GOP Shreds Garland Over Trump’s Claim the Attorney General Orchestrated Criminal Actions Against Him

In testimony, Garland is put on his heels as he defends his justice department, asserting no role in any legal action.

Attorney General Garland testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Department of Justice on Capitol Hill, June 4. AP

At a highly charged House hearing Tuesday, Republicans demanded that the Department of Justice provide communications it has had with the local district attorneys involved in prosecutions against President Trump.

Attorney General Garland was brought before the Judiciary Committee to address Republicans’ claims that the justice department “has become politicized and weaponized” under Mr. Garland’s leadership. 

The hearing also touched on topics ranging from President Biden’s son to Republican complaints about a Manhattan judge, Juan Merchan, who oversaw the recent prosecution of Trump for falsifying business records relating to hush money paid to an adult film actress, Stormy Daniels

Mr. Garland characterized the current Republican salvo against him as “only the most recent in a long line of attacks on the justice department’s work.”

“It comes alongside threats to defund particular investigations, most recently the special counsel’s prosecution of the former president,” Mr. Garland said. “It comes alongside false claims that a jury verdict in a state trial brought by a local district attorney was somehow brought by the justice department.”

In his opening remarks, Mr. Garland also addressed Republicans’ complaints concerning the department’s policy of not releasing audio recordings of interviews with people it is investigating.

House Republicans have become interested in this Justice Department policy as it relates to special counsel Robert Hur’s interview with Mr. Biden, which was conducted during his investigation into Mr. Biden’s possession of classified documents.

Mr. Garland explained that it would  “chill cooperation with the department in future investigations and it could influence witnesses’ answers if they thought that the audio of their law enforcement interviews would be broadcast to Congress and the public.”

Republicans bristled at the explanation and reaffirmed their demands that Mr. Garland release all audio, saying they are unable to tamp down speculation that the transcripts have been edited without the audio.

In his testimony, Mr. Garland noted that Mr. Hur confirmed that the transcript provided to congressional Republicans was accurate and had only been edited to remove repeated words like “I” or “um” owing to Mr. Biden’s stutter, though Republicans have insisted that such stuttering could be used as evidence of Mr. Biden’s mental state. Mr. Garland also said he has not listened to the recordings.

Republicans also backed Trump’s claim that the justice department pulled the strings on the Manhattan district attorney’s office’s criminal case against him.

“You’ve told us that it’s a dangerous conspiracy theory to allege that the Department of Justice is communicating with these state and local prosecutions against Trump,” Congressman Matt Gaetz said. “You can clear it all up for us right now. Will the Department of Justice provide to the committee all the documents, all the correspondence, between the department and Alvin Bragg’s office and Fani Willis’s office, and Letitia James’s office?”

Mr. Garland said it’s not true that “a jury verdict in a state trial, brought by a local district attorney, was somehow controlled by the justice department.” 

“That conspiracy theory is an attack on the judicial process itself,” Mr. Garland said.

Mr. Gaetz reiterated his demand for the department to provide any and all correspondence, before saying, “You’re actually advancing the very dangerous conspiracy theory that you’re concerned about.”

Mr. Gaetz went on to claim that there was an appearance of “impropriety” because Judge Merchan’s daughter is the president of a political consulting firm that has worked with Democratic campaigns.

“I’m sorry, I don’t agree with anything you just said but I’m not going to comment” on it, Mr. Garland said, once again being interrupted by Mr. Gaetz, who left the hearing shortly after speaking. 

Mr. Gaetz then launched into another accusation that Republicans have made in an effort to discredit Trump’s conviction in New York, alleging that Mr. Garland “dispatched” a justice department official, Matthew Colangelo, to work with the New York City prosecutors.

Mr. Garland denied Mr. Gaetz’s allegation, saying that it’s false and that “I did not dispatch Mr. Colangelo anywhere.”

Congressional Democrats rebuffed Republican claims that the justice department has been “weaponized,” noting that the department also has ongoing prosecutions against the president’s son, Hunter, as well as against two prominent Democrats, Senator Menendez and Congressman Henry Cuellar.

“You can be the former president of the United States, but if you commit crimes, you will be held responsible. That’s his problem,” Congressman Adam Schiff said. “That’s the problem of all of my Republican colleagues right now, and that is they’re about to nominate a convicted felon, and they don’t know how to cope with that.”

Mr. Garland also defended his decision to appoint a special counsel, Jack Smith, to oversee the justice department’s investigation of Trump, saying, “I appointed somebody who is not a political appointee.” 

“Somebody who was independent, nonpartisan with a record of career experience as a prosecutor. That seemed to me the perfect resume,” Mr. Garland said.

Congressman Jim Jordan then asked whether he requested the job and whether anyone else had asked to have him appointed on Mr. Smith’s behalf. Mr. Garland responded by saying, “This is not a job — I don’t think anybody asks for.”

Related to one of the cases Mr. Smith is overseeing against Mr. Trump, Mr. Garland said that the claims circulated by conservatives and Republicans that the FBI raid on Trump’s residence, Mar-a-Lago, was an assassination attempt were “dangerous.”

“As the FBI has explained, the document that’s being discussed is our standard use of force protocol, which is a limitation on the use of force and which is routinely part of the package for search warrants,” Mr. Garland said.

The claim that the use of force authorization, which is standard procedure for the FBI, amounts to an assassination attempt has proliferated in the conservative press — even though Trump was not present and he and his legal team were warned that a raid was imminent.

The New York Sun

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