“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”
Those were the passive-aggressive words of Darth Vader just before he used the “dark side of the Force” to suffocate an inferior officer who dared to question his power in George Lucas’ 1977 film, “Star Wars.”
Vader didn’t like being challenged. Apparently, the Justice Department doesn’t either.
And just as Lord Vader abused his power to prove he could, the Justice Department isn’t far behind, living up to its deteriorating reputation by doing something that reeks of arrogance and revenge.
Only days after journalists and lawyers made the point the Jan. 6 Capitol breach should not be called an insurrection or an act of “sedition” since there were no such charges, DOJ changed the narrative by suddenly adding the rarely charged crime of seditious conspiracy to 11 defendants.
The day before the anniversary, former White House Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon observed, “Merrick Garland has said this is the largest criminal investigation in the history of the FBI. … They brag about it. I just want to repeat, nobody’s been charged with insurrection. One year after. Nobody’s been charged with sedition.”
On Jan. 6, Fox News’ Laura Ingraham said, “How many times have you heard all those buzzwords used in the press just in the last few days? But here’s a question. How many times do words like insurrection, sedition, or treason” appear in Biden’s own DOJ indictments against the Jan. 6 rioters? The answer: zero.”
When Ms. Ingraham asked George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley if he thought that fact was an indication of how DOJ sees the case, he said, “The FBI arrested hundreds. They investigated thousands. And they did not find a conspiracy for insurrection or rebellion. They didn’t charge those crimes. They didn’t charge anything like them. What they found was a protest that had become a riot. And that’s also what the American people see.”
In response to a Wall Street Journal Opinion piece that highlighted the lack of insurrection charges, Fox News’ Brit Hume tweeted, “Here’s a thought. Let’s base our view on whether 1/6 was an ‘insurrection’ on whether those arrested are charged with insurrection. So far, none has been.”
Well, DOJ has fixed all that.
Seditious conspiracy under 18 U.S.C. §2384 requires “two or more persons to conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States.”
To satisfy these elements, DOJ filed an indictment that says defendants bought firearms on their way to Washington, planned to set up “quick reaction force” teams at the U.S. Capitol and entered the Capitol wearing camouflage.
But those plans didn’t materialize. Paragraph 68 says the purchased firearms were “dropped off” at a Hilton located in Virginia.
This is problematic since conspiracies require more than just planning. They require an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. Also, “abandonment” or “withdrawal” from a completed conspiracy are valid affirmative defenses. The so-called “weapons” actually taken to the Capitol included tactical gloves, vests, goggles, walkie-talkie radios, chemical spray and fatigues.
Paragraph 111 says some defendants drove and parked “golf carts near the Capitol.”
Paragraph 119 says defendants then entered the Capitol with camouflage and shouted while, at times, grabbing and pushing police officers. Later that night, they exchanged messages such as, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” and “We have only begun to fight.”
But as we all know, that wasn’t the beginning. It was the end of what DOJ is now calling a seditious conspiracy — Americans armed with camouflage clothing, golf carts and walkie-talkies aimed to “overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States.”
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio captured the essence of this ridiculous debacle on Jan. 12 when he accurately observed that, “you’re not going to convince most normal and sane people that our government last year was almost overthrown by a guy wearing a Viking hat and speedos.”
DOJ will not convince “normal and sane” jurors that any of this was anything more than a riot. But then again, this is Washington, not Hollywood or even Death Star, so who can expect normalcy or sanity?
These charges were added because, like Lord Vader, DOJ found its critics’ “lack of faith disturbing,” which really means it wanted to teach a lesson to those who refused to bow to its omnipotent power.
The timing of the charges is transparent, and in making its point, what was once an honorable agency is continuing to lose public trust by creating the appearance it cares more about revenge than the pursuit of justice.