The Department of Justice has requested additional funding for its January 6 investigation, and some Federal officials are raising concerns that the probe may be stretching to its breaking point.
With an election a little over a week away that could put Republicans in charge of the Congressional purse strings next year, the question rises as to whether the DOJ will continue to receive the funding necessary to bring to justice all of those responsible for attempting to violently overturn the 2020 Presidential election.
DOJ Asks for Additional $34 Million to Investigate January 6
Last week, the Biden Administration said the Department of Justice was in critical need of some $34 million in additional funding to maintain its investigation into the January 6, 2021, insurrection upon the U.S. Capitol.
“The President makes a bucket request,” she says. “Each agency makes their individual request to Congress about what they need for various things. The vast majority of time, it’s last year plus some percentage.”
However, given the complexity and number prosecutions involved in the January 6 investigation, “it seems like in their normal appropriations process DOJ did not anticipate and did not request the full amount that they ended up needing.”
How the Expenses Pile Up
In fact, Attorney General Merrick Garland has called the DOJ’s January 6 probe the “most wide-ranging investigation in its history,” and he has vowed to prosecute anyone who was “criminally responsible for interfering in the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another.”
More than 900 people have been charged for their involvement in the Capitol insurrection so far. Of them, more than 350 have been sentenced, although those sentences can range from incarceration to home detention to community service, probation and low-level misdemeanors like demonstrating illegally.
And the money needed to cover so wide-ranging an investigation does pile up. According to Shen, there are not only the salaries of all the attorneys and their staffs, there are also court costs “to literally process these proceedings, like the cost of the grand jury.” And with a case like the January 6 insurrection, there are a lot of tech costs, as well.
“They could say, ‘We got a tip that these three people in this picture did XYZ,’ ” Shen explains. ” ‘Well, we may need a sophisticated forensic device to help us figure that out because we have them, but we don’t have enough given the volume of instances that we have.’ So it could be additional equipment. It could be additional technology, technicians.”
DOJ Might Get Funds in the Lame Duck Session
The next major funding bill is set to be taken up by Congress in December during the lame duck session after Election Day and before the new Congress is sworn in next year. As of right now, it’s unclear whether the DOJ’s request will be part of it.
“There are lots of requests,” House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) replied when asked about the January 6 funds. “We’re taking a look at all of them and seeing what makes it and seeing what doesn’t make it.”
Several Republicans have suggested they’re open to voting for additional funding. “Those people ought to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I don’t have any problem giving the Justice Department the resources it needs to do that,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK).
While Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), another appropriator, said, “I think those who disgraced our country, who perpetrated violence, desecrated these buildings, they should pay the price for that.”
Future DOJ Funds May Have to Be Juggled
However, the prospects of funding the investigation could diminish greatly when the new Congress takes over if the GOP wins the House Majority, because the likely House Speaker would be Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), a loyal Trump ally.
“When or if the Democrats lose the House at the midterm elections, there’s an urgency now to get this done before Congress turns into a pumpkin on January 3rd,” Dave Aronberg, State Attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida, said Friday on MSNBC.
He added, “Now, I still think that even if the money doesn’t get there that the DOJ investigation here will continue. The cases will continue, it’s just that other priorities within the Department of Justice will have to be cut. And people around the country will feel the pinch because a lot of the prosecutors are coming from the district offices, not from main Justice.”
Shen finds this “super problematic” but adds, “Congress can’t prevent DOJ from prioritizing the January 6 cases as a categorical basis. The most they can do is not provide additional funding they would have needed to prosecute all of the cases they were going to begin with and also the January 6 cases on top of that.”
It’s going to come down to “prosecutor discretion,” she says. “There are a million different crimes out there that they could prosecute. There are only so many resources for prosecuting crimes, so they have to choose which ones make the cut. And I’m pretty sure all the January 6 prosecutions will certainly make the cut, but then a whole bunch of other ones wouldn’t when they normally would.”
House GOP Plans to Investigate DOJ
Meanwhile, a GOP-led House has even more up its sleeve for the DOJ next year. Among a number of areas it plans to investigate is what Republicans perceive as the politicization of the Department of Justice.
This is because, despite the GOP leading Democrats in Americans’ view of who’s better at handling crime, Republicans’ level of trust in law enforcement agencies have plummeted simultaneous to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of former President Trump. And their sense that the DOJ and the FBI are biased has only risen ever since, thanks to events like the search warrant to retrieve hundreds of White House documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in August.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), potentially next year’s House Judiciary Chair, has said his number one priority is “this weaponization of the DOJ against the American people.”
Shen, a former Aide to late House Oversight Committee member, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), went through a similar investigation when she worked on Capitol Hill. “The Republicans went after the FBI for supposedly politically prosecuting Donald Trump and being too kind to Hillary Clinton’s emails,” she says.
She calls this a “ridiculous notion” because “the FBI as a career culture truly does pride itself on being apolitical. There’s just zero side of the pendulum on political motivation either way.”
When she was working for Cummings, “they went after [then-FBI Director] James Comey,” she notes. “But because Trump appointed [current Director] Chris Wray my prediction is they’ll go after Merrick Garland because that’s a neater political narrative.”
Already, in fact, Rep. McCarthy has warned Garland to “preserve your documents and clear your calendar” over the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago search.