But the House January 6 committee appears to be very busy in its pursuit of accountability for the US Capitol riot, even as it may be running short on time.
This leaves congressional investigators with holes in their understanding so far of what transpired that day, but a member of the House January 6 committee has said the panel will ultimately get the information it is seeking.
Here are some of the other recent developments:
Key emails must be turned over. The judge, David Carter, also ordered John Eastman — the lawyer who masterminded Trump’s apparent strategy to overturn the election — to turn over more than 100 specific emails Eastman had tried to shield.
Carter rejected Eastman’s attorney-client privilege argument and ruled the public must know the content of these emails to prevent another plot. Eastman and Trump’s campaign, the judge wrote, “was a coup in search of a legal theory.”
The referrals head next to the full House for a vote, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has committed to bringing them forward “as soon as the schedule permits.” These votes could lead to prosecution by the Department of Justice, as was the case for Steve Bannon.
Some frustrated January 6 committee Democrats had a clear message to the Justice Department Monday night: Do your job.
But the biggest news Monday was the California federal court opinion. It’s clear the House committee is working hard to build a complete picture of what led up to the riot that interrupted the counting of electoral votes.
What’s not clear is what sort of additional accountability there may be.
What does all this mean?
CNN’s Katelyn Polantz notes that in the case involving Eastman’s emails, lawyers for the committee have all but invited the Justice Department to consider criminal charges, although there’s no indication that is happening.
Here are some of the thoughts Polantz sent on Monday when I asked her what to make of the latest developments.
What is the committee doing in court?
POLANTZ: They’re still trying to get to the heart of what happened between Donald Trump and his closest allies leading up to the January 6 insurrection, and one way to do that is lay out evidence in a court case like this, where the House was seeking closely guarded records.
This isn’t a criminal case where they need to prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. But they did just convince a judge that Trump does appear to have been planning the felony of obstructing Congress, and using his lawyers to make that crime happen. And so they should get the records.
How big a win is this for the committee?
POLANTZ: It’s win-win-win for the House. They are going to get the zealously protected documents; they get the federal judge’s endorsement that their investigation is worth it; and they’ve packaged so much information and argument together that the Justice Department very well may want to take a look.
This Eastman case so far has been serving up a legal meal for DOJ, even more so than shaming or harnessing congressional political pressure.
What did we learn from Judge Carter’s opinion?
POLANTZ: One of the startling parts of Carter’s opinion is how he, too, concludes there’s a need for investigation and accountability.
This is a well-respected judge — a Clinton appointee and former Marine who received a Purple Heart for bravery in the Vietnam War — going beyond what was necessary for his legal decision, to make this call to action.
“If Dr. Eastman and President Trump’s plan had worked, it would have permanently ended the peaceful transition of power, undermining American democracy and the Constitution. If the country does not commit to investigating and pursuing accountability for those responsible, the Court fears January 6 will repeat itself,” the judge wrote.
This is another branch of government calling for more to be done to respond to January 6.
What comes next?
POLANTZ: The House’s powers are limited; remember, they’ve already impeached Trump and the Senate refused to convict. And their investigation will always have more limitations on the evidence they can gather than what a criminal investigation could pursue.
So Carter doesn’t say outright the DOJ and other courts should be dealing with accountability too, but his subtext is clear.
Deadline: January 2023
It’s important to remember the political reality that Democrats, with their oh-so-slim majority, could very well lose control of the House in November’s midterm elections. If Republicans do win more seats in the election, they would take control and certainly end the committee in January.
While this month has seen a lot of activity, there are many loose ends to track.
Bannon’s trial for contempt of Congress won’t get underway until July.
Meadows has not even been indicted, and the Justice Department may choose not to take up the contempt charge against him. The committee already has his text messages from around the election, so his testimony may be less important.
If the House refers Scavino and Navarro for contempt charges, their trials, if pursued by the Justice Department, could take place later.
What will DOJ do?
And the expansion of the Justice Department’s criminal probe into the political rally and fake electors represents a new stage of the investigation, CNN reports. It comes as Attorney General Merrick Garland faces increasing political pressure to examine possible wrongdoing by people in Trump’s orbit.
Garland told NPR early in March that the government will move slowly and methodically, but pursue all possible criminal cases.
“Particularly federal prosecutors, we begin with the cases that are right in front of us with overt actions, and then we build from there,” he said. “And that is a process that we will continue to build until we hold everyone accountable who committed criminal acts with respect to January 6.”
He said prosecutors will not avoid bringing cases against officials if that’s where the evidence leads them.
“We are not avoiding cases that are political or cases that are controversial or sensitive. What we are avoiding is making decisions on a political basis, on a partisan basis,” he said. They’ll have until 2026 to consider charges.
Despite those assurances from Garland, prosecuting someone like Trump would clearly be a difficult process.
Other avenues for justice
Separate from the federal government and whether Trump tried to upend the election, an inquiry into the former President’s business by the Manhattan DA also appears to have stalled.
This story has been updated with additional details.
Quoted from Various Sources
Published for: The Bloggers Briefing