Attorney General Merrick Garland pushed back against GOP accusations of political bias in the Department of Justice during testimony Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee.
Garland insisted that “no one” had told him to indict former President Trump, who’s facing dozens of criminal counts in in two cases brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith. The Attorney General appointed Smith this past November to investigate Trump’s involvement in attempts to overturn the 2020 election and his handling of classified documents post-Presidency.
Wednesday’s hearing was being helmed by House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH), who is also Chair of the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, which was created when Republicans took control of the House in January to investigate what Jordan has called called “this weaponization of the DOJ against the American people.”
Amid questioning, Garland rejected allegations from Republicans and an IRS whistleblower that the investigation of Hunter Biden, the President’s son, was tainted by politics. Garland said that he was not interfering with the probe in any way.
Referring to the special counsel he’d appointed in the Hunter Biden case, Garland said that “”if [David Weiss] wanted to bring a case in any jurisdiction, he would be able to do that.”
Garland also repeated numerous times during his testimony that Weiss had initially been appointed by former President Trump, and he, the current Attorney General, kept Weiss in that position when he took over the DOJ.
However, Garland would not explain why he appointed Weiss as special counsel after a plea deal between prosecutors and Hunter Biden fell apart in July.
Garland vehemently objected to accusations of religious discrimination by the DOJ. In a particularly passionate exchange, the Attorney General, with is voice shaking, took exception to the assertion that the Department under his leadership was attacking Catholics.
“The idea that someone with my family background would discriminate against any religious background is so outrageous, so absurd, that it’s hard for me to even answer your question,” Garland insisted, shouting. In his opening statement Garland had grown emotional while describing how his grandmother escaped the Nazi holocaust.
At one point, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) suggested that Garland could be held in contempt of Congress for declining to answer questions about an ongoing investigation.
Garland again pushed back, telling Massie that “the protection of pending investigations and ongoing investigations…goes back to the separation of powers, which gives to the executive branch the sole authority to conduct prosecutions.
A committee member on the Democratic side of the aisle, Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, followed Massie on the panel and swiftly sided with the Attorney General.
“Mr. Attorney General, my colleague just said that you should be held in contempt of Congress. And that is quite rich, because the guy who’s leading the hearing room right now, Mr. Jordan, is about 500 days into evading his subpoena—about 500 days,” said Swalwell, referring to a 2021 subpoena to testify issued to the committee Chair by the then-House Select Committee on the January 6 insurrection.