One Republican Comes to Garland's Defense in Hearing

Grilling from House lawmakers focused on Hunter Biden
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 20, 2023 12:13 PM CDT
Updated Sep 20, 2023 3:09 PM CDT
House Republicans Grill Merrick Garland
Attorney General Merrick Garland appears before a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Attorney General Merrick Garland was grilled by Republican lawmakers in his first appearance before the House Judiciary Committee in two years. In his opening statement, Republican committee chair Rep. Jim Jordan accused the Justice Department of protecting President Biden and his family while targeting Donald Trump, NBC News reports. In his own opening statement, Garland said the department doesn't take orders from the president or anyone else on who to investigate. "I am not the president's lawyer," he said. "I will also add that I am not Congress' prosecutor. The Justice Department works for the American people."

"Our job is to follow the facts and the law, wherever they lead. And that is what we do," Garland said. Rep. Jerry Nadler, the committee's ranking Democrat, said "extreme MAGA Republicans" had "poisoned" the committee's oversight work. He said they were "desperate to find evidence for an absurd impeachment" to distract from the Trump indictments. Other details from the hearing, which lasted more than five hours:

  • Hunter Biden. The main focus of Republican lawmakers' questions was Hunter Biden. They accused the attorney general of attempting to shield the president's son but Garland said he hadn't interfered in the investigation, the AP reports. He said he had kept his promise to keep his distance from the case. "The way to not interfere was to not investigate an investigation," said Garland. Democratic lawmakers reminded Republicans that the special counsel appointed in the case, US Attorney David Weiss, is a Trump appointee.
  • "Badgering" from Gaetz. The Washington Post reports that Democrats accused GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of "badgering" Garland by asking the attorney general questions on a wide range of subjects then cutting him off as he tried to respond. Asked by Gaetz about a report that Hunter Biden had sold some of his artwork to a Democratic donor, Garland said he hadn't spoken to anybody at the White House about the president's son.
  • An "outrageous" suggestion. The Post reports that Garland, whose opening statement mentioned relatives who were killed in the Holocaust, showed a rare flash of anger when Republican Rep. Jeff Van Beck asked him if he thought traditional Catholics are "violent extremists." "The idea that someone with my family background would discriminate against any religion is so outrageous, so absurd," Garland said. "Catholics are not extremists, no." Van Beck was referring to a January FBI memo, condemned by Garland, that suggested the agency should develop sources in traditional Catholic groups in order to discover any suspicious behavior within them.

  • Defunding the FBI. When asked about the implications of defunding the FBI, which some Republicans have suggested doing, Garland said the consequences would be "catastrophic," the BBC reports. It would "leave the United States naked to the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party, to the attacks by Iranians on American citizens and attempts to assassinate former officials, to the Russian aggression, to North Korean cyberattacks," he said. Garland told Democratic Rep. Jackson Lee that Justice Department workers and other public servants have received an "astounding number of threats," but "will not be intimidated."
  • One Republican defended him. The AP reports that GOP Rep. Ken Buck defended Garland, saying inheriting the Hunter Biden investigation had left him in a situation where he would be criticized no matter what he did. If Garland had asked Weiss to resign when he became attorney general, critics "would have said that you were obstructing the Hunter Biden investigation and you were firing a Republican appointee so that you could appoint a Democrat to slow walk this investigation," Buck said.
(More Merrick Garland stories.)

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