(Fwrd Axis) — Attorney General Merrick Garland said Tuesday that the Justice Department will prosecute anyone who was “criminally responsible for interfering with the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another”, suggesting the probe has moved beyond the rioters who breached the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Speaking to NBC News, Garland gave more details than he had previously on the federal criminal investigation into the January 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol by former President Donald Trump’s supporters, resulting in deaths and chaos.
NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt pressed Garland on whether the Justice Department would indict Trump if the evidence supported the suggestion.
“The indictment of a former president, and perhaps a candidate for president, would arguably tear the country apart,” Holt said. “Is that your concern as you make your decision down the road here, do you have to think about things like that?”
“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,” Garland answered. “That’s what we do. We don’t pay any attention to other issues with respect to that.”
Holt pressed Garland if Trump were to run for president again in 2024, “that would not change your schedule or how you move forward or don’t move forward?”
“I’ll say again, that we will hold accountable anyone who was criminally responsible for attempting to interfere with the transfer, legitimate, lawful transfer of power from one administration to the next,” Garland replied.
Merrick Garland’s interview Tuesday signals a shift in focus for the Justice Department — any criminal interference with the transfer of power, separate from those who attacked the Capitol. The January 6 committee has held public hearings, arguing that Trump knew what he was doing and his actions, including pressuring then-Vice President Mike Pence, were a part of a bigger plan to stay in power by any means necessary.
“The hearings are getting to the truth of what happened…and what a risk it meant for our democracy,” Garland said.
Garland has felt pressure from the public to prosecute Trump or rush the investigation before Trump announces another run, something he has been teasing since he left office. However, Garland has previously said he would take his time and added Tuesday that the only pressure he feels is to get everything done the right way.
“The only pressure that I, my prosecutors, or the agents feel is the pressure to do the right thing,” Garland said. “That’s the only way we can pursue the rule of law. That’s the only way we can keep the confidence of the American people in the rule of law, which is an essential part of our democratic system.”