Attorney General Merrick Garland faced the House Judiciary Committee yesterday and defended himself against GOP charges of incompetence and malfeasance. Broadly accused by Republicans of playing politics with the Justice Department and enabling a “two-tiered” justice system with biases against former President Donald Trump, Garland refuted all such innuendo.
Especially sharp from the GOP side was the characterization of Garland as an errand boy for President Biden, who in a popular MAGA narrative is utilizing the DOJ to persecute (and prosecute) Trump, his top political rival. Denying that this is anything close to his role, Garland testified plainly that “I am not the President’s lawyer” and asserted the independence of his decision-making on numerous fronts, not least the Trump and Hunter Biden prosecution.
[NOTE: The Attorney General not being “the President’s lawyer” is a distinction Garland, under fire, felt required reiteration. It’s a distinction succinctly expressed in the pinned tweet of former United States Attorney Joyce Vance, who quotes former President Barack Obama to illustrate the point: “I appointed you but you don’t serve me,” Obama told Vance and her colleagues at the DOJ. “You serve the American people. And I expect you to act with independence and integrity.”]
The first time President Obama met with his US Attorneys, he told us, “I appointed you but you don’t serve me. You serve the American people. And I expect you to act with independence & integrity.” None of us ever forgot that.— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) December 29, 2017
Garland faced pressure from a GOP that he faced during his confirmation hearing, during which Republican senators notably expressed their “desire” and “insistence” that Garland — on assuming the post — leave in place the Trump appointee David Weiss, who was investigating Hunter Biden. Garland promised then that Weiss would “be continued in that role.” Garland was confirmed by the Senate in a bipartisan 70-30 vote.
Recently the AG elevated Weiss to Special Counsel on the Hunter Biden case.
Garland got an unlikely boost from Republican Congressman Ken Buck, who told him he had no way to avoid criticism on the Weiss/Biden business. “In three different opportunities where you could have acted, you would have been criticized either way, whether you acted or did not act in that situation,” Buck said, implying that the action Garland did take — leaving Weiss in charge — was proper.
Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff spent his time with Garland agreeing with Buck, saying that had Weiss been removed the Republicans would have expressed “outrage.” (Garland said they’d “insisted” he be kept on, so there is little doubt of this.) Schiff told Garland that under the circumstances he did “exactly the right decision.”
AG Garland reveals to @RepAdamSchiff that GOP lawmakers demanded he retain Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney David Weiss for the Hunter Biden probe—ironically, the same Weiss they now criticize for leniency. pic.twitter.com/vZ6ixwLM32— House Judiciary Dems (@HouseJudiciary) September 20, 2023