It shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise, yet it’s still very disturbing to hear that federal law enforcement officials are considering not even charging some of the people who broke into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in a violent attempt to stop the rightful certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral win.
Sources privy to the conversations told the Washington Post that authorities at the Justice Department and FBI are currently debating whether they really need to hold all of the 800 or so people involved in the insurrection criminally culpable for their actions. Only a little over 135 people have been charged by the Justice Department so far in charges that have trickled out in the weeks since the attack with the help of social media sleuthing to locate the suspects (many of whom went online to brag about their participation in the insurrection). Just a paltry 13 of the participants were held by police at the scene on the day of the attack.
Now some federal law enforcement officials are apparently arguing that charges should not be made against those who “only” committed unlawful entry into the Capitol.
“If an old man says all he did was walk in and no one tried to stop him, and he walked out and no one tried to stop him, and that’s all we know about what he did, that’s a case we may not win,” one official said.
Another official noted most of those arrested so far have no criminal records.
Meanwhile, defense lawyers for some of those charged are contemplating something akin to a “Trump defense” — that the president or other authority figures gave them permission or invited them to commit an otherwise illegal act.
“If you think of yourself as a soldier doing the bidding of the commander in chief, you don’t try to hide your actions. You assume you will be held up as a hero by the nation,” criminal defense lawyers Teri Kanefield and Mark Reichel wrote last week.
Such a defense might not forestall charges but could be effective at trial or sentencing.
Another of the gossamer thin justifications reportedly being built to let a portion this mass of largely unrepentant lawbreakers completely off the hook is that the hundreds of potential cases could “swamp” the federal court system.
But the unspoken and most obvious reason for this alleged dithering is that the people who made up the mob—many of them armed, military trained, or otherwise employed and paid by taxpayer dollars—are beneficiaries of white privilege, which seems to allow some people to take over a federal building and participate in an insurrection that caused the deaths of five people, including a police officer, and still face virtually no consequences.
According to the Post’s report, those anti-government extremists who were at the insurrection but prosecutors cant prove were physically violent could even be given plea agreements—meaning they wouldn’t even have a misdemeanor on their records.
If this is the kind of leeway a certain kind of criminal of certain can get while carrying out blatantly illegal and life-threatening behavior that forced members of Congress to go into hiding, I’m not surprised that so many of them apparently have criminal records that are squeaky clean!
A DOJ spokesperson told the Post that there is “absolute resolve from the Department of Justice to hold all who intentionally engaged in criminal acts at the Capitol accountable.”
Let’s see what that resolve amounts to in real terms. It would be a disgrace to see the Justice Department under the new Biden Administration treat these domestic terrorists with kid gloves. But still, as I said earlier, nothing about that would actually be surprising. I just hope no one pretends at shock when a similar attack with more fatal consequences happens.