The criminal investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol has expanded to examine preparations for the rally that preceded the riot, as the Justice Department tries to determine the full extent of any conspiracy to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election victory, reports the Washington Post. A federal grand jury has issued subpoena requests to officials in former president Trump’s orbit who assisted in planning, funding and executing the Jan. 6 rally. The development shows the degree to which the investigation — which already involves more defendants than any other criminal prosecution in history — has moved further beyond the storming of the Capitol to examine events preceding the attack.
Prosecutors and FBI agents must distinguish between constitutionally protected First Amendment activity, such as speech and assembly, and the alleged conspiracy to obstruct Congress or other potential crimes connected to fundraising and organizing leading up to Jan. 6. The task is complicated by the proximity of those two very different types of activities — speech and violence — that occurred within hours of each other and less than a mile apart. The new subpoena demands indicate that the scope of the investigation has widened, after Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged in a speech this Jan. 5, the day before the first anniversary of the attack on the Capitol, to follow the evidence wherever it leads. Garland, who has faced pressure from Democrats and others to more aggressively investigate those close to Trump and the events that preceded the attack on Congress, said that complex investigations like this one take time and are built from the bottom up. “We follow the physical evidence. We follow the digital evidence. We follow the money,” Garland said. “But most important, we follow the facts — not an agenda or an assumption. The facts tell us where to go next.”