What Merrick Garland Has Said About Indicting Donald Trump for Capitol Riot

As the Justice Department faces increasing pressure to indict Donald Trump over his alleged role in the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot, Attorney General Merrick Garland has so far refrained from directly addressing the possibility of prosecuting the former president.

But Garland, the country's chief law enforcement officer and onetime pick of former President Barack Obama for a seat on the Supreme Court, has vowed to "follow the facts wherever they lead" in holding those behind the attack responsible.

Though Garland has faced pressure to indict Trump for some time, an ongoing series of hearings from the House committee investigating the riot has again placed the spotlight on the DOJ's lack of official action against the former president. During the hearings, the second of which took place Monday, members of the House select committee are presenting findings that they say show a coordinated effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election results and prevent the transfer of power to President Joe Biden.

Garland said at a news conference on Monday that he plans to watch all of the panel's hearings, but he cannot provide "my own personal responses to this kind of evidence that is coming out," according to NPR.

"And I can assure you that the January 6 prosecutors are watching all the hearings as well," he said.

Garland's decision holds extra weight because if Trump is prosecuted in connection to the riot, he would be the first former president to ever be indicted for criminal conduct, NBC reported. Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor, said that the DOJ will have "nowhere to go" except indicting Trump after the House panel lays out all of its findings in the hearings.

Garland on Trump Indictment
As the Justice Department faces increasing pressure to indict Donald Trump over his alleged role in the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot, Attorney General Merrick Garland has so far refrained from directly addressing the possibility of prosecuting the former president. Above, Garland speaks to reporters before meeting with members of the team that will conduct the critical incident review of the law enforcement response to the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, at the Justice Department headquarters on June 8 in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Garland delivered a speech in January this year on the first anniversary of the Capitol riot, asserting his department's commitment to protect the American people and democracy.

"We will defend our democratic institutions from attack," he said. "We will protect those who serve the public from violence and threats of violence. We will protect the cornerstone of our democracy: the right to every eligible citizen to cast a vote that counts. And we will do all of this in a manner that adheres to the rule of law and honors our obligation to protect the civil rights and civil liberties of everyone in this country."

In his remarks, Garland said that following the Capitol riot, the DOJ embarked on "what has become one of the largest, most complex, and most resource-intensive investigations in our history."

"The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law—whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy," he said.

Garland again stressed that the DOJ would "follow the facts wherever they lead" while speaking at Harvard University's commencement ceremony in May.

In an interview with NPR in March, Garland also said that while prosecution decisions aren't being made on a partisan or political basis, the DOJ is not outright avoiding cases that are political, controversial or sensitive.

Newsweek reached out to the Justice Department and a Trump spokesperson for comment.

Updated 6/13/22, 4:25 p.m. ET: This story was updated with comments from Garland at a news conference on Monday.