We are alumni of the Department of Justice who have served under both Democratic and Republican administrations in career and politically appointed roles, many of us as prosecutors. We always understood our responsibility was to ensure even-handed enforcement of the law and to uphold the fundamental democratic principle that, irrespective of position, no one is above it.
We watched in horror on January 6, 2021, as a group of insurrectionists stormed our Capitol. It was clear at the time that this was an attempt to subvert the will of voters in the 2020 presidential election by interfering with the constitutionally prescribed process for counting and certifying electoral votes. And it has since become clear that the defeated former president, various members of his administration, and even some members of Congress, played pivotal roles in the insurrection. The Senate Judiciary Committee and the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol have provided additional disturbing details concerning this attempt to overturn the election results, both on January 6, and in the post-election period that preceded it. Clearly, there is more to learn, as the Select Committee continues its valid legislatively-oriented investigation. Just as critical, there is a need for decisive action by the Department of Justice, our nation’s leading law enforcement agency.
Accordingly, we strongly support the Attorney General in conducting the ongoing meticulous investigation of the events of January 6. Numerous individuals already have been charged with serious felony offenses, including seditious conspiracy, corruptly obstructing the congressional vote count proceeding, and conspiring to do so, and additional prosecutions are likely.
We were especially encouraged to hear the Attorney General’s statement on the anniversary of the insurrection that the Department is committed to holding accountable anyone — “at any level” — who was “criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy,” regardless of whether they were present at the Capitol on January 6. While he appropriately refrained from naming subjects of the investigation against whom charges might be brought, or the specific evidence being evaluated, the import of his words is clear: the DOJ investigation will continue to focus on those who played the most significant roles in attempting to destroy our democracy, no matter their positions at the height of government. And the investigation will not be limited to the violence that occurred on January 6. Indeed, in our view, it should extend to any actions of administration officials and others to overturn the will of the voters that preceded and followed the insurrection.
While we know that there is important investigative work yet to be done and that difficult decisions remain to be made, we support the Attorney General and the Department in their commitment to prosecute anyone as to whom the evidence ultimately shows provable criminal conduct in the events surrounding January 6, 2021, including, if warranted, those who engaged in post-election attempts to pressure federal and state officials to violate their responsibilities. And while the Attorney General rightly counseled patience as the Department moves the investigation toward higher-level actors, we urge him to preserve the public trust by holding culpable leaders to account as soon as possible.
Some surely will accuse the Department of playing politics by considering a possible indictment of the former president. But regardless of how the investigation ultimately turns out, given the currently available evidence, there is no good reason to exclude him from the inquiry. It is clear that a former president has no immunity from indictment for his conduct while in office and that there is a sound basis in law for the matter to proceed.
The Attorney General has made it clear that the former president and his confidants will be treated the same as the hundreds of others who have been subject to investigation or to prosecution and punishment for their roles in the January 6 insurrection. That is the embodiment of the Department’s mission to ensure the non-political and even-handed administration of justice, and we commend the Attorney General for his commitment to upholding that mission. His speech appropriately recognizes that if those who hold the most power are allowed to act with impunity while the less powerful are sent to prison, equal justice under the law would be a lie, and respect for the rule of law and democracy itself would be in grave danger of destruction.
For all these reasons, we call on the Attorney General to continue to translate his important words into concrete actions to impose accountability on the powerful people who sought to destroy our democracy in every case supported by the evidence. We stand ready to support him and the Department’s career staff as they carry forward this vital mission.Related Resources
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