Attorney General Merrick Garland’s swan song, we can presume, isn’t exactly turning out how he had hoped.
Appointed attorney general in 2021 as some sort of retaliation against Republicans for refusing to seat him on the Supreme Court in 2016, Garland, though largely a figurehead, is getting heat from members of both political parties—including the man who nominated him to serve as the nation’s top lawyer.
According to the New York Times, Joe Biden is displeased that Garland hasn’t yet charged the former president for crimes related to the Capitol protest on January 6, 2021. “[While] the president has never communicated his frustrations directly to Mr. Garland, he has said privately that he wanted Mr. Garland to act less like a ponderous judge and more like a prosecutor who is willing to take decisive action over the events of Jan. 6.,” the Times reported over the weekend.
Although the Times attempted to portray Biden as hands-off when it comes to the business of his Justice Department, that is simply untrue. By repeatedly describing January 6 as an act of terror and comparing the protest, which resulted only in the deaths of Trump supporters, to 9/11 and other atrocities, Biden has signaled how he expects the Justice Department to proceed. His desire to see everyone from Indiana grandmothers to Donald Trump and his family behind bars hasn’t exactly been a secret.
As the chaos was still unfolding on the afternoon of January 6, Biden addressed the nation, blaming Trump for inciting “an insurrection” that “borders on sedition” while promising his administration would restore “the rule of law.”
On his first day in office, Biden ordered an assessment of the threat posed by “domestic violent extremists” allegedly responsible for the four-hour disturbance at the Capitol on January 6; the Justice Department helped author the report, which Garland presented during a June 2021 speech in Washington, D.C. The attorney general boasted at the time that hundreds of Americans had already been arrested for their participation in the “heinous attack” on the Capitol.
Biden never misses an opportunity to condemn, in the most inflammatory and dishonest terms, Trump’s alleged role in January 6. In a diabolical rant on the first anniversary of the Capitol protest, Biden fixated on his predecessor, “Rioters menaced these halls, threatening the life of the Speaker of the House, literally erecting gallows to hang the Vice President of the United States of America,” Biden claimed. “But what did we not see? We didn’t see a former president, who had just rallied the mob to attack—sitting in the private dining room off the Oval Office in the White House, watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours as police were assaulted, lives at risk, and the nation’s capital under siege.”
Message, undoubtedly, received by Merrick Garland.
For the first time in American history, an incumbent president denied executive privilege protections to his predecessor—and Biden did this not once but multiple times, compelling the early production of tens of thousands of presidential records to the January 6 committee, material that is promptly leaked to complicit journalists to carry the “insurrection” narrative.
But with time running out before Republicans likely retake control of Congress, the committee is abandoning previous threats to issue criminal referrals against Trump, fearing backlash for taking such an unprecedented step. Instead, committee members point to the words of a California federal judge who last week suggested Trump broke the law on at least one occasion. In a court order that sounded more like a Jennifer Rubin column, U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter ordered John Eastman, one of Trump’s attorneys, to turn over 101 documents to the select committee. (Among the many doozies in his order, Carter falsely claimed “several law enforcement officers” died on January 6, a lie continually promoted by both Biden and Garland, too.)
“Based on the evidence, the Court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021,” Carter wrote in a 44-page ruling on March 28. Further, Carter alleged, “these actions more likely than not constitute attempts to obstruct an official proceeding.”
Carter’s judgment, however, has no legal bearing—he was only determining the validity of Eastman’s executive privilege claims, not handling a criminal case where Trump was on trial and able to defend himself.
Nonetheless, Carter’s assumptions were spun as if a judge had tried and convicted the former president, serving as the perfect out for the January 6 committee. “[The] Justice Department is aware of the volume of evidence pointing to violations of the law by Trump,” Politico reported on Monday. “That evidence got underscored emphatically last week, when a federal judge ruled the former president ‘more likely than not’ committed felonies to try to overturn the 2020 election.”
On the same day that Carter’s ruling went public, the January 6 committee held a hearing to find Trump advisors Daniel Scavino, Jr. and Peter Navarro in contempt of Congress, sending the referrals to the House for a full vote. Democratic members then applied the full-court press to Garland, whose office is sitting on similar referrals for former chief of staff Mark Meadows and Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official under Trump.
Representative Elaine Luria (D-Va.) implored Garland to “do your job” while others urged the Justice Department to act more swiftly.
Garland himself is running up against the clock; from all appearances, it looks like Hunter Biden is in big legal trouble and could face a grand jury indictment soon. Special Counsel John Durham continues his painstaking work on the Russiagate investigation with more charges possible.
If Hunter Biden is in handcuffs before Donald Trump, Garland, who will turn 70 later this year, will wish he had opted for retirement.