Earlier today we all learned that the Department of Justice will not be criminally charging Wilbur Ross with perjury for his role in the census debacle. Also today, the first Capitol attacker was sentenced to prison – and given just eight months. These two events have set off a new round of social media outrage, defeatism, and calls for Merrick Garland to be fired.
I’m going to tell you something that most of you probably don’t want to hear: these were proper decisions. First of all, the DOJ makes its charging decisions based on the likelihood of conviction at trial. Much as we all despise Wilbur Ross and we all “know” he’s guilty, it’s unlikely that any jury was going to conclude that a demonstrably half-senile elderly man lied under oath on purpose. There’s just too much reasonable doubt at play.
If Ross were to be put on trial, he’d likely end up acquitted – and that would make it very difficult for the DOJ to then bring more serious charges against bigger Trump regime players. After all, if you swing and miss right out of the gate, you’re pretty much finished.
Nor is there any merit to these calls for President Biden to fire Merrick Garland. For one thing, there is literally zero chance of that happening, so you’re wasting your breath. Also, if you were somehow able to force Biden to fire Garland, it would be a body blow to Biden’s presidency. He, his approval rating, and his agenda wouldn’t recover. And it would create such a politically charged situation that whoever took Garland’s place at the DOJ would be powerless to do anything.
For that matter, it’s highly unlikely that a different Attorney General pick, such as Doug Jones or Sally Yates, would be handling this any differently. Again, the DOJ makes charging decisions based on likelihood of conviction. Always has, always will. Perjury charges against an 83 year old guy who’s known for falling asleep in meetings were never going to fly, like it or not.
We also have no indication yet of whether Merrick Garland’s DOJ will end up bringing criminal charges against Donald Trump. Today’s news certainly didn’t provide any guidance on this. All we know thus far is that since Garland took over, the DOJ has been aggressively targeting Rudy Giuliani (raiding his home, etc), in relation to the Trump-Ukraine scandal – which is exactly the route the DOJ would be taking if it is looking to build a criminal case against Trump.
As for today’s sentencing of the first Capitol attacker, there’s a reason this guy was the first to be sentenced: he pleaded guilty in a swift manner in exchange for leniency. Prosecutors asked for 18 months, and the judge gave him 8 months. He was never getting 20 years, no matter how many people throw around that number on social media in confused fashion.
Today was actually a good day, in the sense that with sentencing now underway for the low level Capitol invaders, we’re now one step closer to criminal charges being brought against the higher ups in the Capitol attack. Such charges were never, ever going to happen until after the underlings were charged and they started cutting deals. The DOJ always tries to establish cooperating underlings in order to go after ringleaders.
So there are two ways you can look at today. You can be outraged that Wilbur Ross, a guy you forgot even existed, isn’t being charged with a crime that he was probably not going to be convicted on anyway – or you can focus on bigger fish like Donald Trump himself. You can be outraged that prison sentencing guidelines don’t work the way you want them to – or you can accept that plea deals for lower level conspirators is how higher level conspirators are taken down.
If you want something productive to come out of a day like today, it’s important to remember that there’s a world of difference between applying positive pressure to people like Biden and Garland (which tends to produce results), and merely whining about how they should all be fired (which accomplishes literally nothing). Winning requires focusing on the big picture, not getting lost griping about every little transactional thing that happens that isn’t to your liking.
Let’s be glad that Merrick Garland isn’t the kind of angry foot stomping fool who would force criminal charges to be brought against a lower level guy who wouldn’t have been convicted anyway. That’s the kind of self-defeating stupidity that the Trump-Barr regime got mired in, and it’s part of why there’s no longer a Trump-Barr regime. Garland is just getting started. Let’s see where he’s actually heading with all of this before making ridiculous demands about Biden somehow firing him.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report