by Julie Kelly
An already overworked grand jury in Washington, D.C., presumably will be very busy in the days to come.
For nearly 18 months, at the behest of Joe Biden’s Justice Department, grand juries in the nation’s capital have issued a nonstop flood of criminal indictments against Americans who protested Joe Biden’s election on January 6, 2021; hundreds of people who peacefully entered the building as police stood by face serious felony charges punishable by decades in prison. Even those accused of low-level misdemeanors such as “parading” in the Capitol have been sentenced to months in jail.
Now, following last week’s arrest of Democratic Party activists disguised as staffers for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” for unauthorized incursions into Capitol buildings, one must assume prosecutors are hastily preparing similar indictments against Colbert’s team to reflect a fair handling of the two incidents. Colbert’s employees, after all, were caught not once but twice unlawfully entering areas of the Capitol complex—in Justice Department parlance related to January 6, that is known as a “restricted area”—on June 16.
Matthew Graves, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia prosecuting more than 850 Americans for mostly nonviolent participation in the Capitol protest, reportedly will consider additional charges against the Colbert cabal.
This is welcome news from a Justice Department credibly accused of selectively enforcing the law based on the political affiliation of a defendant. To that end—not that Graves or his highly creative and occasionally dishonest prosecutors will take any advice—here is a partial list of offenses his office should consider to bring some parity between January 6 protesters and Colbert’s Capitol crashers:
Obstruction of an official proceeding: The post-Enron law intended to prevent the destruction of evidence in an ongoing criminal investigation has been weaponized for the first time against political protesters. Biden’s Justice Department has charged at least 240 Americans with obstruction of an official proceeding; several, including so-called QAnon shaman Jacob Chansley, who pleaded guilty to obstruction after spending nearly 10 months in solitary confinement despite video showing police letting him in the Capitol and advising him to protest peacefully, face years in prison.
If true, that means Colbert’s producers came far closer to a member of Congress on June 16, 2022, than anyone did on January 6, 2021. Further, most of the individuals charged with obstruction of an official proceeding in the Capitol breach probe entered the building after it had been evacuated; this was not the case for Colbert’s unauthorized crew. And since the language in the obstruction statute specifically refers to anyone who “corruptly . . . obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so,” which is precisely what Colbert’s large contingent tried to do that afternoon, they must be charged accordingly.
Civil Disorder: Dozens of January 6 defendants have been charged with civil disorder for allegedly interfering with law enforcement’s efforts to discharge their duties on January 6. Colbert’s crew thwarted Capitol police’s attempts to keep them out of areas considered off-limits in two separate buildings on June 16; they roamed the hallways after hours, hunting down and banging on the doors of other Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. James Jordan (R-Ohio). That conduct by staffers working for a known supporter of Democrats must be considered a form of political disturbance, not a professional endeavor—a clear-cut case of civil disorder.
Violent entry, disorderly conduct, entering and remaining in a restricted building, and “parading” in the Capitol: Unlike Colbert’s crew, only charged with one count of illegal entry, hundreds of January 6 protesters face all of those charges in a single complaint. At least 210 defendants so far have pleaded guilty to the parading offense; Biden’s prosecutors in most instances have sought prison time of up to six months for what is considered a petty offense. Since Colbert’s insurrectionists engaged in the same behavior—perhaps even worse since they targeted Republican lawmakers while avoiding detection by police—the Justice Department should at the very least add a “parading” charge.
Conspiracy: According to Biden’s Justice Department, numerous Americans, including alleged members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, conspired to breach the Capitol on January 6. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and others insist Donald Trump led the conspiracy. So, what about Schiff’s role in the June 16 insurrection? Did Schiff conspire with Colbert’s crew to gain entry into the Longworth building after it was closed to harass and intimidate Schiff’s political foes in Congress? What if the lawless band of Democratic Party activists pretending to be comedians confronted a tiny, unprotected Boebert that night? One shudders to think of what could have happened.
Colbert’s gang has already been far luckier than those ensnared in the government’s abusive prosecution of Capitol trespassers. None has been subjected to predawn raids by dozens of armed FBI agents using SWAT vehicles to bash down the front doors of political dissidents. By all appearances, they were booked and released early Friday morning.
But this grave threat to our democracy cannot stand. Colbert’s insurrectionists who undermined the rule of law, obstructed official government business, and threatened the safety of members of Congress must be met with the swiftest and harshest punishment possible.
That is, after all, what the American people have been told since January 6, 2021.
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Julie Kelly is a political commentator and senior contributor to American Greatness. She is the author of January 6: How Democrats Used the Capitol Protest to Launch a War on Terror Against the Political Right and Disloyal Opposition: How the NeverTrump Right Tried―And Failed―To Take Down the President. Her past work can be found at The Federalist and National Review. She also has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The Hill, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, and Genetic Literacy Project. She is the co-host of the “Happy Hour Podcast with Julie and Liz.” She is a graduate of Eastern Illinois University and lives in suburban Chicago with her husband and two daughters.
Photo “January 6 Riot” by TapTheForwardAssist. CC BY-SA 4.0.