Let me start by saying that today’s news might never have come out if Jack Smith hadn’t been appointed. Here’s the thing though – Smith would never have been investigating January 6 at all if he hadn’t been appointed Special Counsel, and the ONLY reason that happened is because AG Garland was finally forced into it. It took all the information that was reported (and rest assured there’s much more that hasn’t and never will be & for good reason) about the DAMAGE to our National Security created by Trump stealing and leaving unsecured many hundreds (if not a thousand or more – again we’ll never know) of classified documents, some at the highest level.
Garland held off as long as he could, no doubt hoping the story would cool off but it kept getting hotter and even he could see the gas truck careening towards the fire. So he went looking for a Special Prosecutor and by all appearances kept it quiet while the details got worked out with as good a one as we could have hoped for. But once the decision was made, Garland knew damn well he couldn’t limit Smith to investigating and prosecuting the National Security stuff, he’d be hounded to hell about Smith’s authority to run with all that the House Select Committee had forwarded about January 6. So Smith is running two investigations with one now resulting in charges filed. The other, the January 6 case? Well, that was always going to be a more complex one and that leads us to what we’ve learned today.
News broke today in the Washington Post that in a real sense wasn’t news at all. Yes, the details were news but the overall story about the foot dragging is something we all were sure had gone on from the beginning. THAT isn’t really news to me and so many others. Hence the “Well DUH” in the title.
The Department of Justice and FBI (which is part of DOJ actively resisted investigating Trump and his
cronies co-conspirators for initiating the January 6 insurrection and other scheme to keep Trump in power. More specifically the article cites AG Merrick Garland (along with his top deputy Lisa Monaco) and FBI Director Christopher Wray as being the driving forces behind the “don’t get into looking at Trump or the organizers, start with the low hanging fruit and maybe someday…” manner in which things unfolded. I’d link to the WaPo article but if you don’t have an account you still have to sign up with them to look at a limited number of articles for free. However, there’s a good write up in Vanity Fair which does solid political reporting.
GOPer howling at the moon aside, there have been plenty of others who from the start saw plenty of reason to look at Trump and his inner circle over January 6 and with nothing happening were pi$$ed and angrily complaining that politics were causing the issue of Trump and the other key plotters to be swept under the rug. Today’s reporting is that our TOP law enforcement officials, the AG and the Director of the FBI told subordinates there wasn’t enough “there” there to open some investigations of certain people. You know which people!
However there were a lot more than a few bread crumbs. Jesus could have provided bread for everyone in the crowd at the Sermon on the Mount with all the entire loaves of evidence that Trump and his cronies were at the heart of it all. Hell, Trump literally issued the call during the debates with his refusal to denounce a group we knew that awful day was involved – instead he said “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by!” There would be more public incitement both by Trump and people close to him, and even my granny knew damn well lots more was going on in private. And Granny has been dead over thirty years!
Again, on January 6 itself there was evidence Trump supported the rioters, not only in his speech on the Mall before turning them loose on the Capitol but actions during the riot. Not to mention the questions about the delayed response (which was largely ineffectual when hours too late the DC Guard was deployed) and Trump cronies who’d JUST been installed at the Pentagon being responsible. Everything, and I mean EVERTHING indicated Trump knew about and approved of what was planned, even if his closest pals did the actual organizing and coordinating with Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and so on.
So, from the start in the DC Attorney’s office and also within the FBI career folks with the DOJ who’d survived Trump appointee’s efforts to purge anyone not totally loyal to Trump, professionals got to work. Sure, they wanted to and did go after actual rioters and some people they knew right away controlled groups within the mob from inside the riot. That low hanging fruit stuff. Hell, with any criminal conspiracy it’s common for both federal and state prosecutors to start at the bottom and work their way up, flipping people along the way to get to bigger fish. However, what usually doesn’t happen is to ignore the people at the top. If you are rolling up the little fish to get to bigger fish and ultimately the BIG fish then you have to be looking at them the whole time, even if they aren’t having the lion’s share of investigative resources focused on them.
But ignore Trump and the other ringleaders is exactly what Garland and Wray did. Worse, they were proactive in their “steer clear of Trump and his associates” attitude. It was made clear to their subordinates wanting to open formal investigations (which would provide more tools/resources) that Trump, and folks like Stone, Bannon and others were off-limits.
WHAT THE F**k?
I had plenty of company, tens of millions if not a hundred million screaming through my keyboard and sometimes out loud “What the hell is taking so long?” I’ll admit for a while recently, I was feeling a little sheepish because it appeared that with Jack Smith’s appointment as Special Prosecutor in addition to the National Security case against Trump for stealing all the classified information DOJ had been working all along on January 6. An impression got created that people like me were oh so wrong and that the good guys had been hard at work on the organizers of January 6, the TOP ones like Trump all along.
Turns out we were right all along. While willing to go after rioters when it came to those who set it all in motion, meaning in the most important sense DOJ dragged its feet for OVER A YEAR! Again I say WTF? because that’s way too much time. Time for targets to destroy evidence, to coordinate their stories, and even for witnesses willing to tell what they knew for memories to fade.
I saw one of the reporters who’s byline is on the WaPo story on MSNBC talking to Nicole Wallace. I respect Carol Leoning’s investigative journalism skills. She’s as good as it gets. But her weak-tea apologizing for Garland’s timidity simply doesn’t cut it with me. Yes, I know he had a crucial agency so badly mauled by the Trump administration it was in the trauma ward. Stopping the bleeding and restoring DOJ’s credibility was the top priority, just as a trauma teams is to keep the patient from dying. Fears Trump and his enablers would attack DOJ and making the near impossible task of restoring the department’s reputation if they did anything to ANY people involved in J6 were entirely justified. And therein lies the problem.
Garland could have gone on TV after being confirmed and said more or less that as awful as it all was, and that while DOJ remains committed to the ideal that no one is above the law there were higher priorities and that “only the worst of the rioters in the Capitol that day would be pursued. AND that there were no plans to devote resources into exploring any potential conspiracies of formal organizing efforts of the riot.” You know what?
He and DOJ would STILL have been relentlessly and mercilessly attacked then, and virtually every day since!
Wray, lest people forget was groomed (yes I used that word on purpose) by The Federalist Society starting early in his career and that was surely part of why Trump agreed to appoint him. So, I can understand (not approve of mind you, only understand why) Wray wanting to avoid investigations of people who even if he didn’t know them well personally had “done business with” back in the day,. Or at least had mutual friends with them dropping in on him to say “Hey Chris, maybe you can set aside looking at so-and-so, at least for a while can’t you?” (With a while meaning until the heat dies down way in the future) And Wray of course agreeing. Hell, given his Federalist Society connections I’m not sure how well HE would hold up if the spotlight were to be turned on him for any length of time.
Garland however turned out to be exactly what so many of us feared from the beginning. A guy who as Leoning said is a decent and honorable man who wants to do the right thing. However he’s a creature of a culture of respect for norms that is GONE. And has been for a good while & was gone before he ever got appointed and confirmed. If you think of the DOJ as a trauma patient it was possible for him to save it, but with injuries like mangled limbs, face and skull crushed in in different places and so on the patient might someday regain a measure of function but will never again be as healthy as before. And the scars will forever be visible.
When I was in college I had to make a life & death decision (and with only a minute to decide) regarding my father, and I was guided then and since by the principle that “When you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t then you might as well DO.” I told Doc Ballesteros to get downstairs and operate. (This was back in the 1970s in a small town hospital and radiology as we know it didn’t exist then.) The doctor was pretty sure of his diagnosis but admitted if he was wrong dad wouldn’t survive the surgery. Even if he was right the odds weren’t good but there was no time to waste. Turns out I made the right call.
Garland was always going to be damned if he allowed his people (and that includes giving orders to Wray as the FNI Director answers to the AG) to move forward with investigations they were chomping at the bit to get going. Garland wanted to avoid the political aspect of it all which is what I and countless others thought was the problem during all that time we were so impatient and were certain was why nothing was happening. Now we know for sure we were right. I’ll readily concede Garland is way smarter than I am, but I won’t concede he’s more wise. When it comes to making damned near impossible to make decisions I say my approach is way better than his – the “let’s wait and see and maybe the problem will solve itself.” If history has taught anyone anything about Trump is that the country’s (and the GOP’s problem since he caught fire in the 2016 campaign) is that no Trump problem solves itself. Trump has gotten away with so much because he knows that’s how those who want him gone think!
Well, Garland (and Wray too) hoped against all reason and evidence Trump would STFU and go away – and spare them all the political stuff that would come up if they went after him. For damned sure they didn’t want Trump’s crimes in the news during the 2024 election and guess what? The exact thing they wanted to avoid, investigations and prosecutions of Trump and his co-conspirators will be a factor in the 2024 election! An entire year was lost when it comes to the real criminals, the “Don” literally named Don and his “capos” being investigated and charged. Trials could be underway by now, or at least if not before the end of this year then early next year. LONG before that all important self-imposed DOJ window for “going dark” so as not to “interfere” with an election.
But Wray, with Garland’s blessing and assistance blew that chance. They and the country will be worse off for it.
I gather from that MSNBC interview there are more details to come, but the only actual news today is we’ve got details now. Of what we were sure of all along which is this:
DOJ, both the AG and the FBI spent over a year preventing investigation of Trump and his cronies!.
I feel both outraged and sick to my stomach.