Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland vows to hold Jan. 6 insurrectionists to account. Speaking a day before the first anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland pledged on Wednesday to hold to account those involved “at any level” in the riot, whether they were present during the melee or not.
In his speech at Justice Department billed as an update for employees on the insurrection investigation, Garland pushed back against critics who have questioned his commitment to aggressively target those who may have organized or incited the riot. He called the inquiry the “largest, most complex and most resource-intensive” in the department’s history and noted that such probes take time. “We will follow the facts — not an agenda or an assumption,” he said. “The facts tell us where to go next.”
Noting that 145 rioters have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors and another 20 have pleaded guilty to felonies, the attorney general said prosecutors have issued more than 5,000 subpoenas, and investigators have seized about 2,000 electronic devices, pored through 20,000 hours of video footage and evaluated 300,000 tips from the public.
“We understand that there are questions about how long the investigation will take, and about what exactly we are doing,” he said. “Our answer is, and will continue to be, the same answer we would give with respect to any ongoing investigation: as long as it takes and whatever it takes for justice to be done — consistent with the facts and the law.”
Garland did not mention former President Trump by name or provide any hints about whom might be in prosecutors’ crosshairs beyond the 725 people already charged in the violent assault by a mob seeking to block Congress’ certification of President Biden’s victory.
Garland’s speech came as the department has faced criticism this week over whether it has aggressively pursued those who played roles in planning or inciting the riot.
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) accused Garland of being “extremely weak” and “feckless” in how his department has pursued the probe.
“There should be a lot more of the organizers of Jan. 6 that should be arrested by now,” Gallego told CNN on Tuesday.
Sandra Garza, the longtime girlfriend of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died a day after battling rioters, said Trump “needs to be in prison.”
“I hold Donald Trump 100% responsible for what happened on Jan. 6 and all of the people that have enabled him, enabled him that day, and continue to enable him now,” Garzatold “PBS Newshour” on Monday.
Sicknick was sprayed with a chemical substance during the insurrection and collapsed hours later. He died the next night at a hospital. Though a medical examiner determined he had suffered two strokes and died of natural causes, the Capitol Police consider his death to have been in the line of duty.
More than 100 police officers were injured during a clash with thousands of Trump supporters, many of whom had attended a rally where the president urged them to head to the Capitol and “fight like hell.” Authorities said the violence contributed to five deaths, including Sicknick’s. Garland called for a moment of silence during his speech for Sicknick and four other officers who committed suicide in the weeks after the attack.
In his speech, the attorney general said the Justice Department had also stepped up its enforcement of the rise in violence targeting “those who serve the public,” including election workers, journalists, flight crews and local elected officials. Capitol Police have also recorded a sharp spike in threats against members of Congress and senators.
“We have all seen that Americans who serve and interact with the public at every level — many of whom make our democracy work every day — have been unlawfully targeted with threats of violence and actual violence,” Garland said.
The threats “are permeating so many parts of our national life that they risk becoming normalized and routine if we do not stop them,” he warned.
Ghislaine Maxwell, convicted last week of conspiring to recruit and groom teenage girls to be abused by Jeffrey Epstein, plans to request a new trial after a juror in her case revealed he was a victim of sexual abuse, her defense lawyers said Wednesday.
The lawyers said in a letter to U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan that “based on undisputed, publicly available information, the court can and should order a new trial without any evidentiary hearing.”
The judge late Wednesday set a schedule for the defense to ask for a new trial, saying it should make the request by Jan. 19, with prosecutors replying by Feb. 2.
She asked them to address whether “an inquiry of some kind” is permitted or required. Nathan also said she will offer a court-appointed lawyer for the juror.
The judge’s order came after defense lawyers said Maxwell “intends to request a new trial” with a submission that will include all known undisputed remarks of the juror, along with recorded statements and the questionnaire all jurors filled out.
”It is clear to Ms. Maxwell that based on this record alone a new trial is required,” they said, urging that all trial jurors be examined to evaluate their conduct if a hearing occurs.
In interviews published Tuesday and Wednesday by the Independent and the Daily Mail, one juror described a moment during the deliberations when he told fellow jurors in Maxwell’s trial that, like some of the victims of the late financier Epstein, he had been sexually abused as a child. And he said he convinced other jurors that a victim’s imperfect memory of sex abuse doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
“I know what happened when I was sexually abused. I remember the color of the carpet, the walls. Some of it can be replayed like a video,” he said he told the jury, according to the Independent. “But I can’t remember all the details, there are some things that run together.”
The judge denied a request by another defense lawyer who wrote a separate letter asking her to suspend all other post-trial motions in the case.
In their own letter to Nathan, even prosecutors said those reports “merit attention by the court.” The juror was identified only by his first and middle name in the articles.
Prosecutors suggested in their letter that Nathan schedule a hearing in about one month, along with a schedule for lawyers to file briefs regarding the applicable law and the scope of the hearing.
A Russia-led military alliance said Thursday that it will dispatch peacekeeping forces to Kazakhstan after the country’s president asked for help in controlling protests that escalated into violence, including the seizure and burning of government buildings.
Protesters in Kazakhstan’s largest city stormed the presidential residence and the mayor’s office Wednesday and set both on fire, according to news reports, as demonstrations sparked by a rise in fuel prices escalated sharply in the Central Asian nation.
Police reportedly fired on some protesters at the residence in Almaty before fleeing. They have clashed repeatedly with demonstrators in recent days, deploying water cannons in the freezing weather, and firing tear gas and concussion grenades.
The Kazakh Interior Ministry said eight police officers and national guard members were killed in the unrest and more than 300 were injured. No figures on civilian casualties were released.
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev appealed to the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Moscow-based alliance of six former Soviet countries, for assistance. Hours later, the CSTO’s council approved sending an unspecified number of peacekeepers, said Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, the council’s chairman.
Tokayev earlier vowed to take harsh measures to quell the unrest and declared a two-week state of emergency for the whole country, expanding one that had been announced for both the capital, Nur-Sultan, and Almaty that imposed an overnight curfew and restricted movement into and around the urban areas.
The government resigned in response to the unrest. Kazakh news sites became inaccessible late in the day, and the global watchdog organization Netblocks said the country was experiencing a pervasive internet blackout. However, the Russian state-owned news agency Tass reported that internet access was restored in Almaty by early Thursday.
Although the protests began over a near-doubling of prices for a type of liquefied petroleum gas that is widely used as vehicle fuel, their size and rapid spread suggested they reflect wider discontent in a country that has been under the rule of the same party since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
The U.S. is urging that everyone 12 and older get a COVID-19 booster shot as soon as they’re eligible to help fight the hugely contagious Omicron variant that’s spreading through the country.
Boosters already were encouraged for American adults, and they’ve been available to 16- and 17-year-olds since last month. But on Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed an extra Pfizer shot for younger children — those 12 to 15 — and strengthened its recommendation that 16- and 17-year-olds get a third jab too.
“It is critical that we protect our children and teens from COVID-19 infection and the complications of severe disease,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s director, said in a statement.
“This booster dose will provide optimized protection against COVID-19 and the Omicron variant,” she said. “I encourage all parents to keep their children up to date with CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine recommendations.”
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Vaccines still offer strong protection against serious illness caused by any coronavirus variant, including Omicron — which experts say is their most important benefit. But the newest strain appears to be more adept at slipping past a layer of the vaccines’ protection to cause milder infections. Studies show a booster dose at least temporarily revs up virus-fighting antibodies to levels that offer the best chance at avoiding COVID-19.
Earlier Wednesday, the CDC’s independent scientific advisors wrestled with whether a booster should be an option for younger adolescents — who tend to not get as sick from COVID-19 as adults — and, if so, whether it should be more strongly recommended. By a vote of 13 to 1, the panel came down in favor of encouraging the younger group to get the third dose.