President Biden wants his Attorney General Merrick Garland to prosecute former President Donald Trump and people within his orbit over the January 6 Capitol Riot, and has expressed frustration in private over the AG's lack of action on the issue.
"As recently as late last year, Mr. Biden confided to his inner circle that he believed former President Donald J. Trump was a threat to democracy and should be prosecuted, according to two people familiar with his comments," the New York Times reported Saturday. "And while the president has never communicated his frustrations directly to Mr. Garland, he has said privately that he wanted Mr. Garland to act less like a ponderous judge and more like a prosecutor who is willing to take decisive action over the events of Jan. 6."
That said, it's unclear what exactly Trump would be prosecuted for - though the Democrat-led House committee investigating the riot has claimed that Trump and his team violated the law in their efforts to overturn the 2020 US election.
As the Washington Examiner notes;
In a recent court filing for John Eastman, a Trump-linked conservative lawyer, the panel said it has evidence to show Trump may have engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States and illegally impede Congress's counting of electoral votes.
Nevertheless, the House committee can only make a criminal referral, leaving the onus on the Justice Department.
Responding to the Times report, White House spokesman Andrew Bates said that Biden believed Garland had "decisively restored" the independence of the DOJ, adding "President Biden is immensely proud of the attorney general’s service in this administration and has no role in investigative priorities or decisions."
Other Congressional Democrats such as Rep. Adam 'more than circumstantial' Schiff (CA), as well as lame-duck Rinos such as Adam Kinzinger, also want Garland to do more.
"We are upholding our responsibility. The Department of Justice must do the same," said Schiff, a member of the J6 committee."
"Attorney General Garland, do your job so we can do ours," said Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA).
Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who along with Rep. Liz Cheney is one of two GOP members of the Democrat-led committee, defended Biden. "I think the president has every right to signal. I think he has every right to make it clear where the administration stands," he said.
Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, also a member of the Capitol riot committee, similarly defended Biden’s push to get the DOJ to prosecute subpoena defiers.
"I also don't have a problem with him, as a citizen like me, saying he hopes the Department of Justice will aggressively enforce the law so people don't get away with committing crimes like this," he said at the time. -Washington Examiner
DOJ spokesman Anthony Coley told the Washington Examiner, however, that "The Department of Justice will make its own independent decisions in all prosecutions based solely on the facts and the law. Period. Full stop."
Following Biden's comments, outgoing White House spox Jen Psaki attempted to backpeddle - telling reporters "He believes it’s an independent decision that should be made by the Department of Justice, and they’ll make that decision."
In March, Garland said that he DOJ investigation into the Capitol riot is the "most urgent" in the department's history - which Republican lawmakers latched onto in order to compare the DOJ's milquetoast response to the violent riots of 2020, as well as a decision by the agency to shutter an initiative to investigate threats coming from China.
As Jonathan Turley concludes, the leaking of the President’s demand puts Garland in an even more difficult position. The clear intent of the leak is to let Garland know what the President expects from him. Yet, Garland has already been criticized by some of us for refusing to appoint a special counsel in the Hunter Biden scandal.
What is most striking, however, is the absence of any concern from the same legal experts who denounced such statements from Trump. These are statements made to aides that were then leaked to the media to get to Garland. That allows the media to say that Biden never said it directly to Garland, but the message was delivered by the media.
For Garland to yield to such pressure - after his predecessor refused to do so on investigations ranging from the Mueller investigation to the election investigation to the Hunter Biden investigation - would raise concerns over the Justice Department pursuing a political rather than a legal agenda — the very danger that Garland pledged to avoid when he stressed “I am not the president’s lawyer. I am the United States’ lawyer.”