Attorney General Merrick Garland said Monday that he plans to watch all the hearings held by the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol – and that prosecutors handling criminal cases stemming from the insurrection are watching, too.
“I am watching, and I will be watching all the hearings, although I may not be able to watch all of it live,” Garland said. “But I will be sure that I am watching all of it. And I can assure you that the January 6 prosecutors are watching all of the hearings as well.”
Garland has faced mounting pressure from Democrats to pursue a criminal case against former President Donald Trump and his allies related to the January 6 attack. The House committee, which has held two public hearings so far this month, plans to unveil a number of its findings during June.
Rep. Liz Cheney, the committee’s vice chair, said last week that the hearings would include Trump’s plans to replace the then-attorney general and his efforts to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence into not certifying the election results. The Wyoming Republican also said the committee will provide “evidence that President Trump corruptly pressured state legislators and election officials to change election results,” including “details” about Trump’s call to Georgia officials urging them to “find” votes.
On Monday, the panel detailed how those around the then-President had told him he lost the 2020 election – but he had refused to listen, turning instead to his attorney Rudy Giuliani to embrace false claims that the election was stolen.
CNN previously reported that top Democratic leaders in Washington and across the country fear that Trump might again be running for president by the time Garland decides whether to prosecute him and others in his orbit related to the January 6 attack – and that any action by the Biden Justice Department could be cast by Republicans as little more than a political vendetta.
Two dozen leading Democrats told CNN at the time that Garland may have missed his moment to bring criminal charges against top Trump administration officials before the effort would get caught up in the 2024 presidential campaign jockeying set to begin later this year, after the midterm elections.
Garland, a longtime federal judge with a quiet demeanor, has vowed to keep politics out of decision-making at the Justice Department, though he says he is not avoiding political cases. And Justice officials say they still have plenty of time in President Joe Biden’s administration should they decide to bring prosecutions for any crimes connected to the effort to overturn the election results.
The Justice Department has traditionally held to a 60-day window before Election Days to hold off on political prosecutions, which would put a cutoff date in early September. However, that usually has applied only to people who are on the ballot in the upcoming election.
Garland declined to comment on new evidence provided by the committee, pointing to long-standing Justice Department operating procedure of not commenting on ongoing investigations. “We do that both for the viability of our investigations and because it’s the right thing to do with respect to the civil liberties of people under investigation,” he said.
CNN’s Edward-Isaac Dovere contributed to this report.