By Paul LeBlanc, CNN
Attorney General Merrick Garland has declined to rule out prosecuting former President Donald Trump and others for their role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol or attempting to interfere with the presidential election.
“We pursue justice without fear or favor. We intend to hold everyone — anyone — who is criminally responsible for the events surrounding January 6 or any attempt to interfere with the lawful transfer of power from one administration to another accountable,” Garland told NBC News’ Lester Holt in a taped interview that ran in part Tuesday on MSNBC. “That is what we do. We don’t pay any attention to other issues with respect to that.”
How to approach Trump in the January 6 investigation has been a delicate question for the Justice Department. The agency has faced immense pressure from lawmakers, former prosecutors and others to focus on the ringleaders of the 2020 election reversal gambits — especially after the House select committee’s blockbuster public hearings.
While any investigation of a former president raises a host of highly sensitive and potentially explosive political and legal questions, the Justice Department has increasingly signaled its willingness to scrutinize Trump’s White House.
Pressed by Holt on whether a 2024 White House bid from Trump would change that, Garland maintained: “I will say again that we will hold accountable anyone who is criminally responsible for attempting to interfere with the legitimate, lawful transfer of power from one administration to the next.”
Earlier this year, the agency expanded its investigation beyond the rioters who breached the Capitol into fundraising and organizing for the political rally that served as a prelude to the riot as well as into efforts to subvert the Electoral College vote count.
And the recent move by the Justice Department to bring two top aides to former Vice President Mike Pence in front of a federal grand jury — former Pence chief of staff Marc Short and Pence counsel Greg Jacob — is the most aggressive public step taken yet by prosecutors investigating the plots to subvert the 2020 election.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of the two Republicans on the House select committee, said the Pence aides testifying is a “positive” development.
“The Department of Justice needs to look at any possible criminality,” Kinzinger said Tuesday on CNN’s “New Day.” “I ask, what have they been doing for the last year and a half. That said, if they are moving forward on looking at this stuff, that’s positive for the country.”
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CNN’s Tierney Sneed and Evan Perez contributed to this report.