Mar 30, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Democrats push Garland to come down on uncooperative Trump allies

Rep. Elaine Luria is seen speaking during Monday night's meeting of the Jan. 6 committee.
Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) speaks Monday during the Jan. 6 committee meeting. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Democratic lawmakers are openly pressuring Attorney General Merrick Garland to bring the weight of U.S. law enforcement against members of former President Trump's inner circle they've deemed uncooperative with the House's investigation of the Jan. 6 attack.

Why it matters: The House select committee is seeking to compel or punish Trump loyalists who don't comply with the investigation, while Republicans are preparing to win back control of Congress in November — and end the probe.

The big picture: The pressure campaign is putting President Biden on a collision course with his own party.

  • Distinguishing himself from Trump, who Democrats lambasted for pressuring Justice Department officials during his White House years, Biden has pledged to ensure Garland operates independently of politics.
  • "I told you I would not tell the Justice Department what position to take or not take, and I’m not going to instruct the Congress, either," he told reporters on Monday.

What we're watching: During a meeting Monday night at which the select committee recommended House contempt votes against former Trump aides Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro, Reps. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) all called on Garland to act.

  • Luria said the Justice Department "must act swiftly," adding: "Attorney General Garland, do your job so that we can do ours."
  • On Tuesday Schiff told reporters it's important for the Justice Department to act quickly and decisively to enforce the committee's prerogatives because "we're trying to prevent another Jan. 6. ... We feel a sense of urgency and we hope the department does also."
  • Schiff said the cases against Navarro and Scavino are "pretty clear cut," so "it shouldn't be that difficult for the department to act."
  • Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who chairs the select committee, was asked Tuesday about committee members' frustrations with the Justice Department's pace. He replied: "I'm in agreement with my members."

How we got here: The ramped-up calls come three months after the House voted to hold former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt for ending cooperation with the investigation.

Federal prosecutors — so far — have not brought charges.

  • Meanwhile, a federal judge — who this week ordered a Trump attorney and staunch ally to turn over a cache of documents to the select committee — wrote that the lawyer and Trump had "launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history."
  • In addition, the White House will not assert executive privilege over testimony by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, or Trump's daughter Ivanka to the committee, it was announced on Tuesday.

But, but, but: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said neither the committee nor the Justice Department should "operate under false deadlines and timeframes that would render their work incomplete."

  • Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), vice chair of the Democratic caucus and a member of the Jan. 6 committee, said it's clear the Justice Department is "committed to democracy."
  • He also credited the DOJ for prosecuting former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, indicted in November by a federal grand jury for refusing to comply with committee subpoenas.
  • "We hope that they act on it with the Meadows citation," Aguilar said, "and with others that could follow."
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