FSFP President John Bonifaz recently appeared in an interview to discuss the organization’s statement urging Attorney General Merrick Garland to resign from his post for failing to hold Trump and his associates accountable for the January 6th insurrection and for other potential federal crimes. The statement, accompanied by a new petition drive, argues that Attorney General Garland’s inaction endangers the rule of law. Free Speech For People, a nonpartisan legal advocacy nonprofit, is now calling for his immediate resignation.

The following is the full transcript from that interview:

Today, Free Speech For People issued a statement calling on Attorney General Merrick Garland to resign for his failure to hold Trump and his associates accountable for the various crimes they may have committed, including the incitement of the January 6 insurrection, as well as for the actions that Attorney General Garland’s department has taken to shield Trump from accountability.

We issued a call on then Attorney General Garland in February when he became Attorney General, along with a coalition of other organizations, urging that he start an independent task force to investigate Donald Trump and his associates for all federal crimes they may have committed. The independent task force would have been an opportunity for the Attorney General to demonstrate that he was going to allow the chips to fall where they may, and to ensure that the rule of law is applied to everyone, even former Presidents.

But we have seen no action whatsoever since that call for an independent task force, and in fact, the evidence for Trump needing to be held accountable was there the day that Merrick Garland took office as Attorney General. Donald Trump was named as Individual One in the conspiracy charge leveled against his private attorney, Michael Cohen, in a case dealing with the defrauding of the United States and a conspiracy to violate federal campaign finance laws. His lawyer, Michael Cohen, went to jail, federal prison, for those charges. He was named, Donald Trump, as Individual One in that indictment. And the only reason he did not face prosecution himself at the time is because he was President. And there’s a DOJ policy that a sitting President cannot be indicted. Now, leaving aside our disagreement with that policy, he’s no longer President of the United States. All the evidence that was put forward in that case that resulted in Michael Cohen being indicted and convicted and sent to jail is evidence that can be presented in a court against Donald Trump. There’s no more need for fact finding in that case, no more evidence that needs to be gathered.

Further, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in his report, identified ten different incidents of obstruction of justice that Donald Trump was engaged in, in obstructing the Special Counsel’s investigation into whether or not the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election. Robert Mueller testified before Congress after issuing that report that the policy of the Department of Justice did not allow for a sitting President to be indicted. But he left it very clear to the Congress that after he’s out of office, that that possibility exists for him to be prosecuted for those counts of obstruction of justice. That too is a clear example of a matter that has all the evidence before it. Attorney General Garland has all that he needs there with respect to those counts of obstruction of justice in order to proceed.

Then we come to the insurrection itself on January 6th, which Donald Trump incited, leading to the seditious attack on the US Capitol to stop the certification of his electoral defeat in November of 2020. This attack is a serious attack on our democracy and our constitution. And the longer that we wait for Donald Trump and his associates to be held accountable for their role in the January 6th insurrection, the more dangerous it becomes for our democracy and our Constitution.

There may be some who say that, well, Attorney General Garland needs to be given more time. But there’s been no indication whatsoever that he’s dealing with higher level people who were involved in leading and planning this insurrection. There’s been plenty of focus on the lower level people who stormed the Capitol, but not on those who incited and led the insurrection, starting with the Inciter-in-Chief, Donald Trump.

There are these actions that the Attorney General has taken to shield Donald Trump from accountability. They’ve in fact gone to court to stop the release of a memorandum that has yet to see the light of day that was issued by the office of legal counsel in the Department of Justice under Bill Barr, to Bill Barr prior to the release of the Mueller Report. And the Barr Justice Department argued that it was privileged and should not be released. That memo likely has incriminating evidence demonstrating the kind of coverup that the Barr Justice Department engaged to prevent the public from really knowing the truth about the obstruction of justice Donald Trump engaged in. And now we have the Garland Justice Department hiding that memo from the US public, despite a federal judge’s order. They’ve sought to stay that order, and they’re appealing the decision to stop the memo from coming to the public. That we don’t understand as anything other than an effort to shield Donald Trump from his accountability.

And finally, there’s the role that the Garland Justice Department is playing in the case brought by E. Jean Carroll, who has alleged rape by Donald Trump against her, and then Donald Trump went out and engaged in defamatory statements about her while he was President. And the argument  that Donald Trump’s Justice Department took during that time was that he was making those defamatory statements in his role as President of the United States, dealing with this entirely private action. And now we have Attorney General Garland’s Justice Department doing the very same thing, and making the very same arguments that the role of the President of the United States was involved here, and therefore his liability in that defamation case is shielded because of it. We don’t understand that to be anything other than an effort to shield Donald Trump from accountability.

So, for all of these reasons, we do not think Attorney General Garland is up for this job. He’s had a career as an appellate court judge, a distinguished career in other ways. But for this particular job at this particular moment in time, with democracy on the line, our constitution on the line, we need an Attorney General who’s going to enforce the rule of law against everyone, including the former President of the United States.

There’s a very dangerous precedent that will be set if Donald Trump and his associates are not held accountable for the various federal crimes they may have committed. It will show anyone who comes to public office in the future as President, or elsewhere, to a high level of government, that they too can be shielded from liability for committing these kinds of crimes. That they too can engage in insurrection, can defraud the United States, can obstruct justice and not be held accountable. And that is a move not toward democracy, but toward autocracy. That is a road that shreds the Constitution, and places us in an environment that’s very dangerous for the rule of law. 

So this is exactly why we need a Justice Department that will independently exercise its responsibility, and engage in investigating and prosecuting where necessary any and all individuals associated with inciting the insurrection and committing all the various crimes that may have occurred during the Trump administration.