U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said, “there is no higher priority” for the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) than charging and prosecuting those involved in the January 6 Capitol riot.
In a speech on the eve of the January 6 anniversary, Garland told DOJ employees:
The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6 perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law — whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy. We will follow the facts wherever they lead.
Garland went on to say, “Those involved must be held accountable, and there is no higher priority for us at the Department of Justice.”
Garland also announced the arrest numbers for the department’s largest investigation in its history. As of Wednesday, 725 individuals have been arrested and charged in connection with the riot. Of those 725, DOJ prosecutors charged 325 with felonies. In addition, the department is still searching for 250 individuals who allegedly assaulted police officers on January 6.
Garland’s remarks come as prominent Democrats question the effectiveness of Garland and his investigation. Former Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill warned that if Garland does not charge former President Donald Trump, he could “go down in infamy as one of the worst attorney generals in this country’s history.”
Further, Garland used the speech as an opportunity to promote voting legislation Congressional Democrats hope to pass. The Democrats intend to use the upcoming January 6 anniversary to push their voting legislation packages through Congress, according to reports.
Garland vowed that the DOJ would “do all it can to protect voting rights.”
Garland then called on Congress to pass voting rights legislation. “It is essential for Congress to act to give the Department the powers we need to ensure that every eligible voter can cast a vote that counts,” he said.
The Attorney General also criticized the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision that struck down a section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
As the National Review reported, “Garland noted in his Wednesday speech that the Voting Rights Act gave the DOJ “valuable tools” to protect the right to vote, but that the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v Holder decision “effectively eliminated” the “Department’s most effective tool for protecting voting rights.”
Garland claimed that since those decisions, new “legislative enactments” have made it harder for citizens to vote, including by redistricting maps drawn to the detriment of minority voters or voters of an opposing political party