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Tag: Attorney General

Garland Defends Memo Ordering FBI to Investigate Threats against School Boards

Attorney General Merrick Garland testifies before House Judiciary Committee. Photo: Congress.

By Steve Neavling

Attorney General Merrick Garland told senators on Wednesday that he had no plans to rescind a memo that orders the FBI to investigate threats against educators and school board members. 

The memo was the focus of Garland’s testimony before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which Republicans called on Garland to withdraw the order.

The Oct. 4 memo was intended to curtail threats against school officials, not to police protected speech, Garland told senators, The Wall Street Journal reports.

“The purpose of this memorandum is to get our law enforcement to assess the extent of the problem. And if there is no problem, if states and local law enforcement are capable of handling the problem, then there is no need for our involvement,” Garland said. “This memo does not say to begin prosecuting anybody. It says to make assessments. That’s what we do in the Justice Department. It has nothing to do with politics.”

Republicans continued to criticized Garland. 

“I think most of the American people are just sort of flabbergasted if your answer is you have no regrets about this memo. Is that what you’re telling us? You think this was wise?” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., asked. 

“Senator, the obligation of the Justice Department is to protect the American people against violence, including threats of violence, and that particularly includes public officials. That is still a concern for the department,” Garland responded.

The order came after the National School Boards Association urged President Biden to offer federal assistance as educators are increasingly threatened over their positions on mask mandates and critical race theory. 

Sen. Grassley Urges Attorney General to Appoint Federal Investigator to Review Botched Nassar Case

Sen. Chuck Grassley

By Steve Neavling

Sen. Chuck Grassley is calling on a federal investigation into the FBI’s mishandling of the Larry Nassar case.

Grassley, the top member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Attorney General Merrick Garland should appoint a federal prosecutor or special counsel to examine the botched investigation and potentially pursue criminal charges. 

“Nassar abused hundreds of young athletes while FBI sat on its thumb,” Grassley said in a written statement Friday. “DOJ refused to attend the Judiciary Committee hearing this week to face questions. Attorney General Garland should assign a federal prosecutor or special counsel to uncover what the FBI knew and when, as well as to seek prosecutions of those involved in the cover-up. These brave gymnasts and all Nassar survivors deserve accountability, especially from the Justice Department.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday heard testimony from U.S. gymnasts and FBI Director Christopher Wray, who apologized for the bureau’s handling of the case.

Two months earlier, the Justice Department’s Inspector General concluded that the FBI’s Indianapolis Field Office “failed to respond to the Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required.”

In the meantime, Grassley and his colleagues are working on legislation that would strengthen a federal “child sex tourist” statute that the inspector general said was inadequate. 

Justice Department Seeks to Restore Independence from White House

Attorney General Merrick Garland. (Photo: DOJ)

By Steve Neavling

Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a directive Wednesday that seeks to limit contacts between the Justice Department and the White House, marking a significant departure from the Trump era. 

In the memo, Garland said the Justice Department “will not advise the White House concerning pending or contemplated criminal or civil law enforcement investigations or cases unless doing so is important for the performance of the President’s duties and appropriate from a law enforcement perspective,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

The memo made exceptions for matters of national security and foreign relations. 

The guidelines are in stark contrast to Trump’s White House, which repeatedly sought to influence the DOJ and stay abreast of the department’s criminal investigations and cases.

The wording of the memo is similar to a 2009 memo issued by then-attorney General Eric Holder. Although that memo remained in effect during Trump’s term, he continually violated the language. 

In a related memo on Wednesday, the White House instructed its staff to avoid contact with departments or agencies about investigations unless given approval. 

White Supremacy Is Greatest Threat to U.S., Garland, Mayorkas Testify

Homeland Security Director Alejandro Mayorkas.

By Steve Neavling

The heads of the Justice Department and Homeland Security warned senators Wednesday that white supremacy is the most serious threat facing the U.S. 

In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the departments are cracking down on violent extremism.

“The department is taking a new approach to addressing domestic violent extremism, both internally and externally,” Mayorkas said. 

Garland said the Jan. 6 insurrection was “an attempt to interfere with the fundamental element of our democracy, a peaceful transfer of power.”

“I have not seen a more dangerous threat to democracy than the invasion of the Capitol,” Garland said. 

He added, “We will use every appropriate tool at our disposal to deter and disrupt such criminal acts and to bring their perpetrators to justice.”

The Justice Department has charged more than 430 people in connection to the deadly riot. 

Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy called the threat “uniquely dangerous” in his opening remarks. 

“Attacks and plots by domestic extremists are at historic highs, with the majority of them being planned by those on the far right espousing white supremacist and related ideologies,” Leahy said. “In 2020 alone, white nationalists and like-minded extremists conducted 67% of terrorist plots and attacks in the United States. We cannot deny we are facing a class of criminals who feel more emboldened than ever.”

Read Garland’s full comments here.

Judge Accuses Barr of Misleading Public about Special Counsel Investigation of Trump

Attorney General William Barr, via Justice Department.

By Steve Neavling

A federal judge accused former Attorney General William Barr of deceiving the court and Congress public about a Justice Department memo clearing former President Trump of potential charges following the special counsel investigation.

In a blistering decision, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered the release of the memo to a government transparency group that had requested it under the Freedom of Information Act, The New York Times reports

The Justice Department had argued that the memo was exempt from FOIA because it consisted of private legal advice that helped Barr decide whether Trump should be prosecuted.

But Jackson, who reviewed the unreacted memo, said that Barr and his aides had already decided Trump would not be prosecuted before Barr even reviewed the written advice. 

“The fact that he would not be prosecuted was a given,” Jackson wrote of Trump.

Jackson also accused Barr of misleading the public about the 448-page special counsel report. 

“The attorney general’s characterization of what he’d hardly had time to skim, much less study closely, prompted an immediate reaction, as politicians and pundits took to their microphones and Twitter feeds to decry what they feared was an attempt to hide the ball,” Jackson wrote.

Merrick Garland Remembers Oklahoma City Bombing on 26th Anniversary

Attorney General Merrick Garland. (Photo: DOJ)

Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged to crack down on domestic violent extremists in a speech commemorating the 26th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people. 

Garland, who led the prosecution of bomber Timothy McVeigh and his accomplice Terry Nichols, said the same brand of domestic extremism still exists. 

“Although many years have passed, the terror perpetrated by people like Timothy McVeigh is still with us,” Garland said at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. “The Department of Justice is pouring its resources into stopping domestic violent extremists before they can attack, prosecuting those who do, and battling the spread of the kind of hate that leads to tragedies like the one we mark here today.”

Garland spoke about white supremacy during his confirmation hearing earlier this year, citing the Oklahoma City bombing. 

“I supervised the prosecution of the perpetrators of the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building, who sought to spark a revolution that would topple the Federal Government,” Garland told lawmakers in February. “If confirmed, I will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government.”

Read Garland’s full speech here.

Garland Sworn in As Attorney General, Vows to Restore Faith in DOJ

Attorney General Merrick Garland is sworn in. Photo via DOJ.

By Steve Neavling

Attorney General Merrick Garland was sworn-in Thursday and pledged to “adhere to norms” and restore the Justice Department’s reputation for political independence. 

“We are united by our commitment to protecting our country as our oath says, ‘from all enemies, foreign and domestic.’ And by our commitment to enforcing our country’s laws and to ensuring the civil rights and the civil liberties of our people,” Garland said in an address to the DOJ’s 115,000 employees on his first day of work. “The only way we can succeed and retain the trust of the American people is to adhere to the norms that have become part of the DNA of every Justice Department employee since Edward Levi’s stint as the first post-Watergate attorney general.” 

He concluded the speech by saying, “I am honored to work with you once again. Together, we will show the American people by word and deed that the Department of Justice pursues equal justice and adheres to the rule of law.”

Read Garland’s full speech here.

The Senate confirmed Garland on Wednesday with a 70-30 vote. 

Garland, 68, rose to national prominence in 2016 when President Obama nominated him to the U.S. Supreme Court, but Republicans denied him a hearing. 

Garland was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1997. 

Garland is a graduate of Harvard University’s college and law school. 

Committee to Vote Today on Advancing Merrick Garland for AG Confirmation

Judge Merrick Garland, via White House.

By Steve Neavling

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote today on advancing Merrick Garland, President Biden’s pick for attorney general, to the full Senate for confirmation. 

Garland has bipartisan support and is expected to receive the committee’s approval for a full Senate vote. 

Garland testified before the committee last week during a two-day confirmation hearing. 

Garland, 68, rose to national prominence in 2016 when President Obama nominated him to the U.S. Supreme Court, but Republicans denied him a hearing. 

Garland was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1997. 

Garland is a graduate of Harvard University’s college and law school.