Last night, the normally extremely reliable and insightful Rachel Maddow did a bizarre segment suggesting that a standard fare DOJ memo about political prosecutions in the current election cycle was somehow going to prevent the DOJ from investigating or prosecuting Donald Trump if he announces a 2024 campaign in the coming weeks.
In the hours since, various legal experts (including Laurence Tribe) have poked numerous factual holes in the story. For instance, the memo merely states that any investigation into a candidate in the current election will need to be approved by the Attorney General first, it does not actually state that anyone is immune from investigation, or that any prosecution will be in any way delayed.
Further, this is the same memo that every Attorney General has released at the start of the past several election cycles, in an attempt at preventing another James Comey – Hillary Clinton debacle. This is all standard fare. And that’s before getting to the fact that if Trump announces in 2022 that he’s going to be running in the 2024 election, that doesn’t make him a candidate in the current 2022 election.
In case all of that isn’t enough to make clear that the “doomsday memo” storyline is a false one, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco told CNN this morning that any Trump announcement about 2024 will not impact the DOJ’s ongoing January 6th investigation in any way:
Deputy AG Lisa Monaco says the DOJ’s January 6 investigative team will follow the facts “no matter where they lead, no matter to what level,” when asked whether former President Trump’s potential announcement for another WH run would have any impact on the investigation.
— Ana Cabrera (@AnaCabrera) July 19, 2022
Of course there are now folks on social media who are spinning up this absurd claim that Lisa Monaco had to issue this statement because Merrick Garland is too busy hiding under his desk or whatever. But let’s get real. Monaco is Garland’s deputy. If she told this to the media, it’s because Garland instructed her to.
So unless you’re going to spin up the absurd conspiracy theory that DOJ leadership is somehow lying about all of this, today’s statement from DOJ leadership should be the end of this story – because there never was a story. Here’s hoping Maddow will speak up and walk back this narrative soon.
In the meantime, if you want even more proof that this DOJ memo will not keep anyone from being investigated or prosecuted, keep in mind that the memo was dated two months ago. The DOJ’s grand jury search and seizure warrants against Donald Trump co-conspirators Jeffery Clark and John Eastman were carried out after the memo was issued. So it’s clear that this DOJ grand jury probe, which is obviously trying to use the likes of Clark and Eastman to get to Donald Trump, is not being hindered by this memo in any way.
For that matter, this DOJ memo is not even hindering investigations being carried out into candidates who are on the 2022 ballot. For instance the DOJ has indicted a candidate for Governor of Michigan, whose name is on the 2022 ballot, since the memo was issued.
At this point the main source of remaining doomsday hype about this memo is the fact that it name checks Bill Barr in a way that does not in any way change the memo’s meaning or nature. But if your argument is that Merrick Garland needs to word his internal DOJ memos in a manner that prevents the media from being able to manufacture phony scandals about him so they can scare you into staying tuned in, you really need to be chastising the media for that, not Garland.
Enough with this phony “doomsday memo” story. It’s been debunked by legal experts in half a dozen different ways, and now the DOJ leadership itself is publicly shooting the story down. It’s simply a non-story. We have real battles, crises, and outrages to deal with. This imaginary narrative about an innocuous memo is not one of them. Let’s get to work on winning the midterms.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report