Attorney General Merrick Garland once enjoyed bipartisan sympathy as the victim of circumstances: he was a well-regarded appellate judge whose Supreme Court nomination in 2016 failed to advance because of partisan politics in an election year.
Today he seems to be a vindictive bully who is using the Department of Justice (DOJ) to pursue an extreme left-wing political agenda, whether from ideological conviction or as a form of personal revenge for the way he was sidelined by Republicans.
On Monday, the DOJ and the FBI raided former President Donald Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago, Florida, ostensibly looking for documents protected by federal records laws. Trump’s attorneys had already been working with the National Archives to handle the return of the historic materials, which included a “cocktail napkin” and a “birthday dinner menu,” according to the Washington Post.
The provocative raid, so soon before an election, provoked outrage and suspicions of political motivations.
After three days of silence, Garland finally addressed the raid on Thursday. He announced that he had authorized the search warrant for Mar-a-Lago, and suggested that the DOJ preferred “less intrusive” means of conducting searches.
After the abuses of the past several years — the spying on Carter Page with a fraudulently obtained warrant; the pre-dawn raid on Roger Stone; the “insurance policy” of FBI agents determined to undermine Trump — it was a statement lacking credibility or contrition.
Garland presents himself as a soft-spoken, gentle man, with sad eyes that hint at the deep wounds he suffered when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to allow President Barack Obama to replace conservative stalwart Antonin Scalia with a liberal justice — even an aging white male who checked none of the boxes of identity politics, whose main qualification was his long record in law enforcement and on the bench. Some 20 Republicans voted to confirm him in 2021, in consolation.
During his confirmation process, Garland promised to “protect the independence of the Department from partisan influence in law enforcement investigations.” President Joe Biden and the Democrats claimed that Garland would “depoliticize” the DOJ, which was ostensibly politicized because then-Attorney General William Barr would not break the law to yield to Congress’s demands that he produce grand jury testimony from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into “Russian collusion.”
(In fact, Barr and his predecessor, Jeff Sessions, depoliticized the DOJ, which the Obama administration used to reinforce the Black Lives Matter movement’s attacks on local police, and to shovel cash from legal settlements to left-wing organizations. And it was under Obama that Attorney General Eric Holder ran Operation Fast and Furious, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch met on an Arizona tarmac with former President Bill Clinton while Hillary Clinton was under FBI investigation.)
Regardless of his promises of political independence, Garland has behaved as a partisan political operative since he took office. The most egregious example was his attempt to target parents who protested at school board meetings against the inclusion of Critical Race Theory and transgenderism in school curricula. Garland issued a memorandum after the White House coordinated with the National School Boards Association in a letter comparing the parents to domestic terrorists.
Garland has also taken up causes that suit the Democrats’ political agenda, such as a lawsuit against Georgia’s new voting laws, which are more liberal than the laws in some “blue” states. His DOJ has also warned states against measures that may deny what the left calls “gender-affirming care” — including drugs and surgery — for transgender minors. And recently, he announced civil rights prosecutions against Louisville police officers already exonerated in the death of Breonna Taylor.
Garland has yet to explain adequately why the DOJ raided a former president and likely future presidential candidate — a scene familiar from Third World banana republics but without precedent in the United States.
Late Thursday, the Washington Post reported that what Garland had been after were classified documents related to “nuclear weapons.” The idea that the DOJ would allow something so sensitive to sit at a country club for 18 months, then wait until the January 6 Committee hearings and the midterm elections to act, is beyond bizarre. Regardless, it is time for Garland to stop the cloak-and-dagger games: when you target a former president, or a future candidate, you have to play an open hand.
While Americans struggled to understand his secrecy, perhaps the simplest explanation may be the best: Garland is a political operative, out for partisan gain and personal revenge.
At the very least, it is time to stop treating Garland like some kind of victim. He is now, officially, a bully.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.