A year after the January 6 insurrection, the Justice Department continues to press forward on the biggest investigation in FBI history, with 700 people already arrested and hundreds more offenders still at large and several more years of prosecutions ahead.
But the expansive investigation has yet to shed light on how vigorously the former President and political allies could be investigated for inciting rioters by spreading a lie that the election was stolen and asking them to march to the Capitol.
After opening aggressively, with prosecutors raising the prospect of using a rarely used seditious conspiracy law to charge some Capitol attackers, the Justice Department since Attorney General Merrick Garland took office in March 2021 has settled into a less headline-grabbing approach that Justice officials say is intended to keep the probe away from the political maelstrom.
Garland, a former appeals court judge, has made restoring institutional norms a top focus of his tenure, after a Trump era that regularly injected politics at the department. That includes a reminder to prosecutors that they should only speak in indictments and other court proceedings.
His quiet approach has not satisfied Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans who openly discuss their interest in identifying crimes they believe the Justice Department should prosecute. It’s also opened Garland to criticism that he hasn’t been as publicly dynamic or aggressive as the nation needs to counter a threat to democracy.
“I think Merrick Garland has been extremely weak and I think there should be a lot more of the organizers of January 6 that should be arrested by now,” Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat, said on WEBICNEWS this week.
Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley defended the agency’s efforts. “We are proud of the men and women of the Justice Department, who are undertaking the largest investigation in the department’s history,” Coley said in a statement. “They are following the facts and the law and the Constitution while working at impressive speed and scale to hold accountable all those responsible for the attack on the Capitol, and will continue to do so.”
For the FBI, which came under criticism for failing to do more to prevent the attack, the January 6 anniversary is also a moment to urge the public to help with more tips to solve notable unsolved crimes, including the police assaults and the pipe bombs found that day near the offices of the Democratic and Republican parties just steps from the Capitol.
Steven D’Antuono, assistant director for the FBI’s Washington field office, said those inquiries are priorities as part of the broader complex investigation.
“In this area where the bombs were placed, if they did go off they could have caused some serious harm or death,” D’Antuono said in an interview with WEBICNEWS.
“On that day, over 100 police officers were assaulted that day multiple times,” D’Antuono said. “And we’re not just talking about one assault, multiple assaults and by multiple people. We’re still looking for about 250 people individuals that assaulted police officers that day.”
The FBI hired a contractor to help it process hundreds of thousands of hours of video in order to do the painstaking work to identify assailants, WEBICNEWS previously reported. “We’re going to be at this as long as it takes,” he said.