A Washington Post investigation has found that more than a year had passed before prosecutors and FBI agents launched a probe into the role of the Trump White House in instigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Upon being sworn in as attorney general, Merrick Garland’s immediate priority was to find and prosecute those who were responsible for the insurrection in which thousands of Trump supporters gathered around and inside the Capitol to protest the results of the 2020 election. This event left five people dead and is considered a very dark day in American history.

Two months after the attack, federal agents had already conducted 709 searches, charged 278 rioters and identified 885 likely suspects, as reported by then-acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin.

Sherwin’s office was responsible for prosecuting those associated with the insurrection. On the day after the attack, Sherwin announced that he would not rule out the possibility that Donald Trump himself played a part in the events.

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“We are looking at all actors, not only the people who went into the building. If the evidence fits the elements of a crime, they’re going to be charged,” said Sherwin in an interview.

However, the investigation was conducted at an extremely slow pace. Worries about appearing partisan and acquiring enough evidence to charge Trump and his allies all contributed to the FBI’s hesitance to blame the former president.

After Trump announced his bid for the 2024 presidential race, Garland handed the case over to Special Counsel Jack Smith. Smith made history earlier in the month as the first official to bring criminal charges against a former president, as he indicted Trump on 37 counts for mishandling classified documents.

Garland and those investigating the events of January 6 wanted to “start with the people on the ground” and work their way up from there. However, there were consequences to this tactic, as failure to interview White House aides for so long could have resulted in lost or destroyed evidence.

Now, almost three years later, the Department of Justice is facing some backlash for holding off on investigating Trump for so long. Last July, subpoenas to former Trump aides and those involved in the fake elector’s scheme were finally issued, sparking a stream of witness testimonies and court-ordered documents to be obtained.

Last week, Trump pleaded not guilty in Miami to the charges brought by Smith for his alleged mishandling of national security information. Witnesses in the January 6 investigation were testifying at the same time, signaling that Smith’s probe into the wrongdoings of the former president will not end in Florida.

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