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 June 14, 2023

Matt Gaetz wants answers on Attorney General Merrick Garland's conflict of interest

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is demanding Attorney General Merrick Garland address potential conflicts of interest in the handling of former President Donald Trump's federal prosecution, Breitbart reported. The Florida Republican sent a letter requesting the full roster after one of the lead prosecutors turned out to be a longtime Democratic donor.

Trump has been charged for violations including mishandling classified information. According to the Federal Elections Commission, Karen E. Gilbert, who is assisting Special Counsel Jack E. Smith’s case against the former president, has donated to the Democratic National Committee and campaigns for President Barack Obama and President Joe Biden.

Gilbert donated $250 to the Biden Action Fund and $1,000 to then-candidate Biden in the 2020 election cycle. She also gave Obama $1250 during his first campaign for president in 2008 and another $800 for his re-election bid in 2012.

Moreover, Gilbert has a past history of prosecutorial misconduct. A federal judge once admonished her for allegedly eavesdropping on a recorded conversation between an investigator and a defense attorney.

Combined with the unprecedented nature of the prosecution, Gaetz rightly demanded an explanation from Garland. He calls Smith's track record "both highly irregular and of extraordinary public concern," according to Fox News.

The Florida lawmaker has also demanded "all staff rosters, phone lists, or similar records, within the custody or control of the Department of Justice, depicting all employees hired by or detailed to the office of Special Counsel Jack Smith." Gaetz claimed it's "beyond debate" that Garland owes the public this information and asserted "this simple staff list cannot be withheld from Congress or the public on the basis of attenuated and entirely fantastic privacy concerns."

Even as he broadly criticized Smith, Gaetz zeroed in on Gilbert's particular past. In 2009, she was forced to step down from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida for that incident with the recording.

Gaetz has threatened to defund Smith's office because of these concerns. "While there are innumerable valid legislative purposes for this request, it should be obvious that doing due diligence in vetting an office that has apparently done no vetting of its own personnel, or worse, might affirmatively be seeking to staff with sanctioned lawyers and partisan hatchet-men (and women), is an entirely appropriate purpose and one small reason I am requesting this information," the congressman wrote.

"The 118th Congress has procedural tools in place to allow for targeted recission of funds from components or subcomponents of agencies that are not operating in the public interest," Gaetz added. The letter was dated the same day Trump appeared in Miami for his arrest.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene also pledged Monday to use Congress to defund Smith's office due to this problematic and political situation.  "Today, I'd like to announce that I'm writing an appropriations rider to defund Jack Smith, special counsel, his office, and the investigation," Greene said from the House Floor.

"This is a weaponized government attempt to take down the top political enemy and leading presidential candidate of the United States, Donald J. Trump," she added. Greene's proposal was backed in a tweet by Gaetz.

"This is an Article I flex! I’m so here for it," Gaetz posted to social media.

The Trump campaign has also identified problematic conflicts from Smith's office besides Gilbert. Smith himself was implicated in the IRS scheme to target conservatives during the Obama administration, while team member Jay Bratt was also accused of previous misconduct.

This whole Trump prosecution is politically motivated and an unjust application of the law. At the very least, Garland needs to answer allegations Gaetz has uncovered if he wishes to maintain any credibility at all.

Written By:
Christine Favocci

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