Skip to content

Garland laments ‘unprecedented’ GOP attacks on Justice Department and vows not to be ‘intimidated’

‘An attack on the judicial process itself,’ Garland tells Judiciary Committee

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland is seen during a break in testimony at the House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland is seen during a break in testimony at the House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland condemned conservative attacks against the Justice Department on Tuesday, sparring with Republican lawmakers and declaring the department would “not be intimidated.”

His appearance before the House Judiciary Committee prompted confrontational exchanges with some of his most ardent Republican critics, as the hours-long hearing touched on the criminal prosecutions against former President Donald Trump and a dispute about audio recordings of a special counsel’s interview with President Joe Biden.

The GOP-controlled panel, along with the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, voted last month to recommend holding Garland in contempt of Congress. House Republicans voted after the attorney general declined to release the audio. They have a transcript of the interviews.

Hur was interviewing Biden in a case involving his handling of classified materials. The investigation found Biden retained classified materials after serving as vice president, but Hur opted not to bring charges against the president.

Garland criticized the contempt effort and said some lawmakers were pushing for contempt to get sensitive law enforcement information for no legitimate purpose, adding that “releasing the audio would chill cooperation with the department in future investigations.”

“I view contempt as a serious matter. But I will not jeopardize the ability of our prosecutors and agents to do their jobs effectively in future investigations,” he said.

The attorney general described “unprecedented” attacks, including threats to defund the special counsel prosecuting Trump and threats of violence directed at the career civil servants.

Garland said they will continue to do their jobs “free from political influence.”

“And we will not back down from defending democracy,” he said.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., a vocal Trump ally, accused Garland of dispatching a former senior DOJ official to work for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whose office brought a case against Trump. Trump was found guilty on 34 felony charges of falsifying business records last week.

The former DOJ official, Matthew Colangelo, was hired to be part of Bragg’s office and gave the opening statements at the trial.

“Colangelo makes this remarkable downstream career journey from the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and then pops up in Alvin Bragg’s office to go get Trump. And you’re saying that’s just a career choice that was made,” Gaetz.

“I did not dispatch Mr. Colangelo anywhere,” Garland responded.

In opening remarks, Garland described claims that the jury verdict in the New York trial was controlled by the Justice Department as a “conspiracy theory” and “an attack on the judicial process itself.”

The hearing comes as House Republicans have sought to wield their power in Congress to defend Trump. That includes a recommendation by House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, to use appropriations bills to curtail prosecutions against Trump.

One appropriations rider pitched by Jordan would prohibit funds from being used to consult, advise or direct state prosecutors and state attorneys general “in the civil action or criminal prosecution of a former or current President or Vice President brought against them in state court.”

Democrats said the hearing was not an attempt at proper oversight.

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., pushed back at Republican arguments that the department is geared against conservatives, pointing out that federal prosecutors have brought criminal cases against Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on committee, said the hearing was an “attempt to flog the Biden administration’s attorney general and to create an outlet to spew more ridiculous conspiracy theories.”

Recent Stories

Wyden wants more Medicaid funding to keep obstetric units open

Supreme Court’s redistricting decision could hurt map challengers

Does Joe Biden need a miracle or just a bit of good luck?

Graves decides not to run after Louisiana district redrawn

Garland won’t face contempt of Congress charge over Biden audio

Hold on to your bats! — Congressional Hits and Misses