Garland praises Oath Keepers verdict, won’t say where Jan. 6 probe goes

A day after a federal jury indicted two far-right extremists who conspired to unleash political violence to stop Joe Biden’s inauguration, Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed to continue “working tirelessly” to hold those responsible accountable. Efforts to cancel 2020 elections.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors highlighted the defendants’ links to key allies of President Donald Trump, including Roger Stone, “Stop the Steel” organizer Ali Alexander, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani.

But Garland declined to say Wednesday if he expected prosecutors to eventually file charges against any other people who did not physically participate in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

“I don’t want to speculate about other investigations or parts of other investigations,” Garland told reporters at a briefing in Jackson, Miss., where he mentioned Justice Department efforts to establish federal oversight of the water supply system.

Garland called the wide-ranging investigation of Jan. 6 and Jackson’s water crisis “important matters of public interest.”

“I am extremely proud of the attorneys, investigators and staff whose unwavering commitment to the law and tireless work resulted in these two significant victories yesterday,” he said.

The status of major investigations involving Donald Trump

Tuesday’s rulings upheld a key Justice Department argument presented in the seven-week trial: that Capitol’s breach was not an isolated incident, but rather the culmination or element of a broader plot by militants seeking to stop the transfer of power. From Trump to Biden. In this case, the jury found Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and a top deputy, Kelly Meggs, at least partially responsible for displaying firearms and forcefully resisting federal authority. Both were convicted of “seditious conspiracy”, the most serious charge ever levied in the January 6 investigation.

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Justice Department officials are eyeing the oath-keeper’s verdict to help decide whether to file criminal charges against other high-profile, pro-Trump figures with roles in orchestrating the violence, according to people with knowledge of the investigation.

The people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said prosecutors will also consider the outcome of an upcoming trial involving members of another militant group, the Proud Boys, which is set to begin in mid-December.

In a briefing with reporters on Tuesday, Garland asked the House Jan. 6 committee — which is conducting a separate investigation into the attack — for all interview transcripts and evidence it collected. This has been a point of tension between the Justice Department and Congress, with the committee not yet handing over all the materials.

“We want the committee to collect all the transcripts and all the other evidence so that we can use it in the normal course of our investigation,” Garland said.

After Trump announced in mid-November that he would run for president in 2024, Garland appointed a special counsel to oversee investigations related to Trump and his advisers after he lost the 2020 election, as well as a separate investigation into Trump’s possession of classified documents after he left the White House.

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Defined in law as an attempt by two or more people to “overthrow, subdue, or forcibly destroy the government of the United States” or to forcibly resist its authority or laws, a conspiracy of treason is rarely charged. Prosecutors often find it difficult to prove at trial, especially if other, simpler crimes can be charged for the same conduct.

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Praveen Fernandes, vice president of the Center for Constitutional Accountability — a liberal think tank and law firm that has been closely tracking the Rhodes trial — said the guilty verdict was significant.

“This is not just a dispensation of justice for Rhodes and Kelly Meggs — but a sign that the jury was able to understand what happened that day as a treasonous conspiracy,” Fernandez said. “It opens up at least one universe that says it’s possible to get such a conviction on the culpable acts until January 6.”

But legal experts cautioned that the verdict was not a slam-dunk for the government, highlighting how difficult it is to pursue sedition conspiracy cases. Three other fellow Oath Keepers on trial were acquitted of treason. All five accused were found guilty of disrupting Congress when members met on January 6 to confirm the results of the 2020 elections, a key step in the country’s peaceful transfer of power.

In deciding the treasonable conspiracy charge, the jury focused on the written or recorded evidence Proof of conspiracy intent is a warning sign for prosecutors that the threshold for convicting people on this rare charge is high.

Rhodes attorney James Lee Bright revealed on Jan. 6 that he expected the Justice Department to take a mixed ruling as a sign that it is moving “full-steam ahead” with prosecutions against others involved in the scheme.

Federal prosecutors in the Rhodes trial clarified that Stone, a longtime political adviser to Trump who has consistently denied any knowledge of or involvement in illegal acts at the Capitol on Jan. 6, was the focus of the inquiry and introduced evidence he said. In December 2021, the government obtained from his phone.

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Who are Oath Keepers? What you need to know.

On the day television networks announced Biden had won the election, prosecutors allege, Rhodes shared a text with Stone, Alexander and Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tario and others: “What’s the plan?”

They alleged that Rhodes shared the plan with the same “Friends of Stone” encrypted chat group, which included bullet points for an anti-government uprising in Serbia that included an attack on its parliament.

Rhodes wrote public letters to Trump urging him to invoke the Insurrection Act to mobilize the military and private militias to ensure his stay in power.

But lawyers for the people who worked for Trump and other Oath Keepers members doubted that Trump received or acted on those messages.

“I can tell you that out of the 10 terabytes of evidence available to us in this trial, there is nothing that has been given or shown to us that in any way suggests potential. to impeach former President Trump on January 6,” Bright, one of Rhodes’ lawyers, told reporters after Tuesday’s ruling.

On Wednesday, Garland said the work of Justice Department lawyers in securing the guilty verdicts “makes it clear that the department will work tirelessly to hold accountable those responsible for crimes related to attacks on our democracy in January 2021.”

Tom Jackman contributed to this report.

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