one person involved in the logistics of the January 6 rally had been asked to appear.

In pursuing January 6 cases, prosecutors have been assembling evidence documenting how defendants have cited statements from Trump to explain why they stormed the Capitol. And prosecutors have cited in some cases a Twitter post from Trump weeks before January 6 exhorting his followers to come to Washington—a call that motivated extremist groups, in particular.

The expanded criminal inquiry is unfolding just as a separate investigation by the House select committee on the Capitol riot is gathering evidence about Trump’s efforts to hold onto power and weighing the possibility of making a criminal referral of Trump to the Justice Department.

On Monday, March 28,  a federal judge in California, in a civil case involving the House committee, concluded that Trump likely engaged in criminal conduct, including obstructing the work of Congress and conspiring to defraud the United States.

Attorney General Garland has given little public indication of whether the Justice Department would consider prosecuting Trump, saying only that the department will follow the facts wherever they lead.

The House committee’s investigators, like the federal prosecutors, also have been interested in the planning and financing of the January 6 rally on the Ellipse and key figures involved in it. Ali Alexander, a prominent figure in the pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” movement and an organizer of the rally, has been cooperating with the House committee. Alexander marched to the Capitol from the rally with Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist and Infowars host.

The House panel has also been seeking information from Amy Kremer, the chairwoman of Women for America First, which helped plan the rally.

According to the Times, the committee has also sent subpoenas seeking information to Katrina Pierson, Trump’s former national campaign spokeswoman; Kylie Jane Kremer, the daughter of Amy Kremer and the director of Women for America First; Lyndon Brentnall, the owner of a Florida-based security company who was the “on-site supervisor” for the rally; Maggie Mulvaney, a niece of the former top Trump aide Mick Mulvaney who is listed on the permit for the event; Megan Powers, an operations manager; and Tim Unes, whose company was listed as the stage manager for the gathering.

The criminal charges against rioters so far have ranged from misdemeanors to obstructing Congress in its duty to certify the Electoral College result. The Justice Department also has lodged conspiracy charges against leaders of two of the extremist groups who figured prominently in the Capitol attack, the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys.

Research contact: @nytimes

Lock him up! Senate Dems see good chance of Garland prosecuting Trump

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

Steve Bannon surrenders to Feds after being indicted for contempt of Congress

November 16, 2021

Former Trump White House strategist Steve Bannon surrendered to the FBI on Monday, November 15, after being indicted on contempt of Congress due to his refusal to cooperate with the congressional committee investigating the Capitol riot, reports HuffPost.

A federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., indicted Bannon on Friday, November12, on two counts of contempt of Congress. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that Bannon’s indictment reflected the Justice Department’s “steadfast commitment” to showing the American people “by word and deed that the department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law, and pursues equal justice under the law.”

Bannon is set to appear before a judge in Washington later Monday. Cameras caught Bannon arriving at the FBI’s Washington Field Office on Monday morning.

As alleged in the indictment, Bannon did not comply with subpoenas issued by the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack before the required deadlines last month. The committee was interested in Bannon because he was “present at the Willard Hotel on January 5, 2021, during an effort to persuade Members of Congress to block the certification of the election the next day” and proclaimed, the day before the attack, that “all hell is going to break loose.”

This is not Bannon’s first run-in with federal prosecutors, notes HuffPost. In 2019, Bannon testified during the trial of Roger Stone, saying that Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign saw Stone as an “access point” to WikiLeaks. And in August 2020, Bannon was indicted in connection with a scheme to fleece Trump supporters who wanted to build a border wall.

In his final hours in office in January, Trump pardoned Bannon, and had previously pardoned Stone in December 2020, just a few weeks before the Jan. 6 attack. Stone was staying at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel, where the “war room” of high-level Trump supporters was set up.

The FBI has made more than 650 arrests to date in connection with the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, and hundreds more arrests are in the works. While the FBI investigations will answer a lot of questions about individual criminal culpability in the January 6 attacks, it will be up to the House select committee to answer some of the broader questions about what happened that day.

House Select Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Mississippi) and Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) said that Bannon’s indictment “should send a clear message to anyone who thinks they can ignore the Select Committee or try to stonewall our investigation: no one is above the law.” Thompson and Cheney said they would “not hesitate to use the tools at our disposal to get the information we need.”

Research contact: @HuffPost

New January 6 subpoenas increase pressure on AG Garland to set an example with Bannon

November 12, 2021

The House select committee probing the January 6 insurrection placed its credibility and legal clout deeper into the hands of Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday, November 8, with a new flurry of subpoenas targeting cronies of ex-President Donald Trump, reports CNN.

However, for the committee to retain hopes of compelling testimony from the group, the Justice Department must initiate a prosecution against another Trump adviser, Steve Bannon, who already has defied a subpoena.

The former President’s populist alter ego earned a rare Contempt of Congress citation for his intransigence. But two-and-half weeks on, the department has yet to say whether it will act on that gambit and indict Bannon through the Washington, D.C., U.S. Attorney’s office.

Without such a move, CNN reports, the committee’s enforcement capacity looks in serious doubt as it races to conclude before Democrats are at risk of losing the House of Representatives in next year’s midterm elections.

There are no current and public signs that Garland is feeling pressure to act quickly. In fact, a deliberative process would comply with his effort to shield the department from politicization after Trump weaponized it to protect himself during a scandal-plagued presidency and in his effort to steal the 2020 election.

But that also means the new batch of six Trump confidants, who have been subpoenaed for their alleged role in amplifying Trump’s lie about election fraud or abetting his coup attempt earlier this year, have reason to replicate the obstruction, at least for now. And even if Bannon is prosecuted, a long process of court cases and appeals could bog down the committee in a legal nightmare.

The six subpoenas issued on Monday targeted conservative lawyer John Eastman, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, Trump campaign officials Bill Stepien, Jason Miller and Angela McCallum, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn

According to CNN, such a scenario would not only allow Trump aides to outwit the committee’s efforts to find the truth about the most flagrant assault on a U.S. election in modern history. It could gut the power of Congress in the future and limit its constitutional role of serving as a check and balance on the executive branch.

And it would also mean that Trump, who incited a mob to march on Congress and disrupt the certification of President Joe Biden’s election win, would escape a reckoning yet again, even as he and his party paper over his autocratic tendencies ahead of a likely bid for the 2024 GOP nomination. The refusal of Trump’s orbit to submit to scrutiny is nothing new; it was a feature of both his impeachments, including over the insurrection earlier this year.

“If Merrick Garland does not prosecute Steve Bannon, all these other witnesses … they are going to have no deterrent either and they are going to see it as a free-for-all to do what they will. So there is a lot riding on what Merrick Garland decides to do here,” CNN legal analyst Elie Honig said.

Garland refused to discuss his deliberations in an unrelated media appearance Monday. The roughly two-week gap after Bannon’s contempt citation is hardly a lifetime in legal terms, however, so it would be unwise to read anything into it yet.

California Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, a member of the House select committee, said on CNN on Monday evening that the Justice Department needed time to study the case and precedent but said acting to enforce congressional subpoenas was crucial.

“If the Justice Department doesn’t hold Steve Bannon accountable, it only lends credence to the idea that some people are above the law and that cannot be true in this country,” Schiff said on “Cuomo Prime Time.”

Research contact: @CNN

Why is DOJ still defending Trump in E. Jean Carroll lawsuit?

June 10, 2021

The Biden Justice Department is forging ahead with a controversial legal effort started under former President Donald Trump to intervene on Trump’s behalf in a defamation lawsuit brought against him by a writer who says Trump sexually assaulted her in the 1990s, NPR reports. But the question remains, why?

E. Jean Carroll leveled the accusations against Trump in her memoir published in Jean Carroll leveled the accusations against Trump in her memoir published in 2019. Trump denied the allegations and accused Carroll of lying to sell books.

Carroll sued the then-president for defamation, but the suit has been caught up in litigation since the Trump-era Justice Department attempted to step in on Trump’s behalf and make the government the defendant instead of the now-former president.

In its filing late Monday, the Justice Department—now led by Attorney General Merrick Garland under the Biden Administration—sought to continue its defense of Trump while distancing itself from his alleged actions.

“Then-President Trump’s response to Ms. Carroll’s serious allegations of sexual assault included statements that questioned her credibility in terms that were crude and disrespectful,” Brian Boynton, the acting head of the department’s Civil Divisionwrote in the brief. “But this case does not concern whether Mr. Trump’s response was appropriate. Nor does it turn on the truthfulness of Ms. Carroll’s allegations.”

Instead, Boynton said, it boils down to a few legal questions, including whether a president is an “employee of the government” and whether Trump’s denials were made within the scope of his office. The department said the answer to both questions is yes, and therefore under federal law it said the government should be able to replace Trump as defendant in the case.

If the department were to succeed in its efforts, legal experts said the move would effectively end the case because the federal government can’t be sued for defamation.

According to NPR, Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, slammed the Justice Department’s decision to continue the Trump-era effort to intervene.

“The DOJ’s position is not only legally wrong, it is morally wrong since it would give federal officials free license to cover up private sexual misconduct by publicly brutalizing any woman who has the courage to come forward,” she said on Twitter.

“Calling a woman you sexually assaulted a ‘liar,’ a ‘slut,’ or ‘not my type’—as Donald Trump did here—is NOT the official act of an American president.”

The new filing is the latest development in the case since the Trump-era Justice Department first took the unusual step of seeking to intervene in the lawsuit last year.

The Justice Department and then-Attorney General William Barr came under fierce criticism for the move, which opponents argued was one in a series of actions the department took under Barr that benefited Trump or his friends.

A federal judge in October denied the Justice Department’s initial attempt to step in on Trump’s behalf. Trump appealed the decision to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, where the matter now stands.

Research contact: @NPR

Justice Department opens broad probe of alleged abuses by Minneapolis police

April 22, 2021

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Wednesday, April 21, that the Justice Department will conduct a broad investigation into alleged abuses at the Minneapolis Police Department, examining whether its officers have a “pattern or practice” violating the civil rights of residents, Politico reports.

The move—made public one day after a jury in Minneapolis found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty in the murder of George Floyd last year—appears to signal a return by the Biden administration to more aggressive and frequent use of such probes aimed at rooting out systemic civil rights abuses in police departments.

“Yesterday’s verdict in the state criminal trial does not address potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis,” Garland told reporters in a brief statement at Justice Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. “Public safety requires public trust.”

While Garland’s predecessors in the Trump administration—Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr—rejected the notion of widespread abuses of Black people by police, Garland struck a decidedly different tone Wednesday—and suggested that such abuses are common.

“I know that nothing can fill the void that the loved ones of George Floyd have experienced since his death. My heart goes out to them and to all those who have experienced similar loss,” Garland said. “I know such wounds have deep roots and that too many communities have experienced those wounds first-hand.”

Under President Donald Trump, the Justice Department announced only one pattern-and-practice probe of a police department: an inquiry into policing in Springfield, Massachusetts. Sessions and Barr said they believed such investigations tended to demonize and stigmatize police and that most officers’ conduct was free of racial bias. They also complained that the consent decrees that often resulted from such investigations effectively tied the hands of officers and sometimes led to increases in crime.

But critics, including civil rights groups, said the reluctance to open such broad inquiries left unchecked broad failures in training and accountability that predictably resulted in tragedies like Floyd’s death, which occurred after Chauvin pinned Floyd’s neck to the pavement with his knee for more than nine minutes.

Under the Obama Administration, the Justice Department opened about two dozen pattern-or-practice investigations. The law allowing for such reviews was passed by Congress in 1994 in the wake of the videotaped beating of motorist Rodney King by Los Angeles police.

“I know that justice is sometimes slow, sometimes elusive, and sometimes never comes. The Department of Justice will be unwavering in its pursuit of equal justice under law,” Garland added. “We undertake this task with determination and urgency, knowing that change cannot wait.”

The pattern-or-practice probe will be separate from a criminal investigation into Floyd’s death that the Justice Department launched last year, Garland said. Federal criminal charges related to the episode appear unlikely in light of Chauvin’s conviction for murder, but three other officers on the scene are facing lesser charges in a future trial.

Garland’s announcement indicated that Justice Department officials have done some preliminary work to assess potential deficiencies with Minneapolis police.

“It will include a comprehensive review of Minneapolis police policies training and use-of-force investigations,” the attorney general said, adding that the investigation also will look at excessive use of force against protesters and whether police act improperly towards citizens with “behavioral health disabilities.”

Garland took no questions following his statement, which was his first appearance in the department’s media briefing room before journalists since being sworn in a little over a month ago.

Research contact: @politico