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Tag: Merrick Garland

Garland Appoints Special Counsel to Oversee Biden Document Probe

Special Counsel Robert Hur

By Steve Neavling

Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to investigate the discovery of classified documents at President Biden’s home in Delaware and a think tank office in Washington D.C. 

Robert Hur will oversee the probe after the White House confirmed that a second batch of classified documents were found in Biden’s garage and an adjacent room.

The documents were turned over to the National Archives. 

Hur’s role is to investigate “possible unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or other records,” the Justice Department said.  

In a prepared statement, Biden told reporters he plans to fully cooperate with the investigation, Reuters reports.

“As I said earlier this week, people know I take classified documents, classified material seriously. I also said we’re cooperating fully and completely with the Justice Department’s review,” Biden said.

In a statement, Hur said he will handle the investigation “with fair, impartial, and dispassionate judgment.” 

“I intend to follow the facts swiftly and thoroughly, without fear or favor, and will honor the trust placed in me to perform this service,” Hur said. 

Hur, who most recently was in private law practice in Washington, served as U.S. attorney in Maryland from 2018 to 2021. He also served as assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland from 2007 to 2014 and principal associate deputy attorney general from 2017 to 2018. 

In November, Garland named a special counsel, Jack Smith, to oversee the DOJ’s investigations of Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents. 

Garland Speaks Out As Jan. 6 Insurrection Nears 2nd Anniversary

Attorney General Merrick Garland. (Photo: DOJ)

By Steve Neavling

With the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol nearing its second anniversary, Attorney General Merrick Garland released the following statement:

“Two years ago, the United States Capitol was attacked as lawmakers met to affirm the results of a presidential election. Perpetrators attacked police officers, targeted and assaulted members of the media, and interfered with a fundamental element of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next.

“Since then, countless agents, investigators, prosecutors, analysts, and others across the Justice Department have participated in one of the largest, most complex, and most resource-intensive investigations in our history. I am extremely grateful for the dedication, professionalism, and integrity with which they have done this work. This investigation has resulted in the arrest of more than 950 defendants for their alleged roles in the attack. We have secured convictions for a wide range of criminal conduct on January 6 as well as in the days and weeks leading up to the attack. Our work is far from over.

“We will never forget the sacrifice of the law enforcement officers who defended the members of Congress and others inside the Capitol that day. And we will never forget the five officers who responded selflessly on January 6 and who have since lost their lives: Officer Brian Sicknick, Officer Howard Liebengood, Officer Jeffrey Smith, Officer Gunther Hashida, and Officer Kyle DeFreytag. 

“The Justice Department remains committed to honoring them. We remain committed to ensuring accountability for those criminally responsible for the January 6 assault on our democracy. And we remain committed to doing everything in our power to prevent this from ever happening again.”

The Justice Department also released data on the arrests and charges in connection with the attack. 

Of the more than 950 people charged for their role in the attack, 284 were charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees. Nearly 100 people have been charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer. 

During the insurrection, about 140 officers were assaulted, including about 80 from the U.S. Capitol Police. 

About 484 defendants have pleaded guilty to a variety of charges. Of them, 119 pleaded guilty to felonies. 

Forty defendants have been found guilty during trials. 

Justice Department Considers Appointing Special Counsel to Oversee Trump Investigations

Donald Trump, via Wikipedia

By Steve Neavling

The Justice Department is discussing the possibility of appointing a special counsel to oversee the investigations of Donald Trump if he decides to run for president again, The New York Times reports.

The discussion comes as the Justice Department investigates Trump’s role in overturning the 2020 presidential election and his retention of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. 

While stumping for Republicans in Iowa on Thursday night Trump said he’s strongly considering running.

“In order to make our country successful and safe and glorious, I will very, very, very probably do it again,” Trump said. 

By appointing a special counsel, the Justice Department would have an easier time countering arguments that the investigation is a political witch hunt. 

If Attorney General Merrick Garland appoints a special counsel to handle the investigation of Trump, Garland would still have to decide whether to file charges. 

Garland “needs to have a lawyer with Republican pedigree on that team to send the message that this is not a political persecution,” John P. Fishwick Jr., who served as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia from 2015 to 2017, told The New York Times

“This is the most important criminal case in our country’s history. Ultimately, every person in the United States will be the jury in this case, and they will need to have confidence that the prosecution team reflects all of them,” he said.

Nuclear Weapon Documents Among Records Sought by FBI in Raid of Trump’s House

Attorney General Merrick Garland. (Photo: DOJ)

By Steve Neavling

FBI agents who searched the home of former President Donald Trump this week were looking for records relating to nuclear weapons, among other information.

Citing people familiar with the investigation, The Washington Post reports that nuclear weapons documents were believed to be among the records sought by agents.

The report came just hours after Attorney General Merrick Garland told reporters that he had personally authorized the request for a search warrant and had asked a Florida court to unseal the warrant.

Trump followed up by saying he not only supports the request but is “encouraging the immediate release of those documents” related to what he dubbed the “unAmerican, unwarranted, and unnecessary raid and break-in.”

“Release the documents now!” Trump said. 

The search was connected to an investigation into whether Trump illegally removed records from the White House when he left office. 

Steven Dettelbach Sworn in As First Senate-Approved ATF Director in 7 Years

ATF Director Steven Dettelbach, left, with Attorney General Merrick Garland

By Steve Neavling

Steven Dettelbach was sworn in Tuesday as the new ATF director, becoming the first Senate-approved leader of the agency in seven years. 

“Thank you, Attorney General Garland, and I also want to say thanks to President Biden for your confidence in me, for fighting for the American people every day and for fighting to provide ATF with a permanent director,” Dettelbach said at the investiture ceremony at the Justice Department.

Dettelbach said the job is his “single greatest honor of my professional life,” but it’s also the “greatest professional challenge of my life.”

At a time of mass shootings and other gun violence, Dettelbach said the ATF has to be willing to take new approaches. 

“We have to be open to new ideas,” he said. “We have to be open to new partnerships. We have to be open to a new and urgent sense of unity.”

Dettelbach acknowledged the job will be difficult.

“Make no mistake, the agency and its mission are challenged as never before. We all know about it,” he said. “Rising crime, rising firearm violence, rising mass shooting incidents and a rising tide of extremist violence that threatens people and safety in this nation. 

“And it’s going to take all of us in this nation, in law enforcement, working together to address those threats.”

He told ATF employees that “you have my heart, my soul, you have everything that I can give to try to join you in this effort.”

Before introducing Dettelbach on Tuesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland said he had faith in the new director. 

“I know that you will lead this agency, particularly its courageous and dedicated individuals, with integrity and skill,” Garland said.

Watch the ceremony here.

https://www.c-span.org/video/?521820-1/steven-dettelbach-sworn-atf-director

Former Mueller Prosecutor Criticizes DOJ for Its ‘Wrong Approach’ to Insurrection Investigation

Andrew Weissmann. Photo: Columbia Law

By Steve Neavling

Andrew Weissmann, a top prosecutor in Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation, said the Justice Department is taking “the wrong approach” to investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Weissmann said federal prosecutors are too focused on the rioters and not enough on former President Trump and others who played a role in inciting the violence. 

He said the House committee investigating the Capitol siege has provided sufficient evidence “to inspire the Justice Department to rethink its approach.”

“A myopic focus on the Jan. 6 riot is not the way to proceed if you are trying to follow the facts where they lead and to hold people ‘at any level’ criminally accountable, as Attorney General Merrick Garland promised,” Weissman wrote. 

“The evidence gathered in the hearings describes a multiprong conspiracy — what prosecutors term a hub and spoke conspiracy — in which the Ellipse speech by President Trump and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol were just one ‘spoke’ of a grander scheme.”

Weissman further explained that “what I have seen in this inquiry is not typical behavior from the Justice Department.”

Pointing to media reports about the Justice Department’s reaction to Cassidy Hutchinson’s explosive testimony, Weissmann said he was skeptical the DOJ is pursuing “a robust investigation into the facts.”

DOJ Files Hate Crime Charges Against Racist Buffalo Mass Shooter

By Steve Neavling

The Justice Department on Wednesday filed hate crime charges against the 18-year-old white gunman who killed 10 Black people in a mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket in May. 

Payton Gendron faces 26 counts of hate crimes and firearms offenses, The New York Times reports

The charges were announced on the same day that Attorney General Merrick Garland visited Buffalo. 

“No one in this country should have to live in fear that they will go to work or shop at a grocery store and will be attacked by someone who hates them because of the color of their skin,” Garland said. 

The complaint alleges Gendron’s “motive for the mass shooting was to prevent Black people from replacing white people and eliminating the white race, and to inspire others to commit similar attacks.”

AG Garland Says He’s Watching U.S. House Hearings on Jan. 6 Riot

Attorney General Merrick Garland. (Photo: DOJ)

By Steve Neavling

Attorney General Merrick Garland said he’s watching the Jan. 6 hearings as some of the committee members are advocating criminal charges against former President Donald Trump and others.

“I’m watching and I will be watching all the hearings, although I may not be able to watch all of it live,” Garland said at an unrelated press conference, NPR reports. “But I’ll be sure that I’ll be watching all that. And I can assure you that the January 6 prosecutors are watching all the hearings as well.”

Citing a pending investigation, Garland declined to give “my own personal responses to this kind of evidence that is coming out.”

The House Select committee on the Jan. 6 riot held its second day of hearings on Monday, with plans to hold several more by the end of July. 

During the first hearing on Thursday, Vice Chair Liz Cheney urged the Justice Department to prosecute more people in connection with the riot. 

“We are proceeding with full urgency with respect, as I’ve said many times before, to hold all perpetrators who are criminally responsible for Jan. 6 accountable, regardless of their level, their position and regardless of whether they were present at the events on Jan. 6,” Garland said. “We’re just going to follow the facts wherever they lead.”