Jan. 6 committee calls on Merrick Garland to act: "Do your job so we can do ours"

Members of the committee are calling on the Justice Department to charge Mark Meadows with contempt of Congress

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published March 29, 2022 11:52AM (EDT)

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is sworn in at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about oversight of the Department of Justice on October 27, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Tasos Katopodis-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is sworn in at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about oversight of the Department of Justice on October 27, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Tasos Katopodis-Pool/Getty Images)

Members of the January 6 select committee are growing frustrated by the Justice Department's apparent unwillingness to charge a number of Donald Trump associates with contempt of Congress despite what appears to be a strong basis for doing so. 

On Monday evening, the panel's members sounded off over the agency's inaction after making two more criminal referrals against former Trump aides Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro, both of whom played an alleged part in the former president's failed election coup. 

"The Department of Justice has a duty to act on this referral and others that we have sent," said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. "Without enforcement of congressional subpoenas, there is no oversight, and without oversight, no accountability – for the former president, or any other president, past, present, or future. Without enforcement of its lawful process, Congress ceases to be a co-equal branch of government."

Other members – including Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Elaine Luria, D-Va. – also joined the chorus of concern, suggesting that the DOJ was abdicating its duties.

"Attorney General Garland," Luria said, "do your job so we can do ours."

Last year, the DOJ appeared to be in greater synchrony with the select panel, indicting ex-Trump strategist Steve Bannon just three weeks after the committee held Bannon in contempt of Congress. 

That initial spurt of momentum, however, seems to have slowed down, now that it's been months since Donald Trump's former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was held in contempt. 

RELATED: Jan. 6 committee reveals Mark Meadows' role in election overthrow plot as contempt charges loom

This week saw a number of significant developments in the panel's investigation. On top of Scavino and Navarro's referrals, the committee announced plans to sit down with Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, according to ABC News. The panel has also requested an interview with prominent right-wing activist Ginni Thomas, the wife of Clarence Thomas. Last month, The New York Times reported that Ginni Thomas played an instrumental role in concocting Trump's failed election subversion campaign while her husband was ruling on a case involving several lawsuits challenging that very election. 

On Monday, a federal judge ruled that it was "more likely than not" Trump and right-wing attorney John Eastman – notorious for his memo outlining a plan to reverse the election – committed multiple felonies. 

RELATED: Judge: "More likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct" Congress

"The illegality of the plan was obvious," wrote Judge David O. Carter of the Central District of California. "Our nation was founded on the peaceful transition of power, epitomized by George Washington laying down his sword to make way for democratic elections. Ignoring this history, President Trump vigorously campaigned for the vice president to single-handedly determine the results of the 2020 election."

A number of Jan 6 panel members cited Carter's ruling in their pleas to the DOJ, suggesting that the agency has a legal obligation to hold Meadows in contempt. 

In Monday Washington Post op-ed, columnists Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman argued that it "it's hard to see how the Justice Department can tenably refrain from a full criminal investigation into whether Trump broke laws in connection with Jan. 6."

They added: "[N]ot doing the investigation at all would mean the legal system doesn't even attempt to answer a fundamental question here – whether Trump's extraordinarily corrupt effort to subvert our political order amounts to criminality – to the degree that's obviously warranted."

By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik was a former staff writer at Salon.

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