'Here we go': Legal experts muse over Merrick Garland's request for January 6th panel's transcripts

'Here we go': Legal experts muse over Merrick Garland's request for January 6th panel's transcripts
United States Attorney General Merrick Garland (screengrab).

The U.S. Dept. of Justice has formally requested transcripts from the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, saying their extensive interviews “may contain information relevant to a criminal investigation we are conducting.” The House Select Committee has conducted interviews with more than 1000 people, including former Trump associates and even his family members.

The New York Times, which broke the story Tuesday, reports the request comes “as Attorney General Merrick B. Garland appears to be ramping up the pace of his painstaking investigation into the Capitol riot,” and calls it “the clearest sign yet of a wide-ranging inquiry at the Justice Department.”

Also telling is that the request came from Kenneth A. Polite Jr., the assistant attorney general for the criminal division, and Matthew M. Graves, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

But House Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) says not so fast, according to The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell:

Former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega suggests Chairman Thompson’s remarks may be to ensure no one thinks there was coordination behind the scenes:

DOJ will get what it needs from the January 6 committee. There might have to be some negotiation, maybe even grand jury subpoenas, but the committee doesn’t want to be seen as working hand in glove with DOJ.

Meanwhile, Glenn Kirschner, a federal prosecutor for 30 years who is now a popular NBC News and MSNBC legal analyst notes the Dept. of Justice may get access to a wealth of testimony that it might not have been able to obtain otherwise:

Whether this was always the DOJ plan (& whether the J6 committee knew it or not), important info has been developed by the [January 6 Committee] that would not have been developed had the witnesses been subpoenaed to the grand jury (as they would have pled the 5th).

(In March, Kirschner concluded that Donald Trump “will be charged” after remarks Attorney General Merrick Garland made.)

National security and civil liberties expert and journalist Marcy Wheeler also suggests this may have been the plan all along, and implies it is a smart strategy:

“And YES, it allowed Jan 6 to interview people against whom DOJ did not and/or would never get probable cause a crime had committed to share evidence,” she adds.

But former federal and state prosecutor Elie Honig, now a CNN legal analyst, is less complimentary of Garland and DOJ, calling the request for access to transcripts “an obvious and overdue move.”

MSNBC legal analyst Daniel Goldman, the well-known former Lead Counsel for the House Impeachment Inquiry, and a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for SDNY agrees it’s wise for the Jan. 6 Committee to focus on its own work and deal with DOJ after the public hearings.

Former U.S. Attorney and national security prosecutor Barb McQuade, now a well-known MSNBC and NBC News legal analyst and law professor summed up what many appear to be thinking: “Here we go.

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