OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
Republicans are blasting U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland for politicizing the Justice Department, citing several instances where he appears to have done so after being in office less than a year and after President Joe Biden pledged Garland would ‘restore integrity’ to the agency.
In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, reflected on Garland’s memo to U.S. attorneys and the FBI in which he instructed them to assist local law enforcement in targeting parental behaviors at school board meetings.
“My gut tells me that the main focus was this was politics. And that’s what the Justice Department has been under Garland,” he said.
“Joe Biden criticizes the Georgia election law, a few months later they sue Georgia. Joe Biden criticizes the Texas pro-life law. Eight days later, they sue Texas,” Jordan continued.
“Joe Biden’s White House is working with the National School Boards Association … and, five days later, he issues the memorandum,” he added.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, hass echoed Jordan, telling Garland: “Since your confirmation, in less than a year, the department has moved as far left as it can go,” adding that “you’ve politicized the department in ways it shouldn’t be.”
Notably, Garland has denied that decisions made by him on behalf of the Justice Department are being done for political considerations.
And in nominating Garland, Biden said: “More than anything, we need to restore the honor, the integrity, the independence of the Department of Justice in this nation that has been so badly damaged.”
In his opening statement ahead of his confirmation hearings in February, Garland said his job is to enforce “policies that protect the independence of the Department from partisan influence in law enforcement Investigations.”
But Republicans counter that he’s not living up to his own standard, as the Washington Examiner reported further:
Garland’s early October directive to the FBI was released a few days after the National School Boards Association argued to Biden that “the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes” and called upon DOJ to review whether the PATRIOT Act “in regards to domestic terrorism” could be deployed.
Garland revealed DOJ and the White House communicated about the NSBA letter before he issued his memo, and emails from the NSBA showed it was in touch with the White House prior to publishing. NSBA ended up withdrawing and apologizing for the letter.
House Republicans say an FBI whistleblower email shows the agency is using “counterterrorism tools” to monitor threats against school board members and teachers, which the GOP says conflicts with testimony by Garland.
“The FBI has never been in the business of investigating parents who speak out or policing speech at school board meetings,” an FBI spokesperson told the Examiner.
And while Garland has said that the DOJ is continuing to stand by the earlier findings by the department’s inspector general who concluded that fired Deputy Director Andrew McCabe lied under oath to agents investigating a leak, he nevertheless reversed McCabe’s firing by then-AG Jeff Sessions and has agreed to settle McCabe’s lawsuit against the department that included a monetary payout.
“The agreement allowed McCabe to retire and receive an estimated $200,000 in missed pension payments and $539,000 in attorney’s fees for his lawyers,” the Examiner said, while also granting McCabe his full pension.
In addition, the Justice Department found in July that former President Donald Trump’s tax records should be released to a Democrat-run House committee because the panel’s request “plainly serves legitimate legislative objectives, even if some individual legislators might have other reasons for wanting access to the information.”
Also, last month after Biden said he believed the Justice Department should prosecute anyone who has ignored a congressional subpoena like Democrats have done in the past, he responded, “Yes, I do.” And within a few weeks, the DoJ sought and obtained a grand jury indictment against former top Trump political adviser Steve Bannon on a contempt of Congress charge, which is exceedingly rare.