Garland defends DOJ against attacks: ‘This must stop’

Last updated on June 12, 2024

Attorney General Merrick Garland called the increasing attacks against the Department of Justice “dangerous to our democracy” in a Washington Post op-ed published Tuesday morning.

In the piece, Garland defended the DOJ against recent threats made by allies of former President Donald Trump to defund the work of special counsel Jack Smith, who is prosecuting Trump on charges of amassing classified documents and blocking an investigation into the matter as well as attempting to overturn the 2020 election. Garland described a department that was facing conspiracy theories and threats of violence “like never before.”

“Continued unfounded attacks against the Justice Department’s employees are dangerous for people’s safety,” Garland writes. “… This must stop.”

Garland never calls out the former president by name. But he pointedly criticizes several false claims circulated by Trump and his circle in the wake of his New York criminal conviction last month, including the allegation that the DOJ manipulated “a case brought by a local district attorney and resolved by a jury verdict in a state trial.”

The attorney general leaves little doubt that he is referring to Trump’s New York hush money trial, where Trump targeted the family members of Justice Juan Merchan and, since his conviction, has pushed congressional Republicans to investigate Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Garland, who has fought to position himself and his department on a reputation of impartiality, also refuted conspiracies that the DOJ is using its work to influence politics.

“Such claims are often made by those who are themselves attempting to politicize the department’s work to influence the outcome of an election,” Garland continues.

The op-ed paints a portrait of a DOJ chief increasingly willing to go on offense amid rising concerns about the safety of his employees. He condemns threats to “bully and intimidate” the department’s public servants — including law enforcement officers.

Garland makes an identical argument to federal prosecutors in Trump’s classified documents case, who recently warned that the former president’s assertions about an approval to use deadly force increase the risk of danger for FBI agents involved with the search of Mar-a-Lago or connected to the prosecution. The Florida judge overseeing the pending criminal case denied a similar gag order request on procedural grounds.

Trump has a yearslong history of singling out members of the DOJ — dating back to Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, two FBI employees who recently settled a federal lawsuit stemming from the leak of their anti-Trump texts to the news media.

In his most direct remarks yet about the ongoing blowback facing the department from the left and right, Garland said the “short-term political benefits” of such tactics pose a long-term risk to the country. He reiterated that the department does not select its targets “because of their last name, their political affiliation, the size of their bank account, where they come from or what they look like.”

To Garland, that has meant appointing three special counsels to investigate President Joe Biden — the man who nominated him — his son, Hunter Biden, and Trump. A jury is currently deliberating in Hunter Biden’s criminal case on federal gun charges.