Politics Fallout for Trump's political targeting: Top DOJ appointee to resign, AG Garland announces probe
Opinion: Merrick Garland has no plans to become the anti-Barr
Elie Honig writes to anyone hoping that former Attorney General William Barr's replacement, Merrick Garland, will methodically undo the deep structural harm done by his predecessor: don't hold your breath. Thus far, Garland has been too timid in his approach, and he seemingly has no plans to become the anti-Barr. During his first three months in office, Garland already has had several opportunities to reverse the specific actions and miscalculations of his predecessor.
Chuck Schumer, Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi and Bill Barr Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images
The Justice Department's top national security official, John Demers, is reportedly amid the torrent of revelations surrounding the agency's forceful seizure of phone data from House Democrats during the Trump administration. Demers, a Trump appointee, was the longest-serving official at the Department of Justice from the previous administration.
On Thursday, the New York Times that the Trump Justice Department undertook an extensive investigation in 2017 and 2018 into at least a dozen members of the House Intelligence Committee, subpoenaing their computer and phone records from Apple and Microsoft, both of whom were put under a gag order, which prevented the companies from speaking out. According to , the agency demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses specifically from Apple.
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
The probes apparently sought to root out the source of confidential information leaks regarding potential communications between Trump officials and Russia in advance of the 2016 general election. Some have speculated that the probe aimed to snuff out lawmakers who may have fed information to the press regarding Trump-Russia collusion.
The of truth surrounding the probe has sparked outrage amongst Democratic lawmakers.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Tuesday that the aggressive seizure of House members' records goes "even beyond Richard Nixon," suggesting that DOJ's investigation amounts to a constitutional violation that exceeds that of the Watergate scandal.
"Richard Nixon had an enemies list," the House Speaker said during a CNN interview. "This is about undermining the rule of law."
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.
Attorneys General Bill Barr and Jeff Sessions, who led the DOJ under Trump, have both denied any knowledge of the sweeping investigation. Barr Politico on Friday that he was "not aware of any congressman's records being sought in a leak case" during his time as attorney general, adding: "I never discussed the leak cases with Trump. He didn't really ask me any of the specifics."
Pelosi still demanded that they both testify under oath.
"How could it be that there could be an investigation of members in the other branch of government and the press and the rest too and the attorneys general did not know?" the House Speaker asked. "So who are these people and are they still in the Justice Department?"
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., Pelosi's doubts.
"Don't buy it," he said during a Sunday CNN interview. "That's not the way the department works. I know from my experience on the Intelligence Committee that for special matters — whether it involves the members of Congress or senior members, you know, in the press — this would go to the attorney general's office."
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.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the Trump DOJ's behavior more broadly.
"This is a gross abuse of power and an assault on the separation of powers," they wrote in a joint statement. "This appalling politicization of the Department of Justice by Donald Trump and his sycophants must be investigated by both the DOJ Inspector General and Congress."
The senators added: "Former Attorneys General Barr and Sessions and other officials who were involved must testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath. If they refuse, they are subject to being subpoenaed and compelled to testify under oath."
Other Democrats have called for a probe into the Justice Department itself, arguing that the seizures indicate a widespread breakdown of transparency and accountability. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., currently the chair of the House Intelligence Committee and one of the many lawmakers targeted in the probe, called on the agency's inspector general to initiate an inquiry into Trump's "weaponization of law enforcement."
Why Biden's Justice Department Is Backing Trump-Era Positions
Why Biden's Justice Department Is Backing Trump-Era PositionsMeanwhile, some of the department’s other positions simply seem to run counter to the White House’s own agenda. The same day that President Joe Biden tweeted the Senate must pass the Equality Act and outlaw discrimination on the basis of gender orientation and sexual identity, news broke that the DOJ had written in a June 8 filing that it can “vigorously” defend the right of private religious schools to do just that.
"Though we were informed by the Department in May that this investigation is closed, I believe more answers are needed, which is why I believe the Inspector General should investigate this and other cases that suggest the weaponization of law enforcement by a corrupt president," Schiff in a Thursday statement.
The department's Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, has an investigation into the department's conduct following a request from Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. In a statement on Monday, Attorney General Merrick Garland said he has also directed Monaco to "evaluate and strengthen the department's existing policies and procedures for obtaining records of the Legislative branch."
Merrick Garland Would’ve Been a Great Justice. He’s Not a Great A.G. .
Moving Merrick Garland off the federal bench to make him Attorney General seemed like a stroke of genius at the time. He’d gained a reputation over more than 20 years as a fair-minded judge, liked and respected by all those who dealt with him. Who better to become the nation’s top law enforcement officer at this troubled time of division than a man whose ability to bind up the nation’s wounds had been tested in the courts of law? For Democrats,For Democrats, his appointment had the added allure of sticking it to Mitch McConnell, the GOP leader who had trashed the norms and traditions of the Senate to personally deny Garland a seat on the Supreme Court in 2016.