DOJ must permanently bar insurrectionists from public office: Ethics group

"The DOJ must take action to stop, by all means available under the law, those who broke their oath to support our Constitution from being entrusted with public office again."

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SOURCECommon Dreams

A government watchdog group on Thursday urged U.S. Department of Justice officials to bar any state or federal official who participated in the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol from ever holding public office.

In a letter addressed to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, and U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C. Matthew M. Graves, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) cites the 14th Amendment’s Disqualification Clause, which says that those who took an oath to uphold the Constitution and who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or gave “aid or comfort to the enemies” of the U.S. or Constitution are barred from holding any federal or state office.

“This provision will not enforce itself,” said letter signatory and CREW president Noah Bookbinder in a statement.

The letter points out that, in court filings, the DOJ has referred to the January attack as an “insurrection” and has also charged some of the key actors in the event with “seditious conspiracy.”

Enforcement of the Disqualification Clause, CREW argues, would simply fall under the DOJ’s own stated commitment “to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law.”

“Specifically,” the letter states, “during plea negotiations, DOJ should encourage appropriate defendants to voluntarily resign their office if they are currently [in] a state or federal office and agree not to seek future office.”

“The DOJ must take action to stop, by all means available under the law, those who broke their oath to support our Constitution from being entrusted with public office again.”

The department should additionally “be instructed to seek involuntary agreements that defendants will not hold or seek public office” as needed, the letter adds.

When change of plea hearings take place for those involved in the event, CREW’s letter calls on the DOJ to “insist that these individuals admit at their change of plea hearing to having previously sworn an oath to support the Constitution and to having subsequently committed an act of insurrection (or giving aid or comfort to others who did).” Doing so, the group argues, “could prove important in case a defendant’s disqualification needs to be enforced in ancillary federal proceedings or in a different forum.”

A further tool at DOJ attorneys’ disposal is to ask courts to “impose special conditions of probation or supervised release that prevent individuals who violated the Disqualification Clause from seeking or holding public office for the full term of their sentence,” says CREW.

“It’s time for us to get serious about protecting our democracy,” said Bookbinder.

He added that “the DOJ must take action to stop, by all means available under the law, those who broke their oath to support our Constitution from being entrusted with public office again.”

Among those who’ve recently been targeted under the Disqualification Clause is Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina.

In a Wednesday filing with the North Carolina State Board of Elections seeking Cawthorn’s disqualification, two voters in the state, represented by Free Speech for People, said they have “reasonable suspicion that Cawthorn was involved in either planning the attack on January 6, or alternatively the planning of the pre-attack demonstration and/or march on the Capitol with the advance knowledge that it was substantially likely to lead to the attack, and otherwise voluntarily aided the insurrection.”

CREW’s letter came as the House committee investigating the January 6 attack continues its probe, including by sending additional subpoenas this week to individuals who allegedly sought to “disrupt or delay the certification of electoral votes and any efforts to corruptly change the outcome of the 2020 election.”

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