Attorney General Merrick Garland on July 20 said that no person is above the law with regards to the investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021 breach of the U.S. Capitol.
“No person is above the law in this country. I can’t say it any more clearly than that. There is nothing in the principles of prosecution, in any other factors, which prevent us from investigating anyone who is criminally responsible for an attempt to undo a democratic election,” Garland told reporters at the Department of Justice headquarters in Washington after a briefing on gun trafficking.
Garland, a Biden appointee, was questioned after MSNBC published a document signed by Garland and dated May 25 that emphasized longstanding DOJ practice to tread carefully when it comes to prosecutions in the months leading up to a federal election.
The midterm elections in November will determine which party controls the House of Representatives and the Senate.
DOJ employees “are entrusted with the authority to enforce the laws of the United States and with the responsibility to do so in a neutral and impartial manner,” Garland wrote. “This is particularly important in an election year. Now that the 2022 election season is upon us, and as in prior election cycles, I am issuing this memorandum to remind you of the Department’s existing policies with respect to political activities.”
While the DOJ “has a strong interest in the prosecution of election-related crimes,” employees “must be particularly sensitive to safeguarding the Department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality, and non-partisanship,” Garland wrote, adding later that officials can never select the timing of public statements, criminal charges, or other actions “for the purpose of affecting any election, or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party.”
Many Democrats and some Republicans opposed to former President Donald Trump have called for U.S. prosecutors to charge Trump over actions they describe as illegal leading up to and during the Capitol breach.
Trump has not been charged and has maintained that he did nothing wrong.
Garland told reporters, who mentioned Trump, that there is speculation about what the DOJ is doing or not doing, and what its theories are.
“There will continue to be that speculation. That’s because a central tenant of the way in which the Justice Department investigates and a central tenant of the rule of law is that we do not do our investigations in the public,” Garland said.
“We have to hold accountable every person who is criminally responsible for trying to overturn a legitimate election, and we must do it in a way filled with integrity and professionalism,” he added.