GOP Makes AG Garland Pay
House Republicans engaged in a heated exchange with Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday, accusing both him and the Justice Department of exploiting their authority to benefit President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.
According to Newsmax, Garland’s appearance before the House Judiciary Committee marked the first time in two years, coinciding with a momentous juncture in the department’s history. He is currently overseeing two cases, one involving former President Donald Trump, the first of his kind to face criminal charges, and another involving the son of the current president.
Led by Representative Jim Jordan, the chairman of the committee, Republican members set the tone by alleging that the Justice Department is displaying favoritism toward the Biden family while targeting Trump.
Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, stated in his opening remarks, “There’s one investigation protecting President Biden. There’s another one attacking President Trump. The Justice Department’s got both sides of the equation covered.”
Garland, choosing his words carefully, defended the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, which employs over 115,000 individuals, at a time when threats against agents and their families are increasing. He emphasized, “Our job is not to take orders from the president, from Congress, or from anyone else, about who or what to criminally investigate. I am not the president’s lawyer. I will also add that I am not Congress’s prosecutor. The Justice Department works for the American people.”
The central focus of the Republican’s questioning revolved around allegations that the Justice Department had interfered in the long-running investigation into Hunter and that the lead prosecutor did not possess the necessary authority to bring charges against him.
Early in the hearing, Republican Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana asked Garland if he had discussed the Hunter investigation with anyone at FBI headquarters. Garland responded after a long pause, saying, “I don’t recollect the answer to that question,” later adding, “I don’t believe that I did.”
Garland reiterated that he deliberately kept himself at a distance from the details of the investigation to fulfill his promise not to interfere.
This testimony followed Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s launch of an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, with a specific focus on the Justice Department’s handling of the Hunter case.
While the White House dismissed the impeachment inquiry as baseless and emphasized policy discussions, Hunter’s legal team took action against GOP critics by filing a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service. This move came after two IRS agents raised whistleblower claims about the investigation’s handling.
Republicans argue that both the Trump and Biden administrations have failed to thoroughly investigate allegations against Hunter, which range from his role on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma to his tax filings in California and Washington, D.C.
The investigation into Hunter had been under the purview of U.S. Attorney David Weiss, a Trump appointee from Delaware, whom Garland retained to ensure the probe’s independence from political influence. Last month, Garland granted Weiss special counsel status, giving him broad authority to investigate and report his findings.
Garland explained to Republican Representative Dan Bishop of North Carolina that he refrained from investigating the investigation to avoid interfering. Weiss has been overseeing the case’s day-to-day operations since 2018, and another special counsel, Jack Smith, manages the Trump investigation, with Garland maintaining final authority as attorney general.
Garland stated that no one at the White House directed him or other senior Justice Department officials regarding the handling of the Hunter investigation. He declined to disclose the frequency or nature of his communication with the newly appointed special counsel, citing the ongoing investigation.
Meanwhile, Democrats attempted to shift the focus to other criminal justice issues, including domestic terrorism, hate crimes, and gun violence. Representative Jerry Nadler, the committee’s top Democrat, criticized Republicans for promoting “long discredited conspiracy theories” about Hunter and a purported laptop, alleging that their goal was to divide the country and undermine the government’s credibility.
Democrats worked to counter what they viewed as Republican misinformation, defending Trump, who is currently the leading Republican contender to challenge President Biden in the upcoming 2024 election. They argued that Republicans were attempting to divert attention from Trump’s legal challenges and turn the spotlight on President Biden.
Recently, Weiss used his newfound authority to indict Hunter on federal firearms charges, potentially leading to a trial as the 2024 election approaches. Jordan and other Republican committee chairs launched an investigation into Weiss’s handling of the case, which was initiated in 2018 following claims by two IRS agents that the Justice Department improperly interfered with their work.
One of the IRS agents, Gary Shapley, testified to Congress that Weiss had stated in October 2022 that he was not the ultimate decision-maker regarding charges against Hunter. However, two FBI agents who were present at the meeting disputed this claim, stating that they had no recollection of Weiss making such a statement.