By Tierney Sneed and Holmes Lybrand, CNN
The Justice Department is seeking access to “all” transcripts and other evidence collected in the House January 6, 2021, investigation, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday.
The comments from Garland, in response to a question from CNN’s Evan Perez, nodded to the monthslong effort by the department to access the witness testimony the House select committee took behind closed doors.
“We would like to have all the transcripts and all the other evidence collected by the committee so that we can use it in the ordinary course of our investigations,” Garland said at a brief news conference. “We are asking for access for all of the transcripts and that’s really all I can say right now.”
Garland touted the Justice Department’s victories in recent days, including the convictions it secured against several members of the Oath Keepers militia for crimes related to the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. That case, where a jury on Tuesday found two leaders of the group guilty of seditious conspiracy, was the result of the “tireless” work of Justice Department investigators and prosecutors, Garland said.
“As the verdict of this case makes clear, the department will work tirelessly to hold accountable those responsible for crimes related to the attack on our democracy on January 6, 2021,” he said.
Responding to Garland’s request to see transcripts, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, who chairs the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack, told reporters he expects the Justice Department to first see the panel’s interview transcripts when they are released to the public.
“We will share whatever we have with any agency that requests it just like the public will have access to our report and material too,” the Mississippi Democrat said Wednesday, adding, “We are about a month away. So, I don’t think there would be any rush to speed that time up.”
Garland also put the spotlight on several other cases brought by the department — including new litigation related to the Jackson, Mississippi, water crisis — that he said encapsulated the department’s commitment to the rule of law, public safety and the protection of civil rights.
“We realize how horrible the circumstances are there,” Garland said, referring to Jackson. “It’s hard to imagine not being able to come at a tap and get safe drinking water. We are approaching this with the greatest possible urgency and we believe our partners in this are doing so as well. So we will bring this to conclusion as soon as we possibly can.”
Garland confirms meeting with Special Counsel Jack Smith
Speaking with the reporters, Garland said that he met with Jack Smith — the war crimes prosecutor who was recently appointed special counsel in the probes touching on former President Donald Trump — as part of the process for deciding on Smith for the role.
“In the course of the deciding on Mr. Smith as special counsel, I did meet with him,” Garland told reporters. “He has been meeting with the members of his team to get up to speed.”
Garland noted that Smith has signed the legal briefs that have been filed since appointment in the DOJ’s appeal of an order requiring a special master review of the materials seized at Mar-a-Lago.
“He promised to the American people, in his own statement, that there would be no pause or hiccup in his work and I understand that that is exactly what’s going on,” Garland said.
Smith’s appointment signaled that the probe was now looking more deeply into the conduct of Trump, who declared his candidacy for the 2024 presidential race earlier this month.
Asked Wednesday whether the new Oath Keepers convictions bolster investigations into other people who were not physically present at the Capitol during the attack, Garland declined to weigh in. Stewart Rhodes, one of the defendants found guilty of seditious conspiracy, did not enter the Capitol itself.
“I don’t want to speculate on other investigations or other parts of investigation. This particular case is about Mr. Rhodes and the other four defendants,” Garland said, while pointing to the upcoming trial of another set of Oath Keeper associates. “I don’t want to talk anymore, in light of the fact that there’s another trial beginning on Monday.”
Bringing the seditious conspiracy charge in the Oath Keepers case was a risky move for the Justice Department and one that Garland initially balked at, CNN has reported. Investigators, having secured the cooperation of other members of the group and obtained additional evidence, eventually convinced Garland to sign off on the charge once they built out their case.
Three of the Oath Keepers facing the charge in the recent case were acquitted of seditious conspiracy but were convicted on other charges. The partial victory on the sedition charge carries significant symbolic weight for the Justice Department, which can now frame the events around the January 6 as more than just a spontaneous riot but rather as part of an orchestrated plan to stave off Trump’s 2020 defeat.
This story has been updated with additional details.
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CNN’s Annie Grayer, Daniella Diaz and Manu Raju contributed to this report.