Representatives Thomas Massie (KY) and Chip Roy (TX) sent a letter on July 15, 2021, to Attorney General Merrick Garland, following up on a May 13, 2021, letter that had received no response. They are requesting the status of investigations into January 6 rally attendees and a briefing about details of prosecutorial actions and whether appropriate force has been used by the FBI to arrest and detain suspects:
"According to reports, more than 400 individuals have been charged with violations of federal law in connection with the Capitol events, but we in Congress have little information about how the Department of Justice is handling these cases."
Thomas Massie tweeted an announcement that read, "Rep. Chip Roy and I are demanding that the Department of Justice (DOJ) answer questions regarding the alleged mistreatment of January 6 defendants. We have asked that the DOJ respond to our request no later than July 21."
Those questions are outlined in the original May 13 letter, in which Roy and Massie argue that "congressional oversight of these prosecutions is essential as a check and balance" against overreach:
- Whether existing DOJ procedures are being followed or have been altered, including the prosecutorial discretion of AUSAs to try their cases as they see fit.
- Who has the authority to approve plea agreements?
- Are plea agreements for January 6th cases more severe than agreements in similar cases, like plea agreements reached in the 75 or more cases involving assaults on federal officers and destruction of federal property in the Portland riots last summer?
- Whether appropriate force is being used to arrest and detain suspects.
- On what grounds is DOJ opposing pretrial release for detained individuals?
- Further, please provide regular updates of this nature so long as the cases are ongoing. We are not requesting any information that would jeopardize any ongoing investigations, and there should be no reason why the Department of Justice cannot comply with this request.
The original letter further describes "disturbing reports of heavily armed teams of federal agents bursting into family homes to arrest individuals with no history or likelihood of violence, and even one report of federal agents raiding the wrong home."
Massie and Roy claim receipt of "reports that Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSAs) are being denied the discretion to enter into plea deals without permission from political appointees at main DOJ." They layout concerns that "the public outcry and hyper-politicization of the events on January 6th may incentivize prosecutors to use overly aggressive tactics, overcharge, and abuse the power of the federal government in order to satisfy favored political groups."
The recent follow-up letter came with a press release from Roy that says the pair are seeking information about "what actions the Department has taken toward pursuing criminal charges against the individuals involved." A briefing to all members of congress no later than May 30 the first time around, but the new letter is now stating a "demand [for] answers from the Biden administration on allegations of politicized mistreatment of January 6 defendants" only resulted in "months of silence from the Department of Justice." Massie and Roy requested a response no later than Wednesday, July 21, but according to Massie's office, no response has been received.
The July 15 letter calls Garland's characterization of January 6 as "the most dangerous threat to our democracy" and "a sweeping exaggeration [which] can be viewed as nothing more than political hyperbole and a dangerous politicization of law enforcement activities that may punish those engaging in protected speech by lumping them in with those who committed acts of violence."
The Department of Justice has been "rebuffed by judges time and time again" for requesting "pretrial incarceration of citizens with no history of, or propensity for, violence." But tells Garland that even so, "many more Americans have been arrested, overly aggressive tactics have continued, and you have made comments that only confirm the importance of congressional oversight of the Department’s activities."
Massie and Roy perceive hypocrisy by DOJ in prioritizing these investigations:
"In the January 6 riot, 140 officers were tragically injured, and rioters caused around $30 million in damage. The criminals who committed those acts of violence deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. However, last summer, more than 2,000 officers were injured in protests and riots, and rioters across the country caused more than $1 billion in damage, the most expensive in insurance history. One of these events is a priority for DOJ, and the other is not."
"Let's talk about the 530 Americans who have been arrested or charged with crimes, and let's work backwards. What were they charged with, why were they charged, how long have they been in jail, where are they in jail, what kind of penalties are they facing? Let's go seek the truth wherever it may lead."