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The Justice Department turned the Proud Boys on by charging the leader of the extremist group and some of his accused co-conspirators with seditious conspiracy earlier this week.
For a former federal prosecutor, this development served as a prelude to the Jan. 6 committee’s main challenge in its upcoming hearings on the US Capitol attack: to demonstrate who allegedly provided “brains” for their “muscles.”
“They have not developed the legal theory as to why interference that day would change the outcome of the election,” he said Shanlon Wua former General Counsel to the ex-Attorney General Janet Reno. “It didn’t occur to them, ‘Hey, we can do these lists of alternate electors in states like Georgia.’ You were just the muscle. And where there are muscles, there must also be a brain. The muscles don’t move involuntarily.”
In the latest episode of the Law&Crime podcast, Objections: with Adam Klasfeld‘ Wu breaks down the committee’s challenges during their first hearing, where they are expected to present their initial findings, disclose previously unseen material and hear two witnesses.
“If the committee can’t uncover what the minds behind the operation were thinking, and if the Justice Department can’t act on legal accountability, I think there’s a really big threat to the country,” Wu told Law&Crime.
Days before the hearing, revelations from the Jan. 6 Justice Department and Congress investigations emerged in rapid succession. The Proud Boys’ indictment laid out a detailed timeline of the group’s movements prior to the attack. A federal judge in California ordered the disclosure of additional files by the so-called “coup memo” author John Ostmana former Senior Fellow of the Claremont Institute and attorney for the former President donald trump. In a recent ruling in the Eastman investigation, a judge noted that Trump’s legal team referred to “the January 6 strategy” in an email well before the attack.
Eastman developed the six-part plan to block congressional authentication, and Wu believes the committee must bridge legal antics with those of extremist groups on the ground in the Capitol.
First, however, Wu believes the committee must rekindle the shock the nation experienced that day.
“I think the biggest challenge is bringing events fresh to the American public, because while it seems pretty fresh to a lot of us – because of all the new information and evidence that’s coming out – I think the real audience is people that probably won’t follow it day by day,” he said.
The first witnesses are well placed to evoke this visceral response: US Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwardsthe first law enforcement officer injured that day, and Nick askeda British documentary filmmaker who captured movements on the ground.
After suffering a traumatic brain injury on Jan. 6, Edwards has not returned to duty more than a year after the attack.
The documentary filmmaker’s appearance is reminiscent of Wu’s other piece of advice for the jury.
“I think you start with very graphic images of the violence to remind people of the freshness of the violence that day and then start explaining, ‘Why did this happen?'” said Wu, a former CNN legal analyst .
Having spent more than a decade at the Justice Department — and serving as a liaison for the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and National Institute of Justice — Wu is a former colleague of a prominent member of the Jan. 6 committee: Timothy Heaphyhis lead investigative attorney.
Well before the hearing, a controversy arose within the committee as to whether they should issue criminal reprimands with their report. The vice chairman of the committee, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), indirectly questioned whether Trump had committed obstruction of an official process when she read legal language to do so in December. A federal judge in California later found that Trump “probably” broke that law, as did another for alleged conspiracy to defraud the government.
Those who believe the committee should not issue criminal reprimands argue that the judge’s ruling speaks louder than Congress, which would only bring politics to the prosecution issue.
Wu disagrees, noting that a congressional committee is inherently political in nature.
“I think not doing it is actually not a helpful thing for the DOJ to do because even though they’re starting to investigate now – through a grand jury and stuff – I don’t think they have any way with the mountain of evidence to catch up that the committee has gone through,” Wu said. “So the referrals help prosecutors aim.”
The committee, of course, has previously sent criminal complaints to the Justice Department for contempt of Congress.
The Justice Department returned charges against Steve Banon and Peter Navarrobut reportedly turned down Trump’s ex-chief of staff Mark Meadows and former social media director Dan Scavino.
For Wu, the objections show the Attorney General Merrick garland “bend over backwards” to signal fairness — and possibly be a wake-up call for those expecting an impeachment against Trump.
“For me, my concern is that they’re the latest wake-up calls to the series,” he said. “I think the department is very cautious and has big problems with what to do with the inner circle.”
The committee’s first hearing begins Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern time.
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https://lawandcrime.com/objections-podcast/the-jan-6-committees-first-public-hearing-must-show-brains-behind-u-s-capitol-attacks-muscle-legal-expert-says/ Shanlon Wu is breaking up the committee’s upcoming hearing on Jan. 6