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The politics of prosecuting an insurrection

Melvin B. Miller
The politics of prosecuting an insurrection
“You see how hard it is to get a jury together for the January 6 case.”

A year has passed since the great insurrection. A number of those who were physically involved in the invasion have been prosecuted, but so far none of those who planned and fomented the event have been indicted. Citizens who believe that the criminal justice system protects the wealthy and powerful suspect that the fix may be underway.

In a recent speech, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland assured the American people that his office is investigating every bit of information available for the insurrection, and the federal criminal justice system will follow any evidence that they uncover, even to the highest levels of government.

However, there is one factor that the attorney general cannot appropriately mention. Good litigators are extremely competitive. They are reluctant to pursue a course of action unless they believe that they can win. It will not be easy to win a jury case against Trump supporters who believe that he won the 2020 presidential election.

According to a recent ABC poll, 71% of Republicans believe that Trump won the 2020 election and that more than half of those who invaded the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 were “protecting democracy.” Another poll at UMass Amherst found that 71% of Republicans see Biden’s victory as “illegitimate.” Every prosecutor knows that it will be challenging to enroll a jury to reject Trumpism. With only one “not guilty,” the case is lost.

It is not the function of the Jan. 6 committee in Congress to generate evidence for prosecution by the Justice Department. However, the public interview of witnesses should give this public a greater understanding of the underlying political issues. If some criminal evidence is uncovered in the process, it will be the responsibility of the Justice Department to pursue it.

While Congress and the Justice Department are continuing their research, it is well for citizens to profoundly contemplate how they would benefit from abandoning the American democracy in favor of the self-serving autocracy proposed by Donald Trump.