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House Republicans plan probe of jail conditions, Justice Department treatment of Jan. 6 defendants

From the Washington Times - June 16, 2022

House Republicans plan to launch an investigation, if they win a majority in November, into the jail conditions of those being held on charges related to the Jan. 6 riot.

Lawmakers have said there is a double standard in how inmates charged in connection to the riot are being treated and alleging a political motivation for the treatment.

“In the minority, we’re very limited in the tools we have to compel responses from the Department of Justice,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican. “If we’re in the majority, I do believe the Judiciary Committee is the appropriate place to use compulsory tools to get those responses.”

Several GOP lawmakers, including those who sit on the House Judiciary Committee, have raised the issue of Jan. 6 defendants being denied due process and being subjected to harsh jail conditions as they await their trials.

Rep. Andy Biggs, Arizona Republican, said he believes those charged over the riot are being held for political purposes because they’re associated with supporting former President Donald Trump.

Mr. Biggs, who is among a small group of Republicans who have aggressively voiced these concerns, said getting more of his colleagues on board could move towards a potential investigation.

“I guess if we could get momentum, then maybe we could begin an investigation,” Mr. Biggs said.

The Judiciary Committee, which has oversight authority over the Justice Department, would likely be the venue for a congressional probe into the treatment of Jan. 6 prisoners.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, said he didn’t see the point of looking specifically into the conditions Jan. 6 defendants face when it is the same conditions faced by other inmates. He ruled out a probe into the treatment of Jan. 6 prisoners while he was running the committee.

“We have to make sure that all prisoners are treated decently and that we have inspections of all our jails from time to time,” Mr. Nadler said. “There’s nothing special about the January 6 prisoners other than others who are in jail pending trials. [They’re] like anybody else in jail pending trial.”

The Justice Department announced this month that more than 300 people have pleaded guilty to charges related to the Capitol attack, including 59 who pleaded guilty to felonies.

Mr. Biggs is often joined by Mr. Gaetz, along with Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Paul Gosar of Arizona, and Louie Gohmert of Texas spearheading allegations that some Jan. 6 defendants are mistreated.

Mr. Gohmert said his goal is to get more Republicans on board with the issue and tap into some of the concerns once their party has more authority in Congress.

“We’re hoping that by continuing to shine the light on this disgusting aspect of U.S. injustice that more and more will realize ‘Gee, that could be me. That could be my constituents,’” Mr. Gohmert said.

Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, didn’t rule out looking into the experiences of the rioters, but he said there were several other issues related to Jan. 6 that are also worth exploring.

If Republicans take back the House in November, Mr. Jordan is expected to chair the Judiciary Committee.

“We’ve had over half a dozen FBI whistleblowers come forward to talk to us about a number of issues, including concerns around Democrats and the Justice Department’s activities regarding January 6, so we’re taking all that very seriously,” Mr. Jordan said.

Jan. 6 defendants have alleged unbearable conditions in jail, including being subjected to beatings, solitary confinement and lack of proper nutrition and hygiene.

Angela Morss, the mother of Robert Morss who was transferred from the District jail to several other facilities, said her son suffered “horrendous” conditions while being held in Washington.

“His rations often smelled like cleaning fluid. There were pubic hairs included in the small portions of his food. The drinking water was visibly dirty. Mold was visible in cells, and roaches lived among them,” Ms. Morss said at a recent Capitol Hill press conference with GOP lawmakers.

Mr. Morss, who is currently detained at the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Virginia, is charged with seven felonies and two misdemeanors connected to the Capitol riot.

He is also facing allegations of assaulting a law enforcement officer while on the grounds on Jan. 6.

Mr. Gohmert said the Jan. 6 rioters are subjected to Gulag-like conditions. He said he wants people who committed crimes to be punished but treated fairly.

“I want everybody to be treated the same,” Mr. Gohmert said. “That’s what I was about as a prosecutor, as a lawyer. I was even appointed to defend a guy to appeal a capital murder conviction. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t a Republican, but he deserved a proper trial.”

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