For many, Tuesday night was an evening of contrasts. There was a calm and measured attorney general assuring the public that the Justice Department will hold accountable anyone found criminally responsible for the events of January 6, 2021, or for attempting to overturn the 2020 election. When NBC News’ Lester Holt asked Merrick Garland if that approach could apply even to former President Donald Trump, even if Trump announced he would run for president again, Garland repeated the refrain that no one is above the law.
Garland remained expressionless never showing his hand, the consummate poker player.
Garland, probably aware that his every word and move would be scrutinized for clues, remained deadpan, never showing his hand, the consummate poker player. Later that evening, The Washington Post reported, with much fanfare, that it has seen some of the letters Garland has and it appears the Justice Department is investigating Trump.
While Tuesday night may have been confusing for some, for me it was an example of how things are supposed to work. Prosecutors and the media play different roles and move at different speeds as they both seek to uncover the truth.
It’s been so long since we’ve had an attorney general that many Americans still don’t quite understand whether they’re supposed to be encouraged or disappointed by what they heard from Garland on Tuesday evening. Since Trump left office, many have he asked swift justice for the man they hold responsible for attacking our democracy. The pressure on Garland to move faster, to say something, to arrest someone, anyone, close to Trump intensified when some members of the House committee investigating the January 6 assault on the US Capitol began to express his own frustration with it. But Garland was not going to give in to public pressure. This is not how a sane Justice Department is supposed to do things. The department is supposed to follow the facts and the law, not the opinion pages.
The many people calling for immediate action on Garland can be forgiven for forgetting how justice and the rule of law are supposed to be administered. After all, these people watched as one of Trump’s attorneys general, William Barr, blatantly jumped on the release of the special counsel Mueller’s report with his own press conference that included a complete fabrication. four page summary. They saw the same attorney general appoint a special attorney John Durham for trying to destroy the original investigation into Russian interference in the Trump campaign, even after the DOJ’s own inspector general determined that the case was correctly predicated. And, they saw the same lackey attorney general mislead the public about him perceived dangers of voting by mail.
Now, we have a Justice Department that has returned to a methodical focus on the facts. We have an attorney general who won’t call a press conference to tell us what he thinks about the findings of the investigation, or even to tell us that an investigation exists. This can be frustrating for some people, especially those who believed that if there was an investigation, we would have already seen leaks indicating an investigation. That’s all right. That’s how the Justice Department is supposed to work, it’s not supposed to leak.
People calling for immediate action in Garland can be forgiven for forgetting how justice and the rule of law should be administered.
Garland’s careful approach contrasted with the wave of reporting that soon drowned out his calm comments. The report began Tuesday night with news from The Washington Post that the DOJ had subpoenaed at least two senior aides to Vice President Mike Pence before a grand jury and questioned them for hours about Trump’s related actions. with the plan of alternative voters. This report was quickly followed by a report from NBC news which essentially corroborated the DOJ’s interest in Trump. The New York Times he pondered with further confirmation. The far right, including one managing editor of Breitbart News, immediately called “foul” of The Washington Post’s scoop and claimed that someone at Justice must have leaked it. However, that report did not mention DOJ sources. It seemed to me much more likely that the information came from grand jury witnesses or people close to them.
The media doing its job—pursuing the facts and sometimes loudly reporting the news with breaking news banners—is just as essential as the Justice Department quietly and methodically doing its job. This may seem like a confusing contrast, even a conflict. But that’s how things should be. It’s all part of a healthy democracy.
Garland previously responded to questions about the perception that the Justice Department is moving too slowly in its Jan. 6 investigation by saying, “We’ve got to get it right.” So far, it is.