Even as the drumbeat goes on in Republican circles to undercut the FBI and the Justice Department over prosecutions of Donald Trump, The Washington Post has now delivered us an investigative report that basically offers the opposite view.
The FBI and Justice took more than a year to open a formal investigation of Trump and those now being pursued by Special Counsel Jack Smith as responsible for the planning and coordination of the violence of Jan. 6, 2021 – the attempted overthrow of American election results and a way for Trump to continue in the White House.
Even then, the FBI stopped short of identifying the former president as a focus of that investigation, the newspaper reported.
The key paragraph: “A wariness about appearing partisan, institutional caution, and clashes over how much evidence was sufficient to investigate the actions of Trump and those around him all contributed to the slow pace. (Attorney General Merrick) Garland and the deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco, charted a cautious course aimed at restoring public trust in the department while some prosecutors below them chafed, feeling top officials were shying away from looking at evidence of potential crimes by Trump and those close to him, The Post found.”
While Smith’s appointment to investigate the discovery of classified documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort seemed to produce a stream of hard evidence, a second assignment to look at evidence from Jan. 6 has been hazier, according to this report – in part because of delays in getting testimony from a focus to look at Capitol intruders and not at those who created and controlled the event from afar.
Naming names, The Post looking inside the methodical approach that Justice took, determining, among other things, that a top deputy to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, quashed a plan by prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office to directly investigate Trump associates for any links to the riot, deeming it premature.
What followed, as we have seen, has been two years of prosecutions and convictions of those who entered the Capitol, did damage, removed documents, threatened lawmakers, or just milled about, all in pursuit of obstructing Congress’ required certification of state-approved electors and results that would make Joe Biden president.
What The Post found was that while Garland wanted to avoid any sense of politics, prosecutors within the department were complaining about the slow pace and the resistance to target the former president.
Of course, now we stand ready to hear of indictments both at the federal level and in Georgia for various aspects of the plotting, scheming, and workarounds – legal or not – to overturn the election results. The same Donald Trump is insisting on return to office now, and he leads the Republican nomination process despite facing criminal charges and civil findings that would keep any other candidate from consideration.
Majority Republicans in the House are launching a continuing series of attacks on the FBI and Justice for exactly the opposite purposes. They see prosecutions of Trump – as he does – as “witch hunts” and partisan attempts to oust Trump exactly because he is the leading candidate to oppose Biden.
They have launched both attempts to undercut the FBI and Justice by withholding money and by constant attacks on the reputation of prosecutors.
What they haven’t done in all this is to account for what the Post found – that Justice was leaning over backwards and sideways to avoid looking at Trump until pressures grew from convictions for seditious conspiracy against the Oath Keepers militia and the Proud Boys, from state investigations, from relentless journalistic efforts to account for the planning towards Jan. 6 and from a then-Democratic majority House to air the voluminous evidence it had collected from Jan. 6.
In short, we have arrived at a point where simple denials and misdirection efforts won’t erase attempts to recount election results, explain away fake state elector slates or the shameful violence of that Jan. 6 day.
Of all the lessons one could learn from the prosecution efforts against Trump and his associates – however delayed – the most important may be that the best way to avoid a stigma of acting “political” is simply to do the job at hand in a timely and forthright way.
Little of what was sought in any delay has resulted in positive fruition for the FBI and Justice Department that apparently had sought to take a most careful approach.