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Former Sen. DOUG JONES, once the leading contender to be JOE BIDEN’S attorney general and a longtime ally of the president, thinks MERRICK GARLAND has a “very, very tough” decision to make.
Should DONALD TRUMP be charged with a crime for what occurred on Jan. 6?
“I think that there is compelling evidence that crimes against the United States were committed by the former president and any number of very close and top associates,” Jones told West Wing Playbook in an interview after this afternoon’s congressional hearing.
“I’ll distinguish between compelling evidence in this fashion versus admissible evidence in a criminal trial — that’s what [the Department of Justice] has got to determine.”
While the DOJ has repeatedly emphasized it will take its time with its own investigation into the Jan. 6 riot, Democratic pressure and frustration has steadily increased over the probe’s pace.
Following Tuesday’s hearings, a number of House Democrats urged Garland to immediately bring charges against Trump for his role in stoking Jan. 6 rioters.
“Today shows clear evidence from a brave insider who heard & saw a seditious conspiracy that included a compliant Mark Meadows & an unhinged Donald J. Trump. Merrick Garland Do Your Job!” Rep. HANK JOHNSON (D-Ga.) tweeted.
The New York Times reported earlier this year that Biden privately told confidantes that he believed Trump was a threat to democracy and should be prosecuted — though the president has not expressed this view to Garland directly.
Jones’s legal perspective has long been valued by Biden, whom he has known for decades and was the Alabama co-chair of his 1988 presidential campaign. Even after Biden ultimately picked Garland to head the Justice Department, the president tapped Jones to lead the confirmation process for his Supreme Court nominee this spring.
A former U.S. attorney, Jones said defense lawyers could use a number of legal tactics to drag out such a case in a courtroom for years. “And certainly it is possible that it could take until after the 2024 election,” he said. “People need to understand that it is a completely different forum and a completely different set of rules, especially evidentiary rules.”
The DOJ is currently engaged in a slow-moving, but seemingly intensifying investigation of efforts within the Trump administration to overturn the results of the 2020 election — and whether to bring criminal charges against top figures involved. The Times reported on Tuesday that Garland’s increasingly impatient top deputy has spurred federal investigators to push the House committee investigating Jan. 6 to turn over transcripts of witness interviews.
Jones described the stakes as existential and said he doesn’t envy the attorney general’s coming choice.
“That’s going to be the tug,” he said. “No one should be above the law. However, there are so many more dynamics that I think come into play when trying to indict a former president of the United States for activities that took place in office.”
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From the White House Historical Association: Which first lady had a lifelong love for wildflowers?
(Answer at the bottom)
TEAM PETE: Transportation Secretary PETE BUTTIGIEG’s PAC, “Winning the Era,” is ramping back up ahead of the midterms, POLITICO’s ADAM WREN reports.
A source close to the committee told Adam the PAC “plans to endorse several dozen candidates this cycle, lending the support of our email list and grassroots community to key races across the country.” There also will be a focus on “bold and diverse” candidates.
CALLING CONGRESS: In her latest interview regarding the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe, Vice President KAMALA HARRIS told NPR that Congress should work on passing a bill that would codify abortion rights. Harris didn’t dive into specifics, nor would she engage on ideas such as expanding the court or setting term limits for justices. “I personally think we need to win the midterms,” she said.
VENEZUELA VISIT: ROGER CARSTENS, special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, and JIMMY STORY, U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, visited Caracas to discuss “the welfare and safety of U.S. nationals in Venezuela” and an effort to bring back U.S. detainees, CNN’s JENNIFER HANSLER, STEFANO POZZEBON and KYLIE ATWOOD report.
WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE WANTS YOU READ: This Pew Research Center piece by MARK JURKOWITZ and JEFFREY GOTTFRIED about how Twitter is the most-used social media site for journalists, but not for a majority of the public. The piece notes that Facebook is still the most widely used social media site for Americans overall. White House deputy press secretary ANDREW BATEStweeted out the piece with a waving hand emoji.
WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE DOESN’T WANT YOU TO READ: Voters in the swing state of Wisconsin are reading this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story ahead of the holiday weekend.
“Independence Day gas prices are forecast to be the most expensive ever for the July Fourth holiday. Gas prices are 64 percent more expensive than they were a year ago, according to AAA. The auto club group also found the average lowest airfare is 14 percent more than last year, coming in at $201 per ticket,” the piece said. “Midrange hotel rates are about 23 percent more than last year, with the average lowest nightly rates coming in at $244/night.”
A PASSION FOR FASHION: In a meeting with QUEEN LETIZIA of Spain, first lady JILL BIDEN wore an OSCAR DE LA RENTA floral dress, CNN’s KATE BENNETT noted on Twitter:
WHAT NEERA IS READING: White House staff secretary NEERA TANDEN tweeted about the new book, “Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell,” by longtime Republican operative and Trump critic TIM MILLER. “Looking forward to reading this book by my entertaining and brave friend,” she wrote.
BE PATIENT!: POLITICO published the Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe on May 3, but Secretary of Health and Human Services, XAVIER BECERRA, said the administration needs more time to craft its response to the official ruling released Friday.
“It takes a little time,” he said today. “It was a long decision and it did upend 50 years of precedent and so you want to make sure that what you do is, as I said, within the confines of the law. We’re not interested in going rogue and doing things just because.” h/t ADAM CANCRYN,who you can follow here.
HITTING THE LEFT: Some progressive members of Congress, including Sen. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-Mass.) have urged the Biden administration to open up abortion clinics on federal land.
Jean-Pierre poured cold water on that idea today. “We understand the proposal is well intentioned, but here’s the thing: It could actually put women and providers at risk,” she told reporters aboard Air Force One as the president traveled to Spain for the NATO summit. In states where abortion is now illegal, women and providers who are not federal employees could potentially be prosecuted in those scenarios, she said. “There’s actually dangerous ramifications to doing this.” A Warren spokesperson declined to comment on her remarks.
Buttigieg’s interview with NBC News’ LESTER HOLT tonight at 6:30 EST.
Biden aides seek to unlock Afghan reserves without enriching Taliban (WaPo’s Jeff Stein)
G-7 agrees to explore price cap on Russian oil (POLITICO’s Giorgio Leali and Hans Von Der Burchard)
Juul Says FDA Mishandled Its E-Cigarette Application (WSJ’s Jennifer Maloney)
First lady LADY BIRD JOHNSON loved wildflowers. Her admiration for them led to her beautification projects and hand-painted floral state service.
“Ugliness is so grim,” Johnson said. “A little beauty, something that is lovely, I think, can help create harmony which will lessen tensions.”
The West Wing Playbook team would have to agree!
A CALL OUT — Think you have a more difficult trivia question? Send us your beston the presidents with a citation and we may feature it.
Edited by Eun Kyung Kim.