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U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice on April 21, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Citing Failure to Prosecute Trump and Cronies, Legal Group Calls On AG Garland to Resign

"As long as Trump and his co-conspirators walk free, American democracy is in danger."

Jessica Corbett

Frustrated by the U.S. attorney general's failure to investigate or take legal action against former President Donald Trump and his associates for various potential crimes, Free Speech for People argued Thursday that because Merrick Garland "is unwilling to step up, it is time for him to step down."

"Garland is no longer fit to serve as attorney general."

Free Speech for People's call for Garland to resign came in a lengthy statement outlining his inaction as well as Trump's troubling behavior while running for and serving as president. It followed the U.S. legal advocacy group urging Garland to "establish an independent task force to centralize and coordinate criminal investigations of Trump and his associates."

The organization called for a task force in January, just days after news broke that incoming President Joe Biden would nominate Garland to lead the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Since the Senate confirmed his nomination in March, the statement says, Garland hasn't taken "any meaningful action" to hold accountable Trump or "his co-conspirators for attempting to overthrow the government on January 6, 2021 and a flurry" of earlier criminal acts.

While Trump was president, the House of Representatives impeached him twice: in December 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, and this past January for "high crimes and misdemeanors" after he incited a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Warning that "DOJ's inaction—Garland's inaction—endangers the rule of law," Free Speech for People's statement outlines some of what came before and after the 45th president's address that was followed by a violent mob of his supporters storming the halls of Congress:

Even before the 2020 election, Trump conspired with key aides to sabotage a free and fair election by extorting (or, viewed another way, bribing) the president of Ukraine to embarrass Joe Biden politically in exchange for military aid. (Although the Senate failed to convict him in an impeachment trial for this conduct, that has no impact on criminal proceedings.) And as the election approached, Trump bragged that he was deliberately sabotaging the Postal Service to limit voting-by-mail.

After his election defeat, Trump called Georgia's secretary of state and pressured him to "find 11,780 votes" to overturn the presidential election outcome in that state. (Two members of Congress have already sent a criminal referral to the FBI regarding that phone call.) He also pressured another Georgia official to investigate counties where Biden received more votes. Since overturning Georgia's election results alone wouldn't yield a victory for Trump, it's almost certain that he made or attempted similar conversations with elections officials in other states.

"That is not all of Trump's potential criminal liability," the statement notes, explaining that despite "extensive evidence that Trump obstructed justice," Robert Mueller, the special counsel who investigated his actions related to the 2016 election, didn't consider filing charges because of a DOJ policy against prosecuting a sitting president—a policy that now doesn't apply.

"The same policy probably protected Trump from the federal criminal charges against his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who paid off Trump's mistresses for their silence during the campaign," the statement continues, also highlighting that the businessman and former reality television host "spent his entire time in office misusing the presidency for personal profit."

While primarily focusing on Trump's actions and Garland's lack thereof, Free Speech for People also raised alarm about members of Congress "who appear to have helped plan" the insurrection: GOP Reps. Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Mo Brooks (Ala.), Madison Cawthorn (N.C.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.).

Along with failing to investigate those Republicans, the statement says, the department Garland oversees has "inexcusably sat on its hands" since the House voted last month to hold former Trump adviser Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress while the attorney general "has actively defended or continued many Trump-era DOJ policies, including the cover-up of the key DOJ legal memo regarding Trump's obstruction of justice, and defending Trump's libel of a rape victim."

"For all these reasons, Garland is no longer fit to serve as attorney general," the statement declares. "His previous record of federal service should not blind us to the fact that he is simply the wrong person for this job at this time."

"As long as Trump and his co-conspirators walk free, American democracy is in danger. We need an attorney general who understands that danger and is willing to take action to protect democracy and the rule of law," the statement concludes. "Merrick Garland must resign."

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