After what seemed like an eternity getting him there, Attorney General Merrick Garland finally went face-to-face on Wednesday with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican members of which were looking to get answers on a number of contentious issues.
Those included an unfortunate FBI memo that has since been withdrawn, as well as complaints surrounding the Department of Justice and, of course, first son Hunter Biden.
But Garland’s testimony consisted of little more than deflections and denials, with few satisfactory explanations. One thing’s for certain, though: Members of the committee now seem to have more reasons than ever to dig further into these and other matters.
For now, let’s look at some of the issues the attorney general addressed (or didn’t):
Garland made it clear that he has no desire to get involved with U.S. Attorney for Delaware David Weiss’ investigation into the president’s son. “I have pledged not to interfere with that investigation, and I have carried through on my pledge,” he testified.
But that’s a little hard to believe, because Garland is working so close with Hunter’s father, President Joe Biden. And despite the questionable comments Hunter has made about his infamous laptop, the president is doing whatever he can to keep his son out of legal trouble. That likely includes having Garland keep tabs on what’s happening in the investigation, albeit without the “interfere” factor.
FBI vs. Catholics
A harsh FBI field office memo made the rounds previously, suggesting that the bureau was looking closely at “radical traditionalist” Catholics. The memo has since been withdrawn in the face of deserved criticism, and Garland simply dismissed it as “appalling.”
He noted that the FBI “has withdrawn it, and it’s now looking into how this could ever happen.”
But it’s plain to see how something like this “could ever happen.” First, I’ve heard from a number of whistleblowers who used to work for the bureau, relating their horror stories about how FBI Director Christopher Wray and his agents are basically taking the law into their own hands.
Garland noted that he doesn’t believe “any informants” are “aimed at Catholic churches.” He didn’t flat out deny it. He just noted “I don’t believe … .” And although he made it clear that “[w]e have a rule against investigations based on First Amendment activity, and Catholic churches are obviously First Amendment,” that doesn’t necessarily mean the bureau didn’t bend that particular rule.
Garland added that the department “protects all religions and all ideologies,” without having “any bias.” That’s highly implausible, especially given the August raid on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago compound.
Department of Justice
Then there’s the DOJ’s interference with parents’ ability to make online complaints about their schools. We saw the 2021 letter from the National School Boards Association, in which the group asked the Justice Department to “deal with” those complainers, likening their activism to domestic terrorism.
There have been rumors that the DOJ was keeping a close eye on those people, but Garland dismissed those, too. “I did not issue any memorandum directing the investigation of parents who are concerned about their children,” he testified.
But it’s what Garland said after that statement that’s a bit concerning. “This is about the third time I’m being asked about the same memorandum, and each time I’ve said, and I hope that the senators would go ahead and advise their constituents in the same way, that this is not what we do.”
Sorry, Mr. Attorney General. It’s just a Senate committee trying to get answers regarding your Department of Justice and the FBI. Until lawmakers get believable answers, questions are going to continue to be asked.
The bottom line is, Wednesday’s hearing didn’t really clear much of the air on any of these—or any other—issues.
There’s hope, however. The committee now has more information to work with for its ongoing investigations. Here’s hoping we get the answers we need and deserve.
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