Attorney General Merrick Garland, seeking to reassure Americans about the status of the federal investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of angry supporters of former President Donald Trump, said Wednesday that the Justice Department will “follow the facts wherever they lead.”
Garland, speaking in the Justice Department’s Great Hall, said the department “remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law — whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy.”
The DOJ, Garland said, “will defend our democratic institutions from attack. We will protect those who serve the public from violence and threats of violence. We will protect the cornerstone of our democracy: the right of every eligible citizen to cast a vote that counts. And we will do all of this in a manner that adheres to the rule of law and honors our obligation to protect the civil rights and civil liberties of everyone in this country.”
The Jan. 6 investigation has become “one of the largest, most complex, and most resource-intensive investigations in our history,” and the DOJ has brought perpetrators to account “at record speed and scale ― and in the midst of a pandemic during which some grand juries and courtrooms were not able to operate,” the attorney general said.
“We have received over 300,000 tips from ordinary citizens, who have been our indispensable partners in this effort,” Garland noted.
“The actions we have taken thus far will not be our last,” he continued. “In circumstances like those of January 6th, a full accounting does not suddenly materialize. To ensure that all those criminally responsible are held accountable, we must collect the evidence. We follow the physical evidence. We follow the digital evidence. We follow the money. But most important, we follow the facts ― not an agenda or an assumption. The facts tell us where to go next.”
The former judge’s speech ― carefully worded so as not to affect ongoing prosecutions and criminal investigations ― was intended to ease public concerns about the sprawling federal investigation into the Jan. 6 attack. One year in, the feds have charged more than 700 people in connection with the assault, but that’s still only about a quarter of the total number of potential defendants suspected to have engaged in chargeable criminal offenses that day (either by entering the Capitol or by assaulting officers and media outside).
Online sleuths, often operating under the “Sedition Hunters” banner, have identified hundreds more suspects who haven’t been arrested, including dozens whose photographs are currently on the FBI’s Capitol Violence website.
Even with those hundreds of cases still yet to be charged, the federal judiciary system in D.C. is already overwhelmed with Jan. 6 cases. The situation is even more complicated because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had put a hold on jury trials and makes them much more difficult to organize and schedule.