Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) criticized the Justice Department on Sunday for the slow pace it’s taken to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol ― just days before the House Jan. 6 Committee is set to hold its public hearing.
The California Democrat, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee and serves on the Jan. 6 Committee, told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he’s worried Attorney General Merrick Garland’s agency is not approaching the investigation with the same level of urgency that Congress is.
“Well, I hope it’s not too little, too late, but it has been very slow, in my view, in coming,” Schiff said. “We’re now more than a year-and-a-half after the events of Jan. 6, and still there seem to be, at least from what we can gather in the public record, areas that the Justice Department hasn’t fully investigated.”
The congressman brought up the example that the Justice Department was aware that Trump was on the phone with Georgia’s secretary of state demanding the official “find” enough votes to deem him the winner. The department “had that information for a long time,” and Schiff said he does not think the issue should be left solely to the Fulton County district attorney, who is also investigating the incident.
“Now, it may be that they are pursuing that and have just been pursuing it very diligently and very quietly,” the Democrat said. “But it also may be that they have been very tenuous in not feeling the sense of urgency that many of us do about pursuing justice when it comes to all of the multiple lines of effort to overturn the election.”
The Justice Department’s probe is far-reaching, with investigators looking into several angles that played a role in the attack on the Capitol. The department first began looking at the individuals who stormed the Capitol, which expanded into investigating far-right extremist groups who have been accused of planning the insurrection.
Investigators have also looked into political rallies that were held prior to the insurrection, including the “Stop the Steal” rally Trump spoke at the morning of the attack. The department is also probing a plan by Trump and his allies to replace electors for Biden with ones supporting Trump in several states that Biden won.
Lately, the Justice Department has had its hands full ever since the FBI searched Trump’s private residence in Florida last month and found boxes full of classified and top secret government documents. The department is in a legal battle with Trump over the documents, which the former president baselessly alleges he declassified ― something he claimed one can do just by thinking about it.
“That’s not how it works. Those comments don’t demonstrate much intelligence of any kind,” Schiff told Tapper. “If you could simply declassify by thinking about it, then frankly, if that’s his view, he’s even more dangerous than we may have thought. Because with that view, he could simply spout off on anything he read in a presidential daily brief or anything he was briefed on by the CIA director to a visiting Russian delegation or any other delegation and simply say, ‘Well, I thought about it, and therefore, when the words came out of my mouth, they were declassified.’”
Garland has not signaled whether the Justice Department will criminally charge Trump, but the attorney general has pledged that his office will pursue the investigation “without fear or favor.” Schiff said it will be his personal recommendation for the House committee to make criminal referrals, “but we will get to a decision as a committee, and we will all abide by that decision, and I will join our committee members if they feel differently.”
The Jan. 6 Committee is expected to have its final investigative public hearing on Wednesday, before the midterm elections ramp up ahead of November. According to Schiff, the hearing will “tell the story about a key element of Donald Trump’s plot to overturn the election.”