WASHINGTON — Attorney General Merrick Garland said Monday he is watching the televised hearings of the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot, as members of the House panel focused on former President Donald Trump's election fraud claims on the second day of testimony.
“I am watching, and I will be watching all the hearings, although I may not be able to watch all of it live,” he said. “And I can assure you that the Jan. 6 prosecutors are watching all the hearings.”
The House panel held its second day of hearings on Monday and plans to hold several more before the end of July.
At a news conference announcing criminal charges in a Texas gun trafficking case, Garland repeated his now-familiar response that the Justice Department will follow the law and the facts wherever they lead in its Jan. 6 investigations. But, apparently sensitive to criticism that the government isn’t doing enough, he gave a detailed explanation about why prosecutors don’t comment on ongoing investigations.
“We do that both for the viability of our investigations and because it’s the right thing to do with respect to the civil liberties of people under investigation," Garland said. “Eventually that information comes out in the form of our search warrant affidavits, in our orders, and our pleadings and, eventually, if there are charges. But for our investigations to proceed in an efficient way, we have learned over many, many years that this is the way our investigations should go.”
Justice Department officials said earlier that they are looking at whether any laws were broken when Trump electors met in seven battleground states and cast votes for him, which they then sent to the National Archives, even though Joe Biden won the popular vote in those states. Federal prosecutors have also issued subpoenas to some individuals involved in the "Stop the Steal" movement.
Charges have also been filed against more than 800 people accused of taking part in the riot at the Capitol.
As the Jan. 6 committee hearings proceed, and with more evidence presented, Garland could find himself faced with a decision about whether to prosecute Trump. So far, there is nothing to indicate Trump is the focus of any DOJ criminal probe.
Asked Monday if there is any policy that would limit the Justice Department's ability to pursue charges against the most senior current or former government officials, Garland said no.
“This investigation is proceeding according to the facts and the law. We are not obstructed from continuing our investigation in any way," he said. "We are proceeding with full urgency with respect.”