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Split over whether Merrick Garland should name a SPECIAL COUNSEL to probe Trump's election overturn

Attorney General Merrick Garland is facing public pressure to name a special counsel to probe the events surrounding Jan. 6th, with former Watergate figure John Dean calling to probe people who 'organized and implemented' the events.

Dean told DailyMail.com the Justice Department where he once served should act on the subject if the agency does not conclude it can mount a wide-ranging probe through the ordinary channels. 

The push comes after new revelations about the Willard hotel 'war room' set up by Trump allies in the hours leading up to January 5th, and claims by event organizers that they had extensive communications with sitting lawmakers and staff.

'I think the Justice Department should handle things internally, but if they’re not inclined to do so they should select a special counsel,' Dean, who served as President Nixon's White House counsel, told DailyMail.com.

'While it is clear they are looking at the lower level people involved in the penetration of the Capitol building on Jan. 6th, there has been no indications there looking at the people who organized and implemented the effort to cancel the certification process by Congress. Nor does there appear to be any investigation of the Willard “war room“ crowd!' he added.  

Former White House counsel John Dean called for a wide-ranging probe of those who 'organized and implemented' Jan. 6th, and said the attorney general should name a special counsel if there isn't such an investigation underway

Dean, who also served as associate deputy attorney general, wrote in an email that it was his 'fervent hope' DOJ already has a full investigation going but the public is not aware of it. 

If they 'have decided to not pursue the big fish, and a full investigation, for any reason, then they must select the special counsel to make an inquiry to report to the Attorney General,' he continued.

'If there is a bigger deal in our democracy than a conspiracy to illegally overturn a presidential election, I have no idea what it might be! The undertakings to overturn the 2020 election makes Watergate appear like child’s play,' he wrote. 

Garland said Wednesday the DOJ has not constrained FBI agents 'in any way' in its probe – which he has otherwise declined to elaborate on. 

There are new calls for Attorney General Merrick Garland to name a special counsel to probe Jan. 6th. Robert Mueller (above) served as special counsel for the Russia probe

CNN commentator weighed pros and cons and concluded the scale tipped in favor of a special counsel

Watergate figure John Dean tweeted about a special counsel following a report that Jan. protesters said they coordinated with members of Congress

The House vote to hold Steve Bannon in contempt – along with the House select committee on Jan. 6th's widening probe of Donald Trump's election overturn effort – is prompting new calls for Attorney General Merrick Garland to appoint a special counsel to investigate.  

Biden nominated Garland to the post in part due to his reputation for independence as a top federal judge on a U.S. court of appeals. But the House vote to hold Bannon in contempt places the decision on whether to prosecute the former top White House aide in the lap of the Justice Department. 

Moving against Bannon could subject the department to accusations of politicizing the case – with former President Trump already ripping the House probe as a 'witch hunt.' 

President Joe Biden already had to walk back a comment when he said the Department should prosecute Bannon, prompting DOJ to issue a statement asserting its independence.

A special counsel could operate outside the normal chain with added protections. John Durham, special counsel selected by former AG Bill Barr to look at alleged FBI misconduct, continues his own probe long after Trump left office. 

The push comes amid new revelations about the events in the days preceding the Jan. 6th Capitol riot

'We have a very clear-cut case. I would suspect it is quite possible that Attorney General Merrick Garland will appoint a special counsel to look at this, because the evidence is so clear for a massive Watergate-style attempt to destroy the process of electing a president,' said author and journalist Bob Woodward

Dean tweeted on the topic Monday after a Rolling Stone article quoting Jan. 6th organizers who said anonymously that they held multiple meetings with GOP lawmakers.

'The potential that Members of Congress were deeply involved in the failed Trump Coup is another reason AG Garland must appoint a Special Counsel to investigate Jan. 6th. There are Congressional staff who can testify to the involvement of Members,' he wrote. 

Max Boot, an anti-Trump former Republican columnist, penned an op-ed Tuesday noting a series of existing or potential Trump probes, where he suggested that Garland is farming out cases to local prosecutors when possible 'to avoid politically vexatious cases.'

'That’s why I think Garland needs to appoint a special counsel to thoroughly investigate Trump’s abuses of power; indeed, he should have done so months ago,' he wrote.

'Naturally Trump and his partisans would describe any investigation as a “witch hunt,” but they will make the same accusations against local prosecutors who are also Democrats. That it would still be up to a jury to convict him would provide a measure of political insulation,' Boot continued.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) tried to get Garland to say the Jan. 6 probe won't be limited to 'people in the building that day' – meaning rioters. He called for 'due diligence' by the FBI to look at funders and 'players behind the scenes.'

Garland was typically circumspect. 'The investigation is being conducted by the prosecutors in the US Attorney’s office and by the FBI field office. We have not constrained them in any way,' he answered. 

In the background of any decision is Robert Mueller's Russia probe, which culminated in a report that presented 10 cases of potential obstruction by Trump, but failed to bring any charges. That probe came about when former Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself due to his contacts with the former Russian ambassador to the U.S. – infuriating Trump to this day.

Some lawmakers are frustrated by what the Mueller team was able to produce amid limitations Mueller followed. California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff writes in his new book it was 'heartbreaking' to watch Mueller struggle under questioning during his pivotal 2017 testimony to Congress.  

Former FBI agent Asha Rangappa, a CNN commentator, developed a thread with arguments for and against the idea of a special counsel.

Her first point: 'It's warranted. Contrary to what some have suggested, a conflict of interest is not a requisite for appointing an SC. Appropriate grounds include that an independent prosecutor would be in the "public interest" or that there are "extraordinary circumstances."'

But she notes counter arguments: 'It creates a new space for politicization, as we saw with [former special counsel Robert] Mueller,' and gives potential defendants a 'head's up' they are being investigated.

She said it could fuel attacks on the special counsel, FBI, and the Justice Department 'probably louder and by more people than we are seeing now, which could undermine the eventual fruits of the investigation.'

After sorting through the mixed bag of information, she concludes there are 'many' upsides to a special counsel, while the downsides of a special counsel compared to an internal Justice Department probe are 'about the same.'

Also pushing the issue have been authors Bob Woodward and Rober Costa, whose book, Peril, explores the overturn effort in the 'war room' at the Willard Hotel Jan. 5th.

'That's what we're trying to understand – what's next for Merrick Garland the attorney general, is there going to be a special counsel, especially if Congress can force Bannon to testify,' Costa told MSNBC Tuesday. 

Woodward also raised the idea of a special counsel on CNN last week, after spelling out multiple instances of 'conspiratorial actions.

'We have a very clear-cut case. I would suspect it is quite possible that Attorney General Merrick Garland will appoint a special counsel to look at this, because the evidence is so clear for a massive Watergate-style attempt to destroy the process of electing a president.' 

Backing the idea is Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe, who called for a special counsel who is 'far more effective and less snail-paced than Robert Mueller and very much more disciplined and focused than Ken Starr,' in reference to the Watergate prosecutor whose probe into the Monica Lewinsky scandal and related matters undergirded the Bill Clinton impeachment.

Weighing in against the idea is former House impeachment lawyer Daniel Goldman. 

'There is no conflict of interest that warrants a special counsel. Garland was an apolitical judge until this year. Just because Trump turned the DOJ into his political arm in court does not mean that’s what DOJ is. Garland is perfect to handle this,' he wrote.

Unknown in the case of Bannon not just whether he will be charged, but how long it will take DOJ to decide. The House panel is acting swiftly, with the knowledge that a GOP House takeover would almost certainly end it.

Dean said he had no idea how long a charging decision might take, 'but I cannot think of an instance in recent history where there’s been more pressure on the Department to take action swiftly.'