Investigation

Dems Couldn’t Fire This Trump-Appointed Official. Now He Might Be Prosecuted Over A Trip To Walmart.

Democrats Can't Fire The Trump Appointee Overseeing The Capitol Police. Now He Might Face Criminal Charges For A Laughably Minor Offense.

   DailyWire.com
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

After the January 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol, Democrat leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer replace two members of the Capitol Police’s three-person board of directors with people who have overseen what critics say is the partisan mobilization of Congress’ law enforcement arm.

The final member could not be so easily ousted because he was appointed to a 10-year term by President Donald Trump. Now he could have his career ended by a highly unusual criminal investigation that appears to be targeting him for, of all things, the minor offense of personal use of a government vehicle including an unauthorized stop at Walmart.

J. Brett Blanton serves as Architect of the Capitol, tasked with overseeing the U.S. Congress’ physical campus. That position also makes him, alongside the House and Senate Sergeants-at-Arms, a member of the Capitol Police board. But soon after January 6, he became the target of an investigation that was initially spurred by the General Services Administration and was taken up by an obscure congressional oversight body.

“The Architect is the only thing standing in the way of turning the Capitol Police into Pelosi’s army,” Mike Davis, a former Republican staffer for the Senate Judiciary Committee who now leads the Article III Project, told The Daily Wire. “They’re going to weaponize the Department of Justice to go after the Trump-appointed Architect of the Capitol because his daughter borrowed his car? Biden has turned the Justice Department into a third-world hit squad.”

The Architect of the Capitol office has a little-known inspector general office dedicated to detecting waste in the office. In the past, it has done little: The Government Accountability Office found in 2016 that the IG had a budget of $1.8 million paying for 10 auditors and investigators, yet pinpointed only $7,620 in misspent money in 2015. The current IG is Christopher Failla, who was appointed in 2017 by previous Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers, who in turn was nominated by former President Barack Obama.

On April 27, Failla wrote to congressional overseers in an email obtained by The Daily Wire that “The Architect has been made aware he is under Federal Investigation by the DOJ investigators and he has obtained legal counsel for himself and his family,” noting that “all interviews have been completed by DOJ investigators and AOC OIG Investigators.”

“The case is in the hands of the AUSA who is developing charges based on testimony and evidence obtained through surveillance, video, documentation and witnesses testimony. This evidence will be presented to the Grand Jury as well as an arrangement for Witness to testify,” it continued.

Roll Call, which first reported on the letter in May, also reported on the substance of the apparent underlying investigation in June 2021 — a background that would explain the reference to Blanton’s “family.” It said that in March 2021 — not long after the January 6 riots — someone called a government hotline to report that the car was being driven recklessly at the Tysons Corner mall in Virginia by a woman, and the GSA hotline sent a complaint to the IG.

It would not be possible to criminally prosecute someone for being tied to a car that a citizen claimed was driven poorly. But the black Ford Explorer is supposed to be used only for Blanton’s commute from work to home, Roll Call said, whereas the car allegedly made an “unauthorized stop at Walmart.”

The IG’s assertion that the U.S. attorney was pursuing charges is atypical for when inspectors general catch employees violating minor — and even major — rules and laws, a Daily Wire review of years of various IG reports found. For example, on September 12, the Department of Justice Inspector General said that when it told the DOJ that one of its own prosecutors had been caught sexually assaulting someone, exposing his genitals, and lying to investigators, the DOJ rejected the IG’s referral.

Bill Miller, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Matthew Graves, declined to say if the investigation found anything worse than misuse of a government vehicle or to confirm if Graves has taken or will take the case to a grand jury, telling The Daily Wire “We typically do not confirm the existence of investigations and have no comment.” Public court records do not show that any charges have been brought.

A spokeswoman for IG Failla told The Daily Wire “The Architect of the Capitol Office of Inspector General (AOC OIG) does not confirm or deny the existence of or otherwise comment about ongoing investigations.” Adding to the impression that the probe is still open, no report is posted on its website. IGs often don’t publish investigations until the DOJ has either prosecuted or declined to prosecute.

Blanton’s office did not respond to an inquiry from The Daily Wire. In a June 2021 statement to Roll Call about the driving allegations, his office appeared to try to signal to Democrats that he should not be viewed as a proxy for Donald Trump. “The Architect of the Capitol is selected by a bi-cameral, bi-partisan selection committee and a list of recommended names is submitted to the White House, who returns one nominee to the U.S. Senate for confirmation,” it said.

The Capitol Police have worked closely with prosecutor Graves and congressional Democrats in the wake of January 6. Following the Pelosi-Schumer shakeup of the Capitol Police, all visitors to the historically open-to-the-public Capitol could enter only if they were escorted by staff and showed ID to security, which Republicans feared could be used by Pelosi to snoop on Republicans.

Conservatives said the new security measures were only selectively enforced. In July, Graves’ office said it would not charge members of Stephen Colbert‘s film crew for unlawful entry to the Capitol.

In August, the Capitol Police said that with the blessing of Graves, they would be hiring their own criminal prosecutor — despite the usual separation between prosecutors and police and the legislative and executive branches. The position would handle prosecuting January 6 rioters as well as any misconduct by congress members, the job ad said.

In Graves’ high-crime jurisdiction of D.C., minor crimes routinely go uncharged, and even serious ones often result in lax punishments.

The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Dems Couldn’t Fire This Trump-Appointed Official. Now He Might Be Prosecuted Over A Trip To Walmart.