House GOP brushes off DOJ probe of Trump
House Republicans are casting aside the possibility that the Department of Justice could indict former President Trump for his conduct on Jan. 6, painting the DOJ as a political body.
“There’s nothing here to charge them with and they know it,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said when asked if he was concerned about Trump being criminally charged.
“The one thing we know about the DOJ is how political they’ve become, and they got to stop being political,” McCarthy said.
House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) echoed McCarthy’s dismissal of the agency investigating the former commander in chief.
“We’ve seen a politicized DOJ and Biden administration. Take the Colbert-sent reporters, with the U.S. attorney and DOJ did not want to prosecute them,” said Stefanik, referencing the U.S. attorney’s office declining to prosecute employees of the “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” who were arrested in the Capitol complex for unlawful entry.
The Washington Post first reported on Tuesday that the DOJ’s criminal investigation has recently taken a targeted interest in Trump’s actions related to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot. Sources familiar with the matter told the outlet that prosecutors have asked witnesses about conversations with Trump, his lawyers and others in his orbit who were proponents of the fake elector schemes.
Lawyers working on the investigation have reportedly secured phone records from former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and questioned two of ex-Vice President Mike Pence’s former top aides, Marc Short and Greg Jacob. Former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who delivered explosive testimony before the House select committee investigating Jan. 6, is also said to be cooperating with the DOJ’s probe.
Public attention on the possibility of a Trump indictment has increased in light of the House Jan. 6 select committee holding a series of public hearings, culminating in a presentation placing blame on Trump for spreading false election fraud claims, encouraging protesters to show up on Jan. 6 and not acting quickly to dissuade rioters and break up the mob at the Capitol.
GOP leadership boycotted the committee after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) vetoed two of McCarthy’s picks for the panel, and it has subpoenaed five House Republicans including McCarthy. That tension with the committee appears to have made Republicans more skeptical about any DOJ probes on the same topic.
“I’ve made plenty of statements regarding the Jan. 6 so-called committee. I think this is a political operation, and this is just the next step in the political operation,” Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), who was also issued a committee subpoena, said about the Department of Justice reportedly investigating Trump.
“I think that what the committee has done, in my opinion, essentially creating a pseudo grand jury on national TV, has been atrocious. I think that there needs to be a serious look at what passing of information occurred between this committee and the Department of Justice,” said Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.).
Donalds added that he thought any criminal indictment based on what he saw in the committee was a “stretch beyond stretching.”
“It’s clear at this point that the DOJ has been so highly politicized that this is an example of their lack of focus on criminal justice, keeping Americans safe and secure — and their political vendetta against the former president, which is shameful,” said Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), who was one of McCarthy’s original picks to sit on the Jan. 6 committee. “We have a moral duty when we get the majority back to investigate the DOJ.”
As the year creeps into the fall and inches closer to the midterm elections, all eyes are fixated on Attorney General Merrick Garland, with many speculating if he will indict the former president for his actions related to Jan. 6.
Garland on Tuesday told NBC News, “We intend to hold everyone, anyone who was criminally responsible for the events surrounding Jan. 6, for any attempt to interfere with the lawful transfer of power from one administration to another, accountable.”
“That’s what we do. We don’t pay any attention to other issues with respect to that,” he added when asked about the likely seismic implications of charging an ex-president with a crime.
The attorney general called the Jan. 6 probe “the most wide-ranging investigation” in the DOJ’s history.
The Jan. 6 select committee could also make criminal referrals to the DOJ regarding Trump’s role in the Capitol riot.
In an interview earlier this month, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the vice chair of the panel, told ABC’s “This Week” that “there could be more than one criminal referral.”
She noted, however, that “the Justice Department doesn’t have to wait for the committee to make a criminal referral.”