Attorney General Merrick Garland is under pressure to prosecute Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021 U.S. Capitol insurrection, but a move against the former president could complicate many of the hundreds of other related criminal cases, Politico reports. Even if investigations into Trump and his inner circle are expanded — a slew of grand jury subpoenas and search warrants in recent weeks suggest prosecutors are circling his allies — the momentous decision about whether to charge Trump with a crime is months away, if not longer. If the Justice Department starts assertively mounting a criminal investigation of Trump, it could create delays in other Jan. 6-related trials because defense attorneys for hundreds of defendants could demand access to much of the evidence against Trump as part of the discovery process. “It’s messy. It’s a headache. And it’s a huge undertaking,” said Pace University law Prof. Bennett Gershman, an expert on so-called discovery practices in criminal cases.
Under longstanding Supreme Court precedents, court rules and DOJ policies, defense attorneys for current Jan. 6 defendants could demand almost real-time access to any evidence gathered in a probe of Trump’s actions on and around Jan. 6, arguing that his alleged incitement of the crowd that day — both in person and online — undercuts the culpability of those already charged. Defenders in more than 850 Jan. 6 cases already have sought to obtain tens of thousands of hours of videos found on social media, aired by news outlets, captured by police officers’ body-worn cameras and stationary Capitol surveillance cameras, as well as video and photos discovered on phones and GoPro-style cameras carried by participants in the riot and later seized by the FBI. Organizing that mammoth collection of data, and attempting to index it using facial recognition technology, has proved costly. The main contract for Capitol riot-related data management now stands at nearly $15.8 million.