Though the Biden administration has gone to great pains to differentiate itself from the Trump administration in nearly every way, many Democrats have been shocked and disappointed by the apparent openness of Attorney General Merrick Garland in taking the former president’s side in a number of key matters, as The Hill reports.
Among the notable areas in which Garland’s Department of Justice (DOJ) has frustrated Democrats is its recent announcement that it would continue representing the former president in a defamation lawsuit filed by writer E. Jean Carroll, as NPR noted.
Despite attempting to separate itself from the substance and tone of Trump’s statements at the heart of the case, the DOJ argued in a brief that the matter turned only on whether the former president’s assertions were made within the scope of his official role, and as such, it is appropriate that the government step into his shoes as a defendant in the action.
Further upsetting Democrats is the fact that late last month, Garland’s DOJ declared that it would appeal a federal judge’s decision ordering the release of an internal memo authored during the Trump administration advising former Attorney General Barr on how best to respond to former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigatory findings in the Russia collusion probe.
According to some on the left, Garland’s decisions make little sense, given their belief that he should be placing a priority on undoing the damage they say Trump did to the DOJ’s reputation during his tenure.
Jeff Hauser of progressive watchdog group Revolving Door Project said, as reported by The Hill, “Garland’s approach seems to be to minimize as much as possible any discontinuity in position after the election. He wants to make the transition from Trump to Biden as small as possible in the Justice Department,” adding:
And so across an extremely wide array of issue areas, the Garland Justice Department is reaching legal conclusions which are incongruous for the Biden administration and for where the vast majority of center-left and more progressive lawyers and legal scholars are.
Suggesting that much unsavory conduct occurred during the preceding four years, Hauser stated, “The question I have for Garland is what would we have to learn about [former Trump Attorneys General] Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr for them to lose the benefit of the doubt with you?”
News broke last week about Trump-era DOJ subpoenas of communications records of individuals connected to the House Intelligence Committee, a fact which many Democrats feel will be something of a test of Garland’s mettle when it comes to distinguishing itself from the prior administration.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) was particularly explicit in his warning to Garland, stating, “The Department has a very short window to make a clean break from the Trump era on this matter. We expect the Department to provide a full accounting of these cases…and…to hold the relevant personnel accountable…If the Department does not make substantial progress…then we on the Judiciary Committee will have no choice but to step in and do the work ourselves.”