Merrick Garland Starts Getting Serious

https://billypenn.com/2021/01/08/malcolm-nance-capitol-insurrection-trump-paramilitary-insurgency-philadelphia/

The misdemeanor part of his January 6 investigation seems to be over.
But will he get all the way to the top?


In a speech on January 5, Merrick Garland described his strategy for investigating the insurrection. Lawfare summarized it:

Seemingly in response to criticism that mostly smaller fry defendants have been charged to date while those behind the planning of the insurrection have not, Garland described the department’s approach as consistent with “well-worn prosecutorial practices.” Large investigations, he explained, start with the more junior people and the more easily proved cases. The public at first sees short sentences (or no jail time at all) handed out, and an absence of the more notorious figures being charged. Garland strongly implied that more significant actions are coming down the pike. Junior people flip on more senior people. And perpetrators who were not directly involved in violence but played planning or other behind-the-scenes roles must be reached with more time-consuming and complex investigations.

This week, we began to see what he was talking about.

On Thursday, federal prosecutors charged Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and 10 others with seditious conspiracy for their role in the January 6 attacks on the US Capitol. That charge — the most serious yet to come out of the investigation — is one of several in the indictment unsealed Thursday, which alleges Rhodes and his co-defendants brought small arms to the Washington, DC, area; engaged in combat training to prepare for the attacks; and made plans to stage quick-reaction forces to support insurrectionists.

… The new indictments are a significant step up from previous charges in the case, which range in seriousness from disorderly conduct to obstructing an official proceeding before Congress, and have so far resulted in sentences up to 41 months in prison. In comparison, seditious conspiracy carries a potential sentence of 20 years in prison.

The new indictment lays out a plan that goes far beyond the mob.

While certain Oath Keepers members and affiliates inside of Washington, D.C., breached the Capitol grounds and building, others remained stationed just outside the city in [quick-reaction force] teams. The QRF teams were prepared to rapidly transport arms into Washington, D.C., in support of operations aimed at using force to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power.

So the plan was to overwhelm the Capitol with numbers, then bring in the guns to hold it.

The obvious question is whether the people plotting Trump’s January 6 strategy (the so-called “Green Bay sweep“) knew about this or were complicit in its planning. GB Sweep plotter Peter Navarro claims not, but his plan seems to have had a big hole in it, which an armed militia occupying the Capitol might have filled: A Capitol occupation might have pushed the election certification past Inauguration Day, opening up a huge can of worms could justify authoritarian action.

And Roger Stone is connected to both groups. Maybe that’s why he pleaded the Fifth rather than tell the January 6 committee what he knows.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/09/us/politics/jan-6-subpoena.html

All of which leads to this week’s second development: Electoral College fraud.

When I first ran across the Eastman memo, the game plan for Trump’s attempt to steal the election he lost by seven million votes, this part made me scratch my head:

When [Vice President Pence] gets to Arizona [in the state-by-state electoral vote count], he announces that he has multiple slates of electors, and so is going to defer decision on that until finishing the other States. … At the end, he announces that because of the ongoing disputes in the 7 States, there are no electors that can be deemed validly appointed in those States.

Multiple slates of electors? Where did that come from? There have been rare cases in American history where rival slates of electors were named by rival sources of certifying authority. In 1876, for example, Florida’s Republican-dominated Board of Canvassers declared Rutherford B. Hayes the winner and certified his electors. And then the newly elected Democratic governor appointed a new Board of Canvassers that certified Tilden’s electors. So both sets submitted their credentials to Congress.

But the Electoral Count Act of 1887 was supposed to straighten all that out. Each state prepares a certificate of ascertainment signed by the governor (an example is to the right), listing the state’s electors. I could imagine a state legislature deciding that the ECA was unconstitutional and submitting a rival slate, or a state’s supreme court declaring that the governor’s signature was illegal in some way, but I hadn’t heard of anything like that happening. So: what “multiple slates of electors”?

Now we know. In seven states that Trump lost, his defeated candidates for the Electoral College signed fraudulent documents declaring themselves to be “duly elected and qualified Electors”. The fake certificates are all similar, suggesting that somebody — Mark Meadows? — distributed a template. And they didn’t do this just for personal satisfaction. They sent the fake certificates to the National Archives and to Congress as if they were real.

Given how much trouble ordinary Americans would be in if we, say, printed our own drivers licenses, I have to wonder if this forgery is illegal. George Conway, Kellyanne’s lawyer husband, tweeted:

Anyone who prepared or submitted, or aided, abetted or conspired in the preparation or submission of, false electoral-vote certificates, would presumably be guilty of a host of federal and state criminal offenses. False electoral certificates ought to be easy pickings for prosecutors.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel agrees:

Under state law, I think clearly you have forgery of a public record, which is a 14-year offense, and election law forgery, which is a five-year offense.

Since this is a multi-state election fraud case, she thinks the federal Department of Justice should take the lead, and has referred the matter to them. (To their credit, Fox News reported this story. It’s enlightening to read the comments as Fox viewers try hard not to understand what Fox has just explained to them. I’m reminded of what Oliver Wendell Holmes said about a closed mind: It’s “like the pupil of the eye. The more light you shine on it, the more it will contract.”)

So that ball is in Merrick Garland’s court too. He hasn’t said what he intends to do with it.

The fake electors themselves clearly know they’re in trouble. (They should ask Michael Cohen what happens to people who go along with Trump’s schemes.) Arizona State Representative Jake Hoffman was asked by a local reporter what authority he was acting under, and (after Hoffman dodged that question) how he knew to show up for the fake ceremony where Trump’s fraudulent electors cast their ballots. Hoffman said the reporter should ask the state party chair. The follow-up questions “Do you not know how you arrived at the place? Do you really not know how you got a call?” led Hoffman to walk away.

So this where we are: We finally know that Garland intends to move beyond the pawns in Trump’s mob. Now he’s at the knight-and-bishop level. But will he get all the way to the King? Does he plan to? So far there’s no sign of that.

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Comments

  • Anonymous  On January 17, 2022 at 10:39 am

    If you want to be 2-6 months ahead on the J6 legal issues, follow @emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler). She reads all the (public) legal filings for the J6 cases & conspiracies, and she knows the tendencies of the judges fairly well, as well as the DC public defenders. Starting back in July she outlined how DoJ prioritized cases & plea deals to get evidence to work up the chain (e.g., a plea deal to get video of an oath keeper going down a hallway that wasn’t on the CC cameras), and who has flipped, and who’s under pressure to flip next after each filing.

  • jwfmcclain  On January 17, 2022 at 1:14 pm

    “[…] Starts Getting Serious” is this really right/fair? Presumably the DOJ has been working on the Oath Keepers indictment for months. Just because we can’t see something, doesn’t mean it does’t exist.

  • Mumtothree  On January 17, 2022 at 2:43 pm

    Wouldn’t Trump’s pardon of Roger Stone make it impossible for him to invoke his 5th amendment rights?

    • weeklysift  On January 17, 2022 at 2:44 pm

      He was pardoned only for specific crimes. He could still incriminate himself for other crimes.

  • Brian  On January 17, 2022 at 3:23 pm

    One wonders why anyone who signed the fake ballots would not be subject to prosecution yet this has been known for over a year and no action has been taken. In other words plenty of little fish that could have been rolled up in the 12 month period. Garland thinks he had all day to get this done but public confidence in the integrity of the justice system is a perishable commodity

Trackbacks

  • By Capricious Processes | The Weekly Sift on January 17, 2022 at 12:08 pm

    […] week’s featured posts are “Merrick Garland Starts Getting Serious” and “The Court and the Vaccine […]

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