Is Garland Up To the Job?

Merrick Garland. Getty images/TPM illustration
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October 13, 2021 2:33 p.m.

I get the sense that the Jan 6th committee is moving rapidly toward holding non-compliant Trumpers in contempt and asking the Justice Department to prosecute refusers like Steve Bannon for criminal contempt. That appears to be TPM Alum Greg Sargent’s sense too. Of course, talk is cheap. And there’s a chorus of understandably frustrated Democrats saying “we’ll believe it when they see it.” But my assumption is that the committee members know their statements over the last week have raised the stakes for themselves dramatically. If they don’t, they are prepping a huge backlash from a lot of people who are tired of seeing Trumpers make the law an object of contempt.

As I explained here, there are unfortunate but real reasons why there are major obstacles in the way of investigating a sitting President. Those don’t apply now. So we’re going to see whether the people in charge are ready to use the lawful tools available to plumb the depths of what happened. I think they are and I hope they are. It will be pretty bad if they’re not.

The other big and perhaps more uncertain part of the equation is what happens at DOJ. Democracy activists and those who see the threat of Trumpism in something like existential terms have been at best underwhelmed by Merrick Garland’s tenure. President Biden has deferred key decisions to Garland in an effort to ramp back the rampant politicization and corruption of the DOJ under Trump. But there’s some reasonable question whether Biden picked the right person for the job. Deference doesn’t get you anywhere good if you put the wrong person in charge.

In any case, we should see in fairly short order whether the committee’s members and the attorney general are ready to vindicate the Congress’s legitimate fact-finding authority on a matter as grave as getting to the bottom of the events of January 6th.

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Let’s hope they make the right decisions.

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