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Garland defends Justice Department backing Trump-era decisions

Attorney General Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandHouse Judiciary asks DOJ to disclose remaining gag orders The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Biden frustrates death penalty opponents with Supreme Court request MORE on Wednesday dismissed criticism of his agency's handling of court cases involving former President TrumpDonald TrumpWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Poll: 30 percent of GOP voters believe Trump will 'likely' be reinstated this year Black Secret Service agent told Trump it was offensive to hold rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth: report MORE, saying that instances where he sided with the previous administration's legal arguments were part of his "adherence to the rule of law."

At a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Garland was asked to respond to criticism against the Justice Department's (DOJ) efforts to fight the release of an internal legal memo from the Trump era and its defense of the former president in a defamation suit from a woman who accused him of rape.

The attorney general said his department is handling those cases without political considerations in mind.

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"The job of the Justice Department in making decisions in law is not to back any administration, previous or present; our job is to represent the American people," he said. "Our job in doing so is to ensure adherence to the rule of law, which is a fundamental requirement of a democracy."

The DOJ has disappointed Trump critics and Democratic lawmakers by repeatedly siding with the Trump administration in court, frustrating those who believe that former Attorney General William BarrBill BarrLieu calls Catholic bishops 'hypocrites' for move to deny Biden communion The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Senate Judiciary Democrats demand DOJ turn over Trump obstruction memo MORE had weaponized the department to further Trump's personal and political interests.

The first few months of Garland's tenure has shown that the former federal judge has been hesitant to completely disavow the legal work put forth under Barr that outraged Democrats and that President BidenJoe BidenObama: Ensuring democracy 'continues to work effectively' keeps me 'up at night' New Jersey landlords prohibited from asking potential tenants about criminal records Overnight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine MORE campaigned against last year.

But Garland insisted on Wednesday that he has pushed to change the department.

"Matters of policy of course are completely different and that explains why we have reversed policies of the previous administration many times over the last three months and why we have initiated our own policies that are distinctly different from those of the previous administration," Garland said.