A Harvard law professor whose roster of former students includes President Joe Biden’s attorney general, Merrick Garland, predicted that the Justice Department would seek to indict Donald Trump with criminal charges related to the January 6 attack on Congress.
Laurence Tribe made the prediction on CNN on Saturday, speaking to host Wolf Blitzer, who asked the professor point-blank if he thought the DOJ was heading in that direction.
“Merrick Garland is a friend and a former student of mine. He’s an honest man, he’s serious, he said he’d go to the top if that’s where the evidence points and that’s certainly where it’s pointing now,” Mr Tribe said on CNN.
That prediction, while confident by itself, helps to illustrate the overall air of uncertainty in the legal and political worlds surrounding the issue of whether Mr Trump will truly face any consequences for January 6 or not. It’s a broad departure from what lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including those on the January 6 committee like Adam Schiff, have said; Mr Schiff publicly fretted a week ago that he saw “no indication” the Justice Department was pursuing Mr Trump at all.
The agency has, meanwhile, charged hundreds of participants in the attack on Congress with various low-level offenses and sought varying degrees of punishment; a handful of far-right activists, including the leader of the Proud Boys, have been hit with more serious charges including seditious conspiracy.
The January 6 committee over the past several weeks has laid out a case for Mr Trump to potentially be charged with crimes such as seditious conspiracy, as the members have proved that the White House was well aware of the likelihood of mass violence breaking out on January 6 and went through with their efforts to overturn the election anyway. They have also shown how Mr Trump’s closest advisers, including family members like Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, were against the idea and did not support the claims of fraud being pushed by the president whose own attorney general had told him they were nonsense.
But the committee lacks the authority to issue criminal charges and thus must rely on the Justice Department and its typical refusal to publicly or privately confirm major developments regarding investigations before they occur.
One criminal investigation that is definitely ongoing and could soon turn into an indictment is the effort being pursued by prosecutors in Georgia, who have convened a grand jury to hear arguments that Mr Trump improperly pressured state officials in his effort to reverse his defeat to Joe Biden in that state.
The January 6 committee held a surprise hearing last week featuring explosive testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to chief of staff Mark Meadows in the Trump White House, and is set to have at least one more public hearing in the weeks ahead.