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Merrick Garland: Asleep at the Switch

Bill Press, Tribune Content Agency on

He’s still at it. On October 7, former President Donald Trump instructed four former White House staffers — Chief of Staff Mark Meadows; Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino; Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel; and adviser Steve Bannon — not to comply with subpoenas from the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection.

Sound familiar? This is a clear case of “obstruction of Congress,” one of two charges for which Donald Trump was impeached, for the first time, on Dec. 18, 2019 — and clearly against the law. According to 18 U.S. Code Section 1505, whoever “influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law” by government departments, agencies, and committees is subject to a fine and five years in prison.

He’s still at it. Trump’s doing the same thing to the House Select Committee today that he did back in 2019 to the committee investigating his offer of a bribe to the president of Ukraine. He’s interfering with the work of Congress. He’s breaking the law again. And it looks like he might get away with it again.

Trump escaped the last time because the Republican-controlled Senate refused to convict him. The big question is: This time around, why’s Attorney General Merrick Garland letting him get away with obstructing Congress again?

Legal experts that I’ve interviewed on my podcast, including UC Irvine Professor of Law Rick Hasen, agree that on the most serious threat facing this country — Donald Trump’s continued attempts to undermine our democracy — Merrick Garland’s asleep at the switch. The Department of Justice should already be investigating Donald Trump for repeatedly breaking the law — on several fronts. In addition to obstruction of Congress, three other examples.

52 U.S. Code 10307 makes it a federal crime for any federal official “to fail or refuse to permit any person to vote who is entitled to vote … or to willfully fail or refuse to tabulate, count and report such person’s vote.” It sure looks like Donald Trump broke that law when he encouraged election officials in Pennsylvania and Georgia not to “tabulate, count, or report” certain votes.

 

Under 18 U.S. Code 595, it’s a crime for any person employed by the United States who “uses his official authority for the purpose of interfering with, or affecting, the nomination or the election of any candidate for the office of President, Vice President, Presidential elector” or other office. Isn’t that exactly what Donald Trump is doing, trying to undo the election of Joe Biden?

Under 18 U.S. Code 371, it’s a federal crime for two or more persons to conspire “for the purpose of impairing, obstructing, or defeating the lawful functions of any department of the government,” including the election of presidential electors — which Trump deliberately attempted by inviting Michigan election officials to the White House and encouraging them to ignore the official vote count and appoint their own slate of pro-Trump electors.

To which we can now add, as revealed by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, a three-hour Oval Office meeting on January 3 where Trump threatened to fire Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen unless he agreed to order the Justice Department to pressure states to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

In every case, and many more, there is evidence that Donald Trump did, in fact, break the law. But certainly, sufficient evidence to merit an official Justice Department investigation. Yet Merrick Garland has done nothing.

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