Opinion | What Does the DOJ’s New Jan. 6 Sedition Indictment Mean for Trump?

The usual caveats apply: Other than what has been disclosed in court filings, the mechanics and investigative work of the oath’s investigation is largely secretive, and predictions are always a risky undertaking. One could reasonably see the conspiracy charge as part of a possible path that might lead to Trump’s eventual impeachment. But there are good reasons to suspect that the department is indeed close to impeaching Trump for his role in the events of January 6 or his conduct that led to that day.

One thing that is clear is that the indictment represents the kind of gradual but meaningful progress that Attorney General Merrick Garland promised in his January 6 address earlier this month. Nine of the 10 people charged along with Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes were already under indictment, but along with Rhodes they now face a conspiracy seditious charge in addition to the previously pending charges. The suspected plot has been outlined in previous indictment documents, but the most recent indictment provides a more comprehensive and detailed account that includes several connections involving Rhodes himself—a particularly useful compendium for those of us unable to follow all of the above. The daily entries and exits of the proceedings, which now include more than 700 accused.

The charge of sedition has rightly attracted a great deal of attention in light of the public discourse in recent months. According to a report last summer, Garland himself was reluctant to bring sedition charges to anyone — based on some sound political, legal and practical concerns — so the government has been using legally comparable charges of obstructing official action, and may continue to do so in all but cases The most serious cases.

In addition to the fact that the ministry has since collected new evidence, the question of whether anyone should be charged with sedition has gained greater political importance in recent months. On the left, some observers criticized the administration for not bringing charges such as sedition or inciting rebellion, which they believed best approximated the political and legal significance of January 6. He plays down the lack of these accusations and, like Rubio, was downplaying the importance of the investigation and the seriousness of the day’s events. This public campaign may have prompted the administration to do something to reassert the importance of its work and put the events of the day into context.

Does the recent indictment of the oath guards provide additional reason to believe that Trump may be charged with seditious conspiracy or conspiracy to obstruct certification? After all, department guards provided security for Republican agent and longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone on Jan. 6, and prosecutors could eventually uncover evidence that Stone was communicating with Trumpworld, the White House, or Trump himself about the government’s alleged violent plan. .

If Trump knew, facilitated, or encouraged the alleged plot, he could be held to have joined it, which would make him criminally guilty of the conspiracy itself and any other reasonably foreseeable criminal acts carried out in furtherance of the conspiracy—including, for example, obstruction of testimony itself, and destruction of government property or assault on federal officers, which were also alleged. If it happened through Stone — whether Stone communicated with Trump through a broker at Trumpworld or the White House, or communicated directly with Trump himself — that might be enough. What counts as “joining” a conspiracy is usually determined by fact and context and ultimately up to the jury to decide. But the agreement between the conspirators doesn’t need to be explicit, and you don’t have to know everyone involved nor all the details of the plan to be criminally liable.

As a result, the fact that the government has now moved higher up the hierarchy of the department’s guards seems to provide support for the theory that the Department of Justice is simply doing as it always does in large and complex criminal investigations—from the bottom up—and that criticisms of Garland and the oath for not To investigate Trump more aggressively is misplaced. It is a theory increasingly formulated by some angry garland defenders, who also assumed that the department could eventually get to Trump through someone like Alex Jones — whose right-hand man, Owen Schroer, who helped organize the earlier rally that day and who he said White House officials told him to lead had already been indicted People to the Capitol.

These claims about how investigations are usually conducted are not absurd, but they are not as self-evident as their proponents claim. For one thing, the government doesn’t always work this way, as I can testify in a limited way based on my experience prosecuting an international financial fraud that defrauded victims of about $150 million. The first trial that began in this case involved the CEO of the Solidarity Criminal Project – partly because of how the events in this investigation unfolded, but also because I didn’t want to embark on a needlessly long walk in years. Prosecuting people progressively higher when I saw an opening and a path to charge the CEO early on. Other prosecutors can say Similar stories.

As on January 6, major criminal undertakings and events don’t always include clear lines of authority or organizational charts that depict each person involved the way you would see if you were investigating misconduct at a large financial institution. It may also include multiple, and possibly overlapping, plots of varying levels of complexity and effectiveness, rather than some hypothetical hierarchical structure in which everyone has a single goal. What determined prosecutors usually look for are strengths and opportunities – ideally the involvement of the most important potential players and as early in the investigation as possible.

None of us ultimately know what Garland and his team of prosecutors think or hope to achieve. I tend to believe that if they were seriously looking at Trump’s criminal exposure to his behavior after the election, we’d see some meaningful evidence that they were following more direct lines of investigation—like the federal investigation into Trump’s infamous call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Ravensberger (which appears to have been left to prosecutors). the local public office in Georgia), or the investigation into what happened inside the White House on January 6 (which appears to have been left to the House Special Committee, at least for the time being).

Prosecutors use hateful people as collaborators all the time, but if you have the ability to use someone like Mark Meadows as an anti-Trump collaborator – which they do – that’s a lot better than hoping to flip your way to Trump through the oath guards. And people like Stone or Jones, who have a well-documented history of lying.

Time is also not on the Department of Justice’s side, which is yet another reason to doubt the notion that prosecutors are aggressively hunting Trump through the January 6 trials — not to mention that they would ever indict him. If Republicans regain one or both houses of Congress, they are likely to make the department’s investigations as difficult as possible through oversight hearings and media appearances. And if Trump announces a bid for re-election in 2024, it is hard to imagine that the department under Garland would seriously consider indicting him, because it would look like an attempt to steer the election to Biden.

None of this is to write off the significance of the latest indictment, but if you’re interested in what this means for Trump, then, as with all things men, a healthy dose of caution and skepticism remains in place.

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