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Justice head vows for Jan. 6 probe to target 'perpetrators, at any level'

AG Merrick Garland urged patience as Justice Dep't continues massive investigation of last year's insurrection

Assuring the public that the Department of Justice's investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection is far from over, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday that his office will continue to seek justice against "perpetrators, at any level."

In a speech one day before the anniversary of the fatal riot, Garland emphasized the breadth of the department's massive investigation, which has so far involved 5,000 subpoenas and search warrants, review of 20,000 hours of video and led to criminal charges against 725 people.

"In the aftermath of the attack, the Justice Department began its work on what has become one of the largest, most complex and most resource intensive investigations in our history," Garland said at a press conference just before 3 p.m.

As the anniversary of the attack approaches, and former President Donald Trump only just agreed to cancel his planned rally for the same day, the attorney general has faced mounting political pressure to take swift action and potentially announce criminal charges against Trump himself, members of his former administration or lawmakers whose support of the so-called "big lie" fueled the 2021 attempted coup.

"The actions we have taken thus far will not be our last," Garland said Wednesday. "The Justice Department remains committed to holding all Jan. 6 perpetrators at any level, accountable under law, whether they were present that day, or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy. We will follow the facts wherever they lead."

The House select committee investigating Jan. 6, which has the power to recommend that the Justice Department criminally charge someone, has been focusing on Trump in recent weeks, with Representative Liz Cheney repeatedly referencing whether the former president's action or inaction on Jan. 6 could meet the threshold of a crime of obstruction of Congress.

Garland largely skirted answering whether his department is considering charges against members of the former White House and of Capitol Hill, but he did indicate that there is room on the table to investigate people in power on Jan. 6.

"There cannot be different rules for friends and foes and there cannot be different rules for the powerful and the powerless. There is only one rule, we follow the facts and enforce the law in a way that respects the Constitution and protect civil liberties. We conduct every investigation guided by the same norms and we adhere to those norms even when and especially when the circumstances we face are not normal," Garland said.

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Garland addressed the frustrations with the investigation's lengthy timeline, noting the department will continue to dig into the events and details of the insurrection "as long as it takes."

"We build investigations by laying a foundation. We resolve more straightforward cases first, because they provide the evidentiary foundation for more complex cases," Garland said.

He also warned of the impact state laws making it harder for people to vote are having on voting rights and the faith people have in elections.

"It is essential that Congress act to give the department the powers we need to ensure that every eligible voter can cast a vote that counts, but as with violence and threats of violence, the Justice Department, even the Congress cannot alone defend the right to vote. The responsibility to preserve democracy and to maintain faith in the legitimacy of essential processes lies with every elected official and with every American," Garland said.

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Screenshot via Courthouse News

Attorney General Merrick Garland gives an update on the Justice Department's investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection on the eve of riot's first memorial, Jan. 5, 2022.