White House chief of staff Ron Klain on Sunday denied that President Biden has privately vented his frustrations with Attorney General Merrick Garland over his handling of the Jan. 6 investigation, which the New York Times reported this weekend.
In a report published Saturday, the Times noted growing frustration among Democratic allies of the White House over the Justice Department for not investigating former President Trump and his inner circle for subverting the 2020 election. Biden reportedly shared Democrats’ frustration, according to the Times. The President reportedly confided to his inner circle that he believed Trump was a threat to democracy and should be prosecuted. Despite having never disclosed his frustrations directly to Garland, Biden reportedly said in private that he wanted the attorney general to “act less like a ponderous judge and more like a prosecutor who is willing to take decisive action” over the events of Jan. 6.
Klain swiftly denied the President’s reported frustration with Garland and purported push for Trump to be prosecuted during an interview on ABC News.
“I’ve never heard the president say that — advocate the prosecution of any person,” Klain said.
Klain emphasized a pillar of Biden’s 2020 campaign message: the President would not interfere politically with the DOJ’s work, unlike the Trump administration.
“Only Richard Nixon and Donald Trump, in the modern era, believed that prosecution decisions should be made in the Oval Office, not at the Justice Department,” Klain said. “We have returned the practice that every other president, Democratic and Republican, has had since Watergate, other than Trump, to let those decisions be made at the Justice Department. “
Klain then stressed that the President has full confidence in Garland to make decisions regarding prosecutions.
Klain’s comments come days after it was reported that Justice Department investigators looking into the events of Jan. 6 are expanding their reach beyond Capitol insurrectionists. Investigators are reportedly now looking at the planning for the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the insurrection, with the grand jury in the DOJ’s investigation having issued several subpoenas to some people in Trump’s inner circle who were involved with the rally. Figures in executive and legislative branches involved in any pre-insurrection rallies or who attempted to “obstruct, influence, impede or delay” Congress’ Jan. 6 certification of the election results are also under scrutiny. Additionally, the plot to push slates of fake electors by some Trump allies has also become part of the DOJ’s investigation.
News of the DOJ’s investigation comes amid a debate about the pace of its probe of Jan. 6.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a member of the Jan. 6 Select Committee, maintained his criticism of the DOJ’s progress in its investigation thus far during an appearance on MSNBC on Sunday.
“I do share the sentiment that the Justice Department is erring on the side of not wanting to create controversy by investigating those that may have committed crimes, but nonetheless were high up in the last administration,” Schiff said. “I just don’t think that’s tenable if there’s evidence of crime that needs to be investigated regardless of who it is.”
Schiff’s latest criticism of the DOJ’s handling of its Jan. 6 investigation follows the committee alleging that the former president and his allies “engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States.” In a court filing last month, lawyers for the committee wrote that Trump and key allies engaged in criminal acts in trying to pressure former Vice President Pence to overturn the results of the 2020 election. According to the committee, Trump’s criminal culpability may include: obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and common law fraud.
Shortly after the court filing was issued last month, Schiff implored the DOJ to take action against Trump’s Big Lie efforts — particularly, the former president’s infamous call with Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger (R) to “find” nonexistent votes during an appearance on CBS.
Schiff, at the time, said that although the DOJ is “diligently pursuing” Capitol insurrectionists, it has yet to examine “multiple lines” of efforts to overturn the election results that “may have violated the law.”