Headline RoundupApril 16th, 2024

SCOTUS Questions Justice Department's Handling of Jan. 6 Prosecutions

Summary from the AllSides News Team

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments regarding federal charges of obstruction leveled against protestors involved in the January 6 Capitol riot.

Details: Outlets across the spectrum agreed that the Justices appeared likely to rule against the Justice Department, potentially impacting the prosecutions of more than 250 Jan. 6 protestors. The arguments centered around whether the obstruction law is applicable to the protestors.

The Law: The law in question was passed in 2001 following a scandal where Enron destroyed documents in an attempt to conceal fraud. The law reads, “Whoever corruptly — (1) alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record, document, or other object, or attempts to do so, with the intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding; or (2) otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.” The Justice Department argued the obstruction law extends to congressional proceedings, such as the certification of the results of a presidential election, but the conservative-majority court appeared doubtful of this interpretation.

How the Media Covered It: The Washington Times (Lean Right bias) labeled the DOJ’s interpretation of the obstruction law “aggressive.” Newsweek (Center bias) focused coverage around criticism toward Justice Clarence Thomas, whose wife reportedly encouraged efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Outlets across the spectrum noted that a ruling against the DOJ could impact similar charges leveled against former President Donald Trump.

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