WASHINGTON – It’s the “broadest investigation” in the history of the Justice Department: the unprecedented hunt for hundreds of rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol in the name of Donald Trump on January 6, 2021, and the criminal investigation into efforts to stop the peaceful transfer. of power
It’s also a logistical nightmare.
As the cases against the Capitol rioters make their way through the court system and a federal grand jury hears testimony about Trump’s role on Jan. 6, some federal officials are expressing concern that the already sprawling investigation could take from January 6 to a breaking point.
In conversations with NBC News in recent months, more than a dozen sources familiar with the sprawling Jan. 6 investigation expressed varying degrees of concern about whether the resources the Justice Department has committed to the effort are enough to to such a broad criminal investigation.
Federal officials have made about 850 arrests in the nearly 19 months since the attack on the Capitol, but that’s still only a small fraction of the more than 2,500 people who entered the building and the hundreds more who committed crimes serious abroad but who have not yet been arrested. . The sheer volume of evidence, whether it’s body cam and surveillance video or incriminating content generated by the suspects themselves, presents a huge challenge for a huge bureaucracy working with technology that, at best, has a few years behind
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which is overseeing the Capitol siege investigation, is also conducting separate investigations exploring the bogus voter scheme and a conspiracy to obstruct the certification of the election vote of January 6, both related to Trump’s actions in the run-up to January 6, as well as the day of the attack.
Even with the daunting task of moving these future prosecutions forward, officials must manage a massive docket full of cases that must be resolved by plea or trial, each with its enormous discovery demands and trial clock .
Although hundreds of ready-made cases are in the hands of federal law enforcement officials, the pace of arrests has slowed markedly. Each new case requires new resources from the Department of Justice and the FBI, as well as any other law enforcement agencies that assist with arrests, which often occur far from the nearest FBI field office, and puts the clock is ticking on defendants’ speedy trial rights.
The Department of Justice has asked for help. His 2023 budget request asks Congress for more than $34 million to fund 130 employees, including 80 federal prosecutors, to help with the “extraordinary,” “unprecedented” and “complex” investigation.
The Justice Department did not get the funding it requested in the omnibus spending bill that passed in March — it was included in a fiscal year 2023 spending bill that passed the Appropriations Committee of the Chamber last month.
Attorney General Merrick Garland told NBC News’ Lester Holt in an interview this week that he was “confident” the Justice Department could handle the workload regardless of what Congress does.
“Of course we would like more resources, and if Congress wants to give us that, that would be great,” Garland said Tuesday. “But we have people – prosecutors and agents – from all over the country working on this matter, and I have every confidence in their ability, their professionalism, their dedication to this task.”
Others close to the investigation say it is at a crossroads.
“We don’t have the manpower,” said one official, noting that many Jan. 6 participants who will eventually be charged have not yet been arrested, in the interest of case management.
Another official said the pressure was “a culmination” of numerous factors, including the need to support cases now going to trial.
A third official said some of the prosecutors who were sent to Washington to work Capitol riot cases from U.S. attorneys’ offices around the country are being recalled to their offices.
“It’s kind of a work in progress,” the official said.
Former US Attorney Joyce Vance, a legal analyst for MSNBC, said: “People are concerned about resources. It’s a huge backlog, and that puts pressure not only on the DOJ, but on the courts and the parole system.”
One reason for hope, sources say, is that a new batch of “term AUSAs,” or temporary assistant U.S. attorneys, will soon join the Capitol Siege Section, providing much-needed relief which could help manage the existing record and expedite new cases. It’s just an advantage that the two-year positions attract young lawyers who may already be very familiar with the technology and social media platforms that have played a big role in the Jan. 6 investigation, an official said.
The Justice Department’s budget request said the Capitol investigation is taking resources away from federal prosecutors across the country who are facing a host of other law enforcement challenges.
“This will have a detrimental impact on the ability of United States attorneys to fill vacancies and prosecute important cases in other jurisdictions,” the Justice Department said. told Congress. “Funding is needed to continue prosecuting the growing number of cases related to this breach of the US Capitol that has left the Department with an immense task to find and charge those responsible for the attacks.”