DOJ, FBI delayed probe into Donald Trump’s role in Jan. 6, 2021 coup d’état

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray quashed a plan to focus on bringing to justice those responsible for plotting and instigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to the Washington Post.

The newspaper’s investigation found that more than a year passed before prosecutors and FBI agents embarked on a formal joint probe of actions directed by Trump and his top aides to try to steal the election. Even when they did, the FBI stopped short of identifying the former president as a focus of that investigation.

The attack on the U.S. Capitol disrupted a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the process of affirming the presidential election results and resulted in damage to the building and grounds valued at $2,881,360.

More than 1,043 defendants have been charged in connection with the failed coup d’état but only 16 people have been charged with seditious conspiracy, including 10 who were convicted. Most of the terrorists involved in the deadly attack have been charged with offenses no more serious than loitering, littering, and petty larceny.

Critics have said all the terrorists should be facing felony murder charges in connection with the death of their co-conspirator, United States Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, and anyone else who died in the rioting, whether trampled by a mob or due to drug overdose.

The FBI resisted opening an investigation into former President Donald Trump’s responsibility for the Jan. 6 attack due to wariness about appearing partisan, institutional caution and clashes over evidence.

The Justice Department’s painstaking approach to investigating Trump can be traced to Attorney General Merrick Garland’s desire to turn the page from missteps, bruising attacks and allegations of partisanship in the department’s recent investigations of both Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

President Donald Trump incited the mob to storm the Capitol Building during a rally protesting the electoral college certification of Joe Biden as President, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Inside DOJ, however, some lawyers complained that Garland’s determination to steer clear of any claims of political motive chilled efforts to investigate the former president.

Michael R. Sherwin, then-acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, made headlines the day after the failed coup attempt by refusing to rule out the possibility that President Donald Trump himself could be culpable.

“We are looking at all actors, not only the people who went into the building,” Sherwin said in response to a reporter’s question about Trump. “If the evidence fits the elements of a crime, they’re going to be charged.”

The FBI eventually opened an investigation into Trump’s actions in April 2022, but that probe is still ongoing and it remains unclear whether a decision about the 2020 election loser’s culpability for Jan. 6 could have come any sooner.

Some people have criticized the Justice Department for its slow pace, but others have defended the department’s approach, saying that it is important to get things right.

After roughly 18 months of investigations, the House committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has released its full report.

The document, which is more than 800 pages long, recommends the Justice Department pursue criminal charges against Trump for his role in the attack. And they say Congress should act to bar Trump, and others involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection, from ever holding federal office again.

In November 2022, after Trump declared he was again running for president, Garland appointed special counsel Jack Smith to take over the investigation into the loser’s attempt to claim victory in the 2020 election.

After months of disagreement between Justice Department prosecutors and FBI agents over how to recover classified documents from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and residence, an unprecedented raid was conducted on August 8th.

Donald Trump kept top secret documents
Donald Trump illegally kept government documents classified top secret at his Mar-a-Lago Club and residence, which were seized by FBI agents when an unprecedented raid was conducted on August 8th.

The raid recovered more than 100 classified items, among them a document describing a foreign government’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities.

Some of those documents detail U.S. operations that are among the government’s most closely guarded secrets about programs where as few as a couple of dozen government personnel are authorized to know of their existence. 

On June 8, in a separate investigation that was also turned over to the special counsel, Smith secured a grand jury indictment that charged the ousted president with 31 counts of violating a part of the Espionage Act for mishandling classified documents after leaving office, plus six counts arising from his efforts to mislead federal investigators.

It remains to be seen whether Trump will ultimately get the justice he deserves however, the FBI’s investigation is an example of unfairness that is endemic in America.

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