Worth the wait: Trump and his right-wingers may pay the price for January 6

Jordan Reid is the founding editor of Ramshackle Glam.
Liberal Opinion

Jordan Reid

Author; Founding Editor, Ramshackle Glam
Archive |

I believe I can speak for many liberals when I say that Merrick Garland’s speech to the Justice Department on January 5 was long overdue. Considering the gravity of the matter — an actual siege on our nation’s capital — it’s been more than bewildering and disappointing to hear virtually nothing from the Attorney General of the United States. Yes, we’ve seen hundreds of people be arrested, charged and sentenced for taking part in the Jan. 6 insurrection, but we’ve heard not a word about the probe from the top law enforcement official in the country.

While the January 6th commission seems to be doing a fairly bang-up job – albeit a slower one than some might prefer – Garland has been close to radio-silent on the topic, which some (myself included) interpreted as a lack of desire to engage with the issue. Sort of a “they’ll deal with it; I’m going to stay above the fray” attitude. 

While we obviously can’t be sure this is what happened, it certainly seems like someone got in Garland’s ear to tell him the silent act was getting old. His speech appeared to be crafted to talk some progressives off the ledge and assure us that the DOJ was not close to being done with its investigation.

One part I found very interesting was when he pointed out that prosecutorial strategy calls for tackling the so-called “low hanging fruit” first before going after the bigger targets. It wasn’t a direct message that investigators were going after former President Trump, but it certainly seemed to be a message in that direction.

“We build investigations by laying a foundation. We resolve more straightforward cases first because they provide the evidentiary foundation for more complex cases,” Garland said.

That’s exactly what many Americans, not just liberals, wanted to hear…at least those of us who believe justice should be applied equally, no matter how rich or how powerful you are.

THANK YOU, Merrick Garland. Also: Finally. 

I, along with many fellow progressives, have been borderline infuriated by the lack of action on the part of the DOJ with regards to the ongoing assault on small-d democracy. While the January 6th commission seems to be doing a fairly bang-up job – albeit a slower one than some might prefer – Garland has been close to radio-silent on the topic, which some (myself included) interpreted as a lack of desire to engage with the issue. Sort of a “they’ll deal with it; I’m going to stay above the fray” attitude. 

Which I don’t personally think is the right approach to an attempted coup that is still basically…happening. The right – and especially the far-right, – are barely even trying to hide what they’re doing to ensure control over the next election. They’re altering voting districts, putting in place sympathetic officials, tightening voting rights – all in the effort to disenfranchise those who are less likely to vote for them. 

So when I heard Merrick Garland’s speech to the Justice Department, I just about ran laps around my apartment in joy. Because he might not have said overtly what I’m dying to hear – that Trump and his coconspirators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law – if you pay attention to the subtext…isn’t that kinda what he’s saying? 

First, he addresses public frustration with the “small fry” arrests – how it seems like the DOJ is only aiming for the lowest hanging fruit, rather than the big fish (sorry, mixed metaphor) who masterminded the whole thing.

“A necessary consequence of the prosecutorial approach of charging less serious offenses first is that courts impose shorter sentences before they impose longer ones.”

“We build investigations by laying a foundation. We resolve more straightforward cases first because they provide the evidentiary foundation for more complex cases.”

He sends what, to my ears, sounds like a warning to anyone who might be considering additional acts of violence, and lays out the difference between First Amendment speech (protected) and threats of violence against another person (not):

“The Justice Department will continue to investigate violence and illegal threats of violence, disrupt that violence before it occurs, and hold perpetrators accountable. We have marshaled the resources of the department to address the rising violence and criminal threats of violence against election workers, against flight crews, against school personnel, against journalists, against members of Congress, and against federal agents, prosecutors, and judges. Peacefully expressing a view or ideology — no matter how extreme — is protected by the First Amendment. But illegally threatening to harm or kill another person is not. There is no First Amendment right to unlawfully threaten to harm or kill someone.”

I have to wonder, since this speech was on January 5, whether he was speaking to any credible threats made in relation to January 6, or whether he was speaking to insurrection and violence more generally – but I’ll take either and both for the win. 

Garland also directly encourages cooperation with investigators, underscoring why this cooperation isn’t just patriotic – which should be enough, but apparently not #ahem Mark Meadows #ahem – but the better choice even on a selfish level.

“In charging the perpetrators, we have followed well-worn prosecutorial practices. Those who assaulted officers or damaged the Capitol face greater charges. Those who conspired with others to obstruct the vote count also face greater charges. Those who did not undertake such conduct have been charged with lesser offenses — particularly if they accepted their responsibility early and cooperated with the investigation.”

In short, Garland is appealing to the baser sensibilities – the fundamental desire of most people who aren’t Steve Bannon to not want to go to jail. Way to take a page out of the right-wing playbook, Mer.

(I do actually mean that as a compliment – people are, unfortunately, way more likely to heed threats to their personal autonomy than they are to some abstract sense of “what’s right and wrong.”)

Most uplifting, perhaps, were his comments on the scope of the investigation, and his assurance that it doesn’t stop at the yahoo who stole Nancy Pelosi’s lectern.

“The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law — whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy. The central norm is that, in our criminal investigations, there cannot be different rules depending on one’s political party or affiliation. There cannot be different rules for friends and foes. And there cannot be different rules for the powerful and the powerless.”

I mean, he’s not talking about Trump…but isn’t he? I really enjoy Merrick Garland’s version of throwing shade. It’s very satisfying. 


And finally, his most heartening statement in that hopefully-prescient speech:

“The actions we have taken thus far will not be our last.”

…Gonna hold you to that one, sir.


Get unbiased straight facts, context, and perspective!