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In a tense GOP-led House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General (AG) Merrick Garland gave testimony defending his handling of the investigations into Donald Trump and Hunter Biden while facing accusations of misconduct from Republicans.
AG Garland found himself in a tough position on Wednesday in an hours-long hearing filled with insults and accusations as House Republicans seek to tie Hunter Biden’s legal troubles to his father ahead of the 2024 election.
“Our job is not to take orders from the president, from Congress, or from anyone else, about who or what to criminally investigate,” AG Garland said in his opening statement. “I am not the president’s lawyer. I will also add that I am not Congress’ prosecutor. The Justice Department works for the American people.”
Led by Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Republicans forcefully questioned whether the ongoing cases into Donald Trump and Hunter Biden were improperly handled.
Special Counsel Jack Smith is currently overseeing the investigation into Donald Trump’s role in seeking to overturn the 2020 Presidential Election.
Meanwhile, Special Counsel David Weiss is overseeing a criminal case against President Biden’s son Hunter. Weiss issued an indictment in that case last week on felony gun charges.
Yet as U.S. Attorney General, Merrick Garland ultimately oversees both cases. On Wednesday Republicans had their sights locked on him during AG Garland’s testimony.
“There’s one investigation protecting President Biden. There’s another one attacking President Trump,” Rep. Jim Jordan claimed. “The Justice Department’s got both sides of the equation covered.”
White House calls GOP claims “baseless”
Last week Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) launched an official impeachment inquiry against President Biden without bringing it to a vote. Pressured by the most far-right wing of his party, McCarthy and his colleagues accuse Pres. Biden of giving Hunter Biden unethical influence while he was Obama’s vice president.
Specifically, Republicans claim Hunter Biden’s role in serving on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while then-VP Biden was in charge of eliminating corruption in the country resulted in undue influence over foreign policy.
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Hunter Biden’s recent charges over a 2018 allegedly illegal gun purchase didn’t make things any easier for AG Garland during his testimony on Wednesday.
Republicans on the committee questioned why the nearly four-year investigation into Hunter Biden didn’t result in charges until the summer of 2023.
For instance, Republican Mike Johnson of Louisiana asked AG Garland if he’d spoken with anyone at the FBI about the case.
“I don’t believe that I did,” AG Garland responded. He said he wanted to maintain distance to keep his promise not to interfere.
“These sideshows won’t spare House Republicans from bearing responsibility for inflicting serious damage on the country,” Ian Sams, a White House spokesperson, said in a statement Wednesday.
Things gets personal during AG Garland testimony
One of the most tense moments of the hearing came when a GOP member accused AG Garland of using the FBI to go after Catholic Americans.
Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NY) accused Garland of targeting “radical traditionalist catholics” following the release of an FBI memo that was quickly disavowed by DOJ leadership.
Belonging to a Jewish family that fled persecution in Eastern Europe, Ag Garland became visibly upset at the accusation.
“The idea that someone with my family background would discriminate against any religious background is so outrageous, so absurd, that it’s hard for me to even answer your question,” Garland yelled.
“It was your FBI that was sending… undercover agents into Catholic churches,” Van Drew shouted in response.
“Both I and the director of the FBI were appalled by that memo,” Garland said.
In a scene completely void of decorum or civility, Van Drew continued to interrupt Garland, asking whether Catholics are extremists, to which Garland replied, “No.”
The hours-long shouting match against the highest-ranking law enforcement official in the nation shows the wide gaps in Republicans’ support for “Back the Blue” and a preview of what’s to come as the impeachment inquiry into President Biden ramps up.