Capitol Breached for First Time Since Foreign Invaders Attacked U.S. Over 200 Years Ago
Minutes Before Attempted Coup, President Trump Encouraged Insurrection, Telling Supporters “You Have to Show Strength…And We’re Going to the Capitol…And We’re Going to Try [to] Give Our Republicans…the Kind of Pride and Boldness That They Need to Take Back Our Country”
Discussions of Potential Pardons Under Corrupt Circumstances Could Render President Vulnerable to Further Prosecution After He Leaves Office
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today called on Acting U.S. Attorney General and head of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Jeffrey Rosen to launch a full investigation into Wednesday’s attempted coup at the U.S. Capitol, instigated under the encouragement of President Donald Trump, members of the Trump family — including Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, and Lara Trump — Trump associates, and members of Congress.
“The president swore an oath to protect this nation against all enemies, foreign or domestic, but this week he led an attack on the greatest symbol of our democratic republic,” said Attorney General James. “Not since foreign invaders attacked the Capitol more than 200 years ago has Washington, DC been attacked. But Wednesday, not under the command of foreign leaders but of our very own commander-in-chief, did American citizens attempt to overthrow our government. For months, President Trump, his family, and his associates have espoused wild conspiracy theories that led to these acts of terror and sedition, and which elected officials are sworn to defend against. I am calling on the Justice Department to immediately begin an investigation into this attempt at insurrection and to hold all those responsible for their roles in fanning the flames that led to this failed coup.”
Attorney General James’ letter to the DOJ calls for each and every participant in this attempted coup to be identified, investigated, and held accountable. U.S. law 18 U.S.C. § 2384 makes clear that a violent incursion onto government property with the express intention of hindering the certification of a lawful election is a violation of federal law and must be prosecuted. This is not the only federal law that may apply to yesterday’s actions.
Additionally, Attorney General James calls for the DOJ to specifically investigate the legal culpability of the president, his family, and his advisors, as well as members of Congress, for directly inciting Wednesday’s attack. Immediately before the mob stormed the Capitol, President Trump made his wishes explicit, telling an angry crowd, “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong…We’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue…and we’re going to the Capitol…and we’re going to try [to] give our Republicans…the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.” Similar statements were made by members of Trump’s family and others close to him — including Donald Trump Jr., who told the mob that “This gathering should send a message,” while simultaneously warning members of Congress who did not back the pro-Trump efforts that “We’re coming for you;” Eric Trump, who told the rioters, “And we need to march on the Capitol today. And we need to stand up for this country;” and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, among others, who called for insurrectionists to partake in “trial by combat.”
Finally — while noting recent practices by President Trump to use his pardon power to the benefit of his ideological and personal allies, as well as recent reports in which the president is considering issuing self-pardons — Attorney General James notes that the president’s issuance of pardons under corrupt circumstances could render him vulnerable to prosecution when he leaves office on January 20. Additionally, any pardon President Trump could possibly issue would only pardon him from federal crimes. Any state or local investigations and potential charges would not be affected and would proceed.
Attorney General James notes that while most critical enforcement and charging decisions in this investigation will and should wait till the next attorney general takes office, the nation cannot afford for the DOJ to sit idly by for two weeks.