The tenacious work of the Jan. 6 committee has transformed how we think about the Jan. 6 rebellion. It should also transform the Justice Department’s investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Before the hearings, federal agents and prosecutors were performing a classic “bottom up” criminal investigation of the Jan. 6 rioters, which means prosecuting the lowest-ranking members of a conspiracy, flipping people as it proceeds and following the evidence as high as it goes. It was what I did at the Justice Department for investigations of the Genovese and Colombo crime families, Enron and Volkswagen as well as for my part in the investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election led by the special counsel Robert Mueller.
But that is actually the wrong approach for investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. That approach sees the attack on the Capitol as a single event — an isolated riot, separate from other efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the election.
The hearings should inspire the Justice Department to rethink its approach: A myopic focus on the Jan. 6 riot is not the way to proceed if you are trying to follow the facts where they lead and to hold people “at any level” criminally accountable, as Attorney General Merrick Garland promised.
The evidence gathered in the hearings describes a multiprong conspiracy — what prosecutors term a “hub and spoke” conspiracy — in which the Ellipse speech by President Trump and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol were just one spoke of a grander scheme. [Continue reading…]