Garland: Review of Trump-era politicization should fall to DOJ watchdog

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday expressed hesitancy at launching a broad review of the Trump administration’s politicization of the Department of Justice (DOJ), citing separate investigations already underway and concerns of potential claims of bias. 

While answering questions from reporters, Garland noted that the department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, earlier this month had announced plans to review reports that the DOJ under former President Trump had subpoenaed Apple for metadata on House Democrats and seized journalists’ phone records in probes of classified information leaks. 

Garland added Tuesday that launching a comprehensive review into the actions of his department under the previous administration was a “complicated question,” according to The New York Times

“I don’t want the department’s career people to think that a new group comes in and immediately applies a political lens,” President Biden’s attorney general added. 

Instead, Garland said it was Horowitz’s job “to look at these things.” 

“He’s very good at this — let us know when there are problems and what changes should be made, if they should be,” he continued, according to the Times. “I don’t want to prejudge anything. It’s just not fair to the current employees.”

The House Judiciary Committee has also launched a probe into the subpoenas and has asked the DOJ to turn over a number of documents related to the  records seized.

The inspector general probes also come amid Horowitz’s ongoing investigation into whether Justice Department officials attempted to use the agency to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election, which Trump has repeatedly claimed was “stolen” from him based on unsupported allegations of widespread fraud. 

His office is also looking into the sudden resignation and replacement of the U.S. attorney representing the Northern District of Georgia, Byung J. Pak. 

Pak had stepped down after being criticized by Trump as a “never Trumper U.S. attorney” on the former president’s infamous call with Georgia’s secretary of state, during which Trump asked officials to “find” more than 11,000 votes that would have allowed him to defeat Biden in the Peach State. 

Amid the multiple investigations, however, Democrats and former DOJ employees have called on Garland to launch a separate probe into politicization of the department under the Trump administration. 

In a Tuesday letter to the attorney general, Democratic lawmakers led by Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) criticized Garland over his “apparent reluctance to correct the weaponization and politicization” of the DOJ under Trump. 

“The Trump Administration undermined the Constitution as President Trump consistently abused his power by seeking to use the DOJ to protect his political allies, undermine career officials, and subvert congressional authority,” the lawmakers wrote, adding that the agency must “address the unprecedented shattering of those norms, clearly communicate to the American people the real damage that was done, and commit to accountability for the previous administration.”

Tags DOJ inspector general Donald Trump Donald Trump Joe Biden Justice Department politicization Merrick Garland Pramila Jayapal The New York Times Trump Administration

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