National Security

Progressives slam Garland for DOJ stances on Trump-era cases

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.)
Greg Nash

Progressive Democrats slammed Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday over his “apparent reluctance to correct the weaponization and politicization” of the Department of Justice (DOJ), sending a list of five matters where they seek a swift reversal from the Trump era.

The letter comes as the public learns more about actions the DOJ took under the prior administration, including seizing the records of journalists and lawmakers while other White House officials sought to pressure DOJ officials to assist in former President Trump’s election battles.

“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,” lawmakers wrote in a letter spearheaded by Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and signed by eight other Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee.  

“Restoring the American people’s faith will not come just from a return to previous norms. Instead, DOJ 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,” they wrote.

The DOJ did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The letter, which was not signed by 16 of the Democrats on the committee, also asks DOJ to reverse course on a number of legal battles where observers have been surprised to see the new administration side with its predecessor.

That includes a case filed by a public interest group seeking the Office of Legal Counsel memo presented to former Attorney General William Barr as he was preparing to release the Mueller report. Efforts under the Biden administration to continue to block its release send “a concerning message that the agency under your leadership will continue the Trump Administration’s tactics to avoid transparency.”

The group also criticized the department’s stance backing the Trump administration’s argument that the former president’s comments about the writer E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of sexual assault, were made in the context of his official duties and thus he should be represented by government lawyers.

The lawmakers also pushed back on decisions on cases involving the clearing of Lafayette Square before Trump crossed the street for a photo-op and the department’s stance on a case where Congress sought documents tied to the Trump hotel. 

“We strongly encourage you to do more to reestablish DOJ’s commitment to accountability, transparency, and the separation of powers,” they wrote.

The department is already facing an investigation from the House Judiciary Committee, which asked DOJ to turn over a number of documents related to the lawmaker and reporter records seized during leak investigations.

Harper Neidig contributed.

Tags Donald Trump Merrick Garland Pramila Jayapal William Barr
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