Politics Opinion: Merrick Garland has no plans to become the anti-Barr
Rachel Maddow Demands Merrick Garland 'Clean Up' DOJ
The Department of Justice is seeking to substitute itself for former President Donald Trump as the defendant in a defamation case.Maddow said on her Tuesday show that the DOJ had been "corrupted" under former Attorney General William Barr, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump.
During his nearly two years as US Attorney General, William Barr did unprecedented damage to the Justice Department. He misled the public (about former special counsel, among other things), he abused the department's power to protect former President Donald Trump and his political allies ( former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Trump confidante Roger Stone) and he eagerly parroted Trump's most dangerous political talking points (on the purported risk of massive voter fraud, ).
But to anyone hoping that Barr's replacement, Merrick Garland, will methodically undo the deep structural harm done by his predecessor: don't hold your breath. Garland plainly hopes to restore the Justice Department to its rightful station as a unique bulwark of independence in our government. But he has been too timid in his approach so far, and he seemingly has no plans to become the anti-Barr.
The slow leak of Trump's corruption is a problem for Biden's DOJ
Under Bill Barr, the DOJ targeted House Democrats and their families Donald Trump, Merrick Garland and Joe Biden Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images
During his first three months in office, Garland already has had several opportunities to reverse the specific actions and miscalculations of his predecessor. Yet, each time, Garland has declined to directly undo Barr's machinations, and has opted instead to take a conservative (lower-case "c") middle path reflecting his own institutionalist approach to managing the department.
Most recently, Garland's Justice Departmentto reverse course on one of the most egregious abuses of the department under Barr: its attempt to take on the legal defense of Trump in a defamation suit filed by magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll.
In November 2019, Carrollthat Trump falsely accused her of being a liar after she publicly claimed that Trump had raped her in the mid-1990s. In September 2020, after a state judge denied Trump's motion to dismiss, the White House that Justice Department take over Trump's legal defense in the Carroll case, and Barr agreed.
Opinion: Bill Barr's despicable conduct is now on full display
Elie Honig writes that the latest revelation that former Attorney General Bill Barr revived an investigation into purported leaks by House Democrats even after the investigative trail had gone cold is further proof of his despicable conduct in office.There's no question that Barr was fundamentally dishonest (to put it charitably). Federal judges nominated to the bench by presidents of both political parties have found that Barr "lack(ed) ... candor"; that his public and in-court statements were "disingenuous," "incomplete," "inconsistent" with truth and "called into question Attorney General Barr's credibility.
As Carroll herself succinctly, "TRUMP HURLS BILL BARR AT ME." Barr's Justice Department its bizarre intervention by concluding, somehow, that when Trump allegedly defamed Carroll by calling her a liar, he "was acting within the scope of his office or employment at the time of the incident out of which the claim arose."
A federal judgeBarr's tortured rationale, holding that "while commenting on the operation of government is part of the regular business of the United States, commenting on sexual assault allegations unrelated to the operation of government is not."
Barr's Justice Department then filed. Garland now has taken up that appeal, to distance the department from Trump's alleged misconduct toward Carroll but adhering to the legal position previously taken under Barr (and rejected by the district court judge).
Merrick Garland’s Job Is To Root Out Trump-Era Corruption at DOJ. He’s Failing.
The attorney general has not been forthcoming with information about what exactly happened in this case. Why?At the time of this writing, the story exists in the classic, precarious state of a burgeoning Washington scandal—things are clear enough to make people angry but vague enough to raise legitimate questions about how bad this was, and about whether we know the material details or there are other proverbial shoes to drop.
Garland's appeal is the latest in a string of decisions that make clear he does not intend to categorically reverse Barr's actions. In May, for example, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, a federal judge,that Barr was "disingenuous" in his public summary of the Mueller report -- nothing new there, as and another (this one Republican-appointed) already had lambasted Barr for his dishonest public statements about Mueller's work.
Jackson also found that department's description of an internal legal memo that Barr purportedly consulted in concluding that Trump had not committed obstruction of justice included "incomplete explanations" intended to "obfuscate the true purpose of the memorandum."
Garland could have let Jackson's ruling stand and produced the disputed internal memo to the public.
Instead, the Justice Department under Garland -- apparently seeking to preserve the secrecy of its internal deliberations --part of Jackson's ruling. In so doing, Garland bypassed an opportunity to draw a sharp line of distinction with Barr and to make clear that he will have no part in defending the prior attorney general's "disingenuous" representations intended to "obfuscate."
Merrick Garland targets new Republican voting laws after 2020 election
Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday announced that the Justice Department would be scrutinizing a raft of new voting laws passed by Republican-controlled states in the wake of the 2020 presidential election. © Provided by Washington Examiner Garland, in a speech addressing the Justice Department's role in the history of voter integrity, said that under his oversight in the next month, the department would double the number of attorneys in the Civil Rights Division investigating the protection of voter rights.
While we can't know everything happening behind closed doors at the Justice Department, we have seen no public indication that Garland intends to revisit other abuses that marked Barr's tenure. Barr's Justice Department turned a blind eye andeven to open a criminal investigation into potential criminality by Trump, former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and others relating to the Ukraine scandal that resulted in Trump's first impeachment.
There is nothing to indicate Garland has picked up the mantle. Nor is there any public indication that Garland has sought to reconsider or update the longstanding, much-malignedagainst indicting a sitting president. Garland has also offered no public sign that he will revisit the shaky ethics determination that permitted Barr not to recuse himself from the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, even though Barr already had that Mueller's theory on obstruction of justice was "fatally misconceived."
One of Garland's most consequential decisions lies ahead: what to do about Mueller's findings regarding Trump's potential obstruction of justice? On Friday, former White House counsel Don McGahnbehind closed doors to the House Judiciary Committee. According to the , McGahn was a key witness to one of Trump's most flagrant acts of obstruction: in June 2017, Trump instructed McGahn to fire Mueller, during the pendency of Mueller's investigation (an incident which the former president denies happened).
The DOJ has a plan to protect voting rights. It might not be enough.
Merrick Garland’s speech is a cry for congressional action.In a speech on Friday, Attorney General Merrick Garland laid out the DOJ plan to protect voting rights and announced that the department’s Civil Rights Division would begin staffing up to aid enforcement efforts.
Months later, when the media reported on Trump's effort to dispatch Mueller, TrumpMcGahn into the Oval Office and told him to deny the story and to create a false document to support the denial. Trump telling McGahn to fire Mueller, "even though I had the legal right to do so."
The Mueller report has now largely receded in the public memory, and the chances of Trump ever facing consequences for his myriad alleged abuses of power are dwindling. It will fall to Garland to decide whether the Justice Department meaningfully considers criminal obstruction of justice charges. All of Trump's potentially obstructive conduct laid out in detail in the Mueller report -- and the McGahn incident is just one among many -- is still within the five-year statute of limitations. An obstruction charge, or any charge, against a former president undoubtedly would be enormously difficult and controversial; but then, prosecutors don't do the job to take the easiest way out.
When he took office, Garland plainly understood the daunting nature of the rehabilitation job that awaited him. In his opening statement at his February 2021 confirmation hearing, Garlandthat "[t]he president nominates the attorney general to be the lawyer -- not for any individual, but for the people of the United States." Garland to pursue "[p]olicies that protect the independence of the department from partisan influence in law enforcement investigations."
Yet, thus far, Garland has been reticent in his pursuit of those policies. He could have gone either of two routes to get the Justice Department back on its rightful footing: affirmatively undo Barr's many abuses, or take the conventional, institutionalist middle path and hope for the best. Garland has chosen the latter approach. But that may not be enough to fix the grievous damage inflicted by his predecessor.
Dems Rage at Biden DOJ: Your Moves ‘Make No Sense’ .
When Merrick Garland was sworn in as attorney general in March, Democrats couldn’t wait for him to overhaul a Department of Justice that had started acting like former President Donald Trump’s personal law office. But three months into his tenure, many Democrats aren’t exactly seeing a turn of the page. While they have largely praised Garland’s first steps on key issues like voting rights, the attorney general has also presided over a series of decisions that have lawmakers frustrated or downright angry. “I am very concerned by what I had hoped would be a departure from some of the worst behaviors of the Trump administration,” said Rep.