As the investigation expands Jan. 6, officials fear the Justice Department’s resources are at a breaking point

WASHINGTON — It is the “most comprehensive investigation” in the history of the Justice Department: the unprecedented manhunt for hundreds of rioters who stormed the US Capitol on behalf of Donald Trump on Jan. 6, 2021, and the criminal probe into efforts to secure the peaceful transfer to stop the power.

It’s also a logistical nightmare.

As cases against Capitol rioters make their way through the court system and a federal grand jury hears testimony about Trump’s role on Jan. 6, some federal officials have expressed concern it could bring the already lengthy Jan. 6 investigation to a breaking point.

Speaking to NBC News over the past few months, more than a dozen sources familiar with the sprawling Jan. 6 investigation expressed varying concerns about whether the resources the Justice Department has allocated to the effort are adequate for such a wide-ranging criminal prosecution investigation is sufficient.

Federal officials have made about 850 arrests in the nearly 19 months since the Capitol attack, but that’s still a small fraction of the more than 2,500 people who entered the building and the hundreds more who committed serious crimes outside , but have not yet been arrested . The vast trove of evidence — whether it’s body cameras and surveillance video, or damning content created by suspects themselves — poses an enormous challenge for a vast bureaucracy operating with technology that’s often behind the times, at best, by a few years.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which is overseeing the Capitol Siege investigation, is also conducting separate investigations into the fake voter scheme and a conspiracy to obstruct the January 6 election certificate, both of which may have been Trump’s actions in the US states touch in the lead up to January 6th as well as on the day of the attack.

Even with the daunting task of advancing these future prosecutions, officers must manage a vast list of cases that must be resolved either through plea bargains or in court, each with their own enormous investigative requirements and process times.

With hundreds of prepackaged cases in the hands of federal law enforcement officials, the pace of arrests has slowed noticeably. Each new case requires new resources from the Justice Department and the FBI, as well as any other law enforcement agency assisting in arrests — which often take place far from the nearest FBI field office — and begins with the defendants’ right to a speedy trial.

Protests as the joint session of Congress confirms the result of the presidential election
Rioters attempt to enter the US Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021.Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images file

The Justice Department has asked for help. In its 2023 budget request, Congress is asking for more than $34 million to fund 130 staffers, including 80 federal prosecutors, to support the “extraordinary,” “unprecedented,” and “complex” investigation.

The Justice Department didn’t get the requested funds in the omnibus spending bill passed in March — it was included in a fiscal 2023 spending bill passed by the House Appropriations Committee last month.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said in an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt this week that he was “confident” the Justice Department could handle the workload no matter what Congress did.

“Obviously we’d like more resources, and if Congress is willing to give us those, that would be very nice,” Garland said Tuesday. “But we have people — prosecutors and agents — from across the country working on this matter, and I have every confidence in their skills, their professionalism and their commitment to this task.”

Others close to the investigation say it is at a crossroads.

“We don’t have the necessary manpower,” an official said, noting that many January 6 participants who will eventually be charged have not yet been arrested in the interests of case management.

Another official said the pressure was “a culmination” of numerous factors, including the need to provide support for the cases now going to trial.

A third official said some of the prosecutors who have been posted to Washington by US attorneys across the country to handle cases of riots in the Capitol will be brought back to their offices.

“It’s kind of a work-in-progress,” the official said.

Former US Attorney Joyce Vance, a legal analyst at MSNBC, said: “People are concerned about the resources. It’s an enormous volume of cases, and that puts pressure not only on the DOJ, but also on the courts and on parole. It puts pressure on the whole system.”

The police are trying to hold back the protesters at the Capitol
Police try to hold back protesters storming the US Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021. Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images file

One reason for hope, sources say, is that a new group of “Term AUSAs,” or temporarily hired US attorneys, will soon join the Capitol Siege Section to provide much-needed relief that could help manage the existing roster and accelerate new cases. It’s just a bonus that the two-year positions appeal to young lawyers who may already be very familiar with the technology and social media platforms that played a big part in the Jan. 6 investigation, an official said.

The Justice Department’s budget request says the Capitol investigation will drain resources from federal attorneys across the country dealing with a variety of other law enforcement challenges.

“This will adversely affect U.S. prosecutors’ ability to fill vacancies and prosecute important cases in other jurisdictions,” the Justice Department said said Congress. “The funding is necessary for the continued pursuit of the growing body of cases related to this violation of the US Capitol, which has left the Department with an immense task of finding and prosecuting those responsible for the attacks.” As the investigation expands Jan. 6, officials fear the Justice Department’s resources are at a breaking point

Fry Electronics Team

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