Inside Garland’s effort to prosecute Trump

Inside Garland’s effort to prosecute Trump

The New York Times reports:

After being sworn in as attorney general in March 2021, Merrick B. Garland gathered his closest aides to discuss a topic too sensitive to broach in bigger groups: the possibility that evidence from the far-ranging Jan. 6 investigation could quickly lead to former President Donald J. Trump and his inner circle.

At the time, some in the Justice Department were pushing for the chance to look at ties between pro-Trump rioters who assaulted the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, his allies who had camped out at the Willard Hotel, and possibly Mr. Trump himself.

Mr. Garland said he would place no restrictions on their work, even if the “evidence leads to Trump,” according to people with knowledge of several conversations held over his first months in office.

“Follow the connective tissue upward,” said Mr. Garland, adding a directive that would eventually lead to a dead end: “Follow the money.”

With that, he set the course of a determined and methodical, if at times dysfunctional and maddeningly slow, investigation that would yield the indictment of Mr. Trump on four counts of election interference in August 2023.

The story of how it unfolded, based on dozens of interviews, is one that would pit Mr. Garland, a quintessential rule follower determined to restore the department’s morale and independence, against the ultimate rule breaker — Mr. Trump, who was intent on bending the legal system to his will.

Mr. Garland, 71, a former federal judge and prosecutor, proceeded with characteristic by-the-book caution, pressure-testing every significant legal maneuver, demanding that prosecutors take no shortcuts and declaring the inquiry would “take as long as it takes.”

As a result, prosecutors and the F.B.I. spent months sticking to their traditional playbook. They started with smaller players and worked upward — despite the transparent, well-documented steps taken by Mr. Trump himself, in public and behind the scenes, to retain power after voters rejected his bid for another term.

In trying to avoid even the smallest mistakes, Mr. Garland might have made one big one: not recognizing that he could end up racing the clock. Like much of the political world and official Washington, he and his team did not count on Mr. Trump’s political resurrection after Jan. 6, and his fast victory in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, which has complicated the prosecution and given the former president leverage in court.

In 2021 it was “simply inconceivable,” said one former Justice Department official, that Mr. Trump, rebuked by many in his own party and exiled at his Florida estate Mar-a-Lago, would regain the power to impose his timetable on the investigation. [Continue reading…]

Comments are closed.