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Merrick Garland Thinks His Justice Department Is Above Criticism

Merrick Garland
Image CreditPBS Newshour/YouTube

The attorney general’s complaint about criticism comes with an implicit threat: stop attacking the DOJ—or else.


Attorney General Merrick Garland published an op-ed in the Washington Post Tuesday, declaring that unfounded attacks on the Justice Department “must end.” It’s strange and unsettling for the chief law enforcement officer of the United States to write such a thing. Whatever the merits of his argument, it doesn’t come off as an argument. It comes off as a threat.

Garland opens with the case of a man recently convicted for threatening to bomb an FBI field office. That’s a crime, of course, and it has no place in American society. Garland goes on to say that in recent weeks the Justice Department has seen “an escalation of attacks that go far beyond public scrutiny, criticism, and legitimate and necessary oversight of our work. They are baseless, personal and dangerous.”

You would think, then, that he’s referring to attacks like the bomb threat. But he’s not. In the very next sentence, he says these attacks “come in the form of threats to defund particular department investigations, most recently the special counsel’s prosecution of the former president.”

So for Garland, a bomb threat is apparently the same as threats by lawmakers to defund the obviously corrupt investigation of former President Donald Trump by DOJ special counsel Jack Smith.

Garland then says that some of these “attacks” come in the form of “conspiracy theories crafted and spread for the purpose of undermining public trust in the judicial process itself.”

But there’s no law in America against spreading “conspiracy theories”—just ask the entire corporate media that spent years spreading outlandish conspiracy theories about how Trump was a Russian agent. What’s more, many Americans now sincerely believe (with good reason) that in light of the ongoing lawfare against Trump, the judicial process itself is indeed compromised and undeserving of public trust. If these Americans are spreading what Garland thinks are “conspiracy theories” for the purpose of persuading their countrymen that the Justice Department is untrustworthy, that is their right as Americans.

But Garland doesn’t appear to think so. Throughout his op-ed, he elides the stark difference between specific threats of violence (like a bomb threat) and First Amendment-protected speech (like disagreeing with Merrick Garland). We should expect nothing less from the attorney general who smeared concerned parents who speak out at school board meetings as “domestic terrorists.” But what Garland alludes to is bone-chilling, because he’s saying that “unfounded” criticism of a weaponized and politicized Justice Department is the equivalent of a bomb threat.

Setting aside that such criticism is well within the bounds of protected speech, it’s also not true that it’s “unfounded.” For example, Garland says the DOJ is being attacked with “false claims that a case brought by a local district attorney and resolved by a jury verdict in a state trial was somehow controlled by the Justice Department.” He’s referring here to the case Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg brought against Trump in New York, winning a conviction against the former president last month on murky, convoluted charges that will likely be overturned on appeal.

When Garland decries accusations that the case was “somehow controlled by the Justice Department,” he’s referring to the fact that one of his own attorneys, Matthew Colangelo, left the DOJ and three days later joined Bragg’s office to work on the Trump case—a pretty obvious indication that Garland’s Justice Department was in fact controlling, or at least involved in, the Bragg case.

To suggest as much is, in Garland’s view, a “conspiracy theory” that “must end.” That’s what his office said to the useful idiots at Politico like Kyle Cheney, who dutifully carried water for Garland this week by posting on X about how the DOJ informed House Republicans that it searched for emails between Colangelo and Bragg’s office but found none.

The outlandish implication of Cheney’s tweet is that Colangelo left the Justice Department to work for Bragg without ever talking to anyone who worked there. As my colleague Mollie Hemingway commented, “I guess if they didn’t use their public emails to discuss anything, Colangelo didn’t really go to Bragg’s office, and it’s a ‘conspiracy theory’ to talk about it.”

Because he refuses even to acknowledge these things, Garland can make absurd statements like the Justice Department “makes decisions about criminal investigations based only on the facts and the law. We do not investigate people because of their last name, their political affiliation, the size of their bank account, where they come from or what they look like.”

Bur of course we all know that’s not true. Just consider the classified documents case against Trump. Both Biden and Obama improperly removed classified documents from the White House, and neither was prosecuted by their successor’s Justice Department. It’s also obviously true that Garland refuses to investigate people because of their last name, as evidenced by special counsel David Weiss allowing the statute of limitations to expire on Hunter Biden’s alleged financial crimes connected to his employment by the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma.

The most dangerous aspect of Garland’s op-ed is how he lumps things together. He claims that “using conspiracy theories, falsehoods, violence and threats of violence to affect political outcomes is not normal.”

Using conspiracy theories and falsehoods to affect political outcomes is absolutely normal in American politics—especially among Democrats and their courtesans in the corporate press. They’ve turned it into an art form. Of course Garland isn’t talking about those conspiracy theories and falsehoods. He’s only talking about the ones that come from Trump supporters, which to him are the real danger.

But the real danger here is an attorney general who thinks he’s above criticism, and who feels comfortable issuing public threats that we’d better cut it out—or else.

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