Garland says “actions” Department of Justice has taken to respond to Jan. 6 attack “will not be our last”
From CNN’s Tierney Sneed
Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed that “the actions” the department has taken so far to respond to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol “will not be our last.”
“The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law — whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy,” Garland said in a speech Wednesday to mark the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack. “We will follow the facts wherever they lead.”
He called the Capitol breach an “unprecedented attack on our democracy,” as he pledged that the Department would do everything “in our power to defend the American people and American democracy.”
He pointed to the “well-worn prosecutorial practices” the department has followed in bringing the variety of charges against those who breached the Capitol grounds.
“In complex cases, initial charges are often less severe than later charged offenses,” Garland said. “This is purposeful, as investigators methodically collect and sift through more evidence.”
Attorney general vows to defend “democratic institutions from attack”
From CNN’s Elise Hammond
Ahead of the one-year anniversary of the deadly Jan. 6 riot, Attorney General Merrick Garland said he will work to protect Americans’ right to vote, calling it the “cornerstone of our democracy.”
“As we begin a new year and as we prepare to mark a solemn anniversary tomorrow, it is a fitting time to reaffirm that we at the Department of Justice will do everything in our power to defend the American people and American democracy. We will defend our democratic institutions from attack,” he said in a speech on Wednesday.
Garland said he will do this in a way that “adheres to the rule of law and honors our obligation to protect the civil rights and civil liberties of everyone in this country.”
He recalled the violence of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol as lawmakers met to certify the results of the presidential election – specifically pointing to court documents and videos that showed people punching “dozens of law enforcement officers, knocking some officers unconscious.”
“Those involved must be held accountable and there is no higher priority for us at the Department of Justice,” Garland said, before holding a moment of silence for the officers who were killed in the attacks.
Garland said the Justice Department has charged more defendants in criminal threat cases in 2021 than in any other year in at least the last 5 years.
He said they are guided by the commitment to protect civil liberties, including the First Amendment. Garland said speech becomes illegal when there is a threat to another person.
“The Department has been clear that expressing a political belief or ideology, no matter how vociferously, is not a crime. We do not investigate or prosecute people because of their views. Peacefully expressing a view or ideology no matter how extreme is protected by the First Amendment, but illegally threatening to harm or kill another person is not,” he said.
“The time to address threats is when they are made, not after the tragedy has struck,” he added.
Attorney general: Jan. 6 perpetrators “must be held accountable”
Attorney General Merrick Garland is delivering remarks and providing an update on the Department of Justice’s investigation on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
“Those involved must be held accountable and there is no higher priority for us at the Department of Justice,” Garland said.
The investigation is the biggest one in FBI history, with more than 700 people charged by the Justice Department in connection with the riot and hundreds more offenders still at large.
Some more context: The Jan. 6 attack reframed the face of a domestic terrorism threat that the FBI, Homeland Security Department and other agencies say has grown rapidly.
And the Jan. 6 investigation has led to several arrests of what appear to be political extremists on the far right, and extensive investigations into militarized organizations that affiliated themselves with former President Trump and had members participating in the Capitol violence.
But in many ways, the role of the former President, whose rhetoric fueled the mob and continues to animate supporters, is the elephant in the room that Justice Department officials try to not talk about.
CNN’s Evan Perez and Katelyn Polantz contributed reporting in this post.
Garland says Justice Department committed to holding all perpetrators “at any level” accountable for Jan. 6
From CNN’s Jessica Schneider and Christina Carrega
Attorney General Merrick Garland is scheduled to deliver remarks soon on the eve of the one year anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, and will say the department is “committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law,” according to an excerpt from the remarks.
“The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law — whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy. We will follow the facts wherever they lead,” Garland will say in his remarks according to an excerpt released by the Justice Department in advance of the speech.
Democratic attorneys general warn against partisan efforts to subvert future elections
From CNN’s Jessica Schneider
Ahead of tomorrow’s Jan. 6 anniversary, four Democratic Attorneys General held a press conference Wednesday to announce their pledge to fight efforts to roll back voting rights and to protect elections from political interference.
“The insurrection wasn’t simply a one day event,” Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said. “It was a culmination of efforts to sow doubts in our elections.”
The attorneys general from Nevada, Delaware, Wisconsin and Colorado placed specific blame on Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton who filed a lawsuit in 2020 seeking to overturn election results in four states. Paxton was joined by 17 other Republican attorneys general, but the lawsuit was ultimately thrown out by the Supreme Court.
“Sadly, the court fights were only the tip of the iceberg,” Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings said. “Trump and his allies went to appalling lengths to carry out an insurrection.”
Jennings continued by warning, “We’re still under threat. Enough people in this country, through social media, have essentially brainwashed into believing this Big Lie.”
Jennings and her colleagues pledged to work diligently in their states to protect the integrity of future elections, and spoke out against Republican state legislatures working to roll back voting rights or make it easier for local officials to overturn election results.
“We need to make sure the will of voters is protected,” said Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul. “We need Republican leaders to join us in speaking out against these attacks.”
Kaul applauded Republicans like Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming, for leading the efforts as vice-chair of the Jan. 6 select committee, but called for more Republicans to speak out against the threats to fair elections.
Where things stand in the Department of Justice’s investigation of the Capitol riot
From CNN’s Evan Perez and Katelyn Polantz
A year after the Jan. 6 insurrection, the Justice Department continues to press forward on the biggest investigation in FBI history, with 700 people already arrested and hundreds more offenders still at large and several more years of prosecutions ahead.
But the expansive investigation has yet to shed light on how vigorously the former President and political allies could be investigated for inciting rioters by spreading a lie that the election was stolen and asking them to march to the Capitol.
After opening aggressively, with prosecutors raising the prospect of using a rarely used seditious conspiracy law to charge some Capitol attackers, the Justice Department since Attorney General Merrick Garland took office in March 2021 has settled into a less headline-grabbing approach that justice officials say is intended to keep the probe away from the political maelstrom.
Garland, a former appeals court judge, has made restoring institutional norms a top focus of his tenure, after a Trump era that regularly injected politics at the department. That includes a reminder to prosecutors that they should only speak in indictments and other court proceedings.
His quiet approach has not satisfied Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans who openly discuss their interest in identifying crimes they believe the Justice Department should prosecute. It’s also opened Garland to criticism that he hasn’t been as publicly dynamic or aggressive as the nation needs to counter a threat to democracy.
“I think Merrick Garland has been extremely weak and I think there should be a lot more of the organizers of Jan. 6 that should be arrested by now,” Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat, said on CNN this week.
Justice Department spokesperson Anthony Coley defended the agency’s efforts. “We are proud of the men and women of the Justice Department, who are undertaking the largest investigation in the department’s history,” Coley said in a statement. “They are following the facts and the law and the Constitution while working at impressive speed and scale to hold accountable all those responsible for the attack on the Capitol, and will continue to do so.”
For the FBI, which came under criticism for failing to do more to prevent the attack, the Jan. 6 anniversary is also a moment to urge the public to help with more tips to solve notable unsolved crimes, including the police assaults and the pipe bombs found that day near the offices of the Democratic and Republican parties just steps from the Capitol.
Steven D’Antuono, assistant director for the FBI’s Washington field office, said those inquiries are priorities as part of the broader complex investigation.
Read more about the investigation here.
US Capitol police chief says department fielded 9,600 threats against members of Congress in 2021
From CNN’s Kristin Wilson
United States Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said that his department fielded nearly 10,000 threats against members of Congress in 2021, marking the highest number of threats ever against the legislative branch
“There’s 9,000 a year, or this this past year, 9,600,” he told reporters as he left after testifying before the Senate Rules Committee. “So you’re getting multiple a day.”
Earlier this week, Manger was doing an interview with the Washington Post’s Tom Jackman when he received an alert of another threat. “I think it was an anonymous text, you know, of someone who was threatened to kill a senator. And you know, as I’m talking to [Jackman], this thing pops up on my phone.”
“It’s every day. We’re getting these kinds of these kinds of threats,” he said.
Manger said the department does not respond to every instance, because not every threat is considered credible, rather, “some of them are basically just sort of concerning statements.”
“If you say ‘I’m going to kill so and so’ that’s a threat. You know, we investigate that as a criminal act. Some of them are, you get something that say they’ll call a congressman’s office and say, ‘Hey, I know where you live. I watched you walk your dog yesterday.’ And you know, now, there’s no law against that message. But is it of concern, certainly a concern to that particular congressman? Absolutely.”
He said the threats have increased for the past four or five years, and more than doubling since four years ago. But at the same time, the force has suffered from a loss of officers, with Manger saying the current force is down 447 officers from where they should be.
“In 2017, I think there were somewhere around 4,000,” he said. “Last year was 8,600. This year was 9,600. So the workload is increasing. We’ve increased the number of people who have worked at investigating strikes against Congress, but I’m telling you, we’re barely keeping our heads above water.”
Capitol Police chief: “We can’t survive” without budget increases from Congress
From CNN’s Whitney Wild
Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said not increasing his department’s budget would deal a significant blow to the agency trying to grow after the Jan. 6 riot exposed catastrophic failures.
“It would impact just about everything we are trying to do in terms of making and sustaining improvements,” Manger said in a hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday, if the department is held to their previous budget.
“We’d have to suspend our health and wellness initiatives that we have started but I think the biggest impact would be our inability to increase our staffing which is so critical,” Manger said.
“All that we would be able to do is replace the people that left. We can’t survive and continue, we have to increase our staffing,” he added.
Police chief: There is still a “challenge” keeping up with “number” of threats directed at lawmakers
From CNN’s Whitney Wild
US Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger told lawmakers on the Senate Rules Committee Wednesday that the department is “absolutely” better prepared to defend the Capitol today than it was on Jan. 6, 2021, but said there is still a “challenge” in keeping up with the number of threats directed at lawmakers.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, asked Manger about the flood of threats directed at lawmakers in 2021, and referred to previous statements from Manger who said the department tracked more than 9,000 threats in 2021, an increase that is straining the department’s resources to analyze threats.
“The biggest challenge I think we have is keeping up with the number of threats,” Manger said. “We have doubled the number of officers who investigate these threats. If they continue to go up the way they have clearly we will need more officers,” Manger added.
The gravity of the Jan. 6 anniversary is not lost on Manger, who said the department now has a blueprint for a response.
“We have an incident action plan prepared for tomorrow, this is a copy, it’s 25 pages long, everyone’s responsibilities are laid out, this information is shared with everyone,” Manger said.
Of more than 100 recommendations made after the January 6 attack by the Capitol Police Inspector General, Michael Bolton, more than 90 have either been addressed or fully completed. However, Manger acknowledged there is more work to do.
“We have assigned an inspector to work full time for the next several months to look at the recommendations that are not completed and to see what we need to do to complete them,” Manger said.