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US Attorney General Garland terms Republican ‘attack’ on DOJ officials ‘dangerous’September 21, 2023
Washington, Sep 21 (IANS) US Attorney General Merrick Garland has stoutly defended his tenure under President Joe Biden and said some Republican Congressmen were targeting career officials, especially in the Department of Justice (DOJ), which is “dangerous”.
“We will not be intimidated. We will do our jobs free from outside interference. And we will not back down from defending our democracy,” Garland said on Wednesday while testifying before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on “Oversight of the US Department of Justice” on Capitol Hill in Washington.
In his opening remarks, Garland took GOP criticism of his tenure head-on — arguing that some Republicans’ efforts to target career officials are “dangerous” at a time when threats against public servants are on the rise, media reports said.
Garland is appearing for the first time before legislators since special counsel Jack Smith indicted Trump for both his handling of classified documents after leaving the White House as well as his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
He is testifying before the House Judiciary Committee headed by Jim Jordan, Republican from Ohio, Wednesday in a high-stakes hearing where GOP reps are attacking him on his department’s aggressive handling of criminal probes into former President Donald Trump while going soft on President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden.
The DOJ has also been relentlessly pursuing other cases against Trump. Hunter Biden has been accused of taking bribes from a Ukrainian energy company Burisma when Biden was Vice President while he was sitting on the board of the company and promoting their projects.
“The fix is in,” chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said as he opened the hearings saying, “Even with the face-saving indictment of Hunter Biden last week, everyone knows the fix is in.”
Jordan accused Garland several times of “slow walking” the Hunter Biden investigation to benefit President Biden.
Jerry Nadler, the Democratic ranking member of the committee, in his opening statement, alleged that “extreme MAGA Republicans have poisoned our vital oversight work” in an effort to divert attention from the legal troubles the former president was facing, ABC News reported.
Garland denied he was ever directed to charge Trump by the President following comments by former President Trump that Biden directed the Attorney General to act. “No one has told me to indict,” Garland said, “and in this case, the decision to indict was made by the special counsel.”
Garland’s testimony also follows special counsel David Weiss, also appointed by Garland, who indicted Hunter Biden on felony gun charges after a plea deal between Weiss and Hunter Biden’s lawyers fell through in July earlier this year. Hunter Biden was indicted for procuring a gun illegally under the influence of cocaine.
Garland was peppered with questions about the timeline of the Hunter Biden investigation. Jordan levied several allegations about Hunter Biden and Burisma — the Ukrainian gas company on which Hunter Biden was a board member, accusing the DOJ of letting prosecutors “slow walk” the probe, ABC noted.
The Attorney General said that he gave Weiss full authority and independence to bring the Hunter Biden case as he saw fit. “One more fact that is important, and that is that this investigation is being conducted by Mr. Weiss, an appointee of President Trump,” Garland responded. “You will, at the appropriate time, have the opportunity to ask Mr. Weiss that question.”
Garland also pushed back Republicans’ claims that the DOJ is seeking to tilt political scales in Democrats’ favour leading up to the 2024 election. He vehemently denied charges he has taken any directives from President Biden or the White House with respect to any criminal investigation.
“Our job is not to take orders from the president, from Congress, or from anyone else, about who or what to criminally investigate,” Garland said.
“As the President himself has said, and I reaffirm today: I am not the President’s lawyer. I will add that I am not Congress’ prosecutor. The Justice Department works for the American people. Our job is to follow the facts and the law, and that is what we do.”
Several Republicans on the judiciary committee led by Jordan have on previous occasions threatened to impeach Garland over the department’s handling of the criminal probe into Hunter Biden.
Jordan testified before Congress quoting IRS whistleblower’s claims the President’s son received preferential treatment from investigators. Both Garland and Weiss, in letters to Congress, have disputed the whistleblower’s claims.
Democrats on the committee asked Garland about the impact of threats to federal agents and calls from some Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates to defund the FBI. “Defunding the FBI would leave the United States naked to the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party, to the attacks by Iranians on American citizens and attempts to assassinate former officials up to the Russian aggression, ” Garland said.
“Defunding the FBI would also lay the US naked to North Korean cyber-attacks, to violent crime in the US, which the FBI helps to fight against, to all kinds of espionage, to domestic violent extremists who have attacked our churches, our synagogues, our mosques and who have killed individuals out of racial hatred,” he said, adding he “cannot imagine the consequences of defunding the FBI, but they would be catastrophic”.