As a former elected official, I am frequently asked who has the toughest job in America. Most often, I answer either President Biden or New York City Mayor Eric Adams. But after watching three of the hearings of the Jan. 6 committee, I’ve decided that Attorney General Merrick Garland has the most difficult job in America.
Over the next six to nine months, Garland must decide whether he will charge former President Donald Trump with a variety of election law criminal violations. No former president has ever faced criminal charges related to their actions while in office. President Nixon was close to being indicted for a variety of federal crimes in 1974, but that August he announced his resignation.
There is no doubt that by the time the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol finishes its witness presentations, it may have enough criminal evidence to turn over to the attorney general, with a recommendation that he take formal action against Trump. But charging a former president with a crime could further divide an already bitterly divided country, and might inflame the relative handful of crazies who are ardent Trump supporters.
As the hearings come to a close, the media will focus on the fate of the former president, but there are many other people who may wind up in handcuffs in a federal courtroom. The logical targets could be the large group of people who claimed to be presidential electors for Trump in Arizona, Georgia and Michigan, states that Biden won in the 2020 election. Their fake certificates were even sent to the National Archives.
The next potential defendants could be former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and attorney John Eastman. Guliani and his team appeared in multiple courtrooms throughout the country, falsely arguing that the election had been stolen, but those arguments were hollow and failed in more than 60 cases. Eastman is alleged to have created the plot to overturn the counting of the ballots on Jan. 6, which he peddled to Trump on many occasions after the election. Eastman has since invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 100 times.
Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.