Garland to face Congress amid ongoing special counsel investigations
Washington — Attorney General Merrick Garland is set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, his first time facing the new 118th Congress.
Garland is expected to tout the Justice Department’s accomplishments over the past year, according to a department spokesperson, and plans to focus on three priorities: upholding the rule of law, maintaining national security and protecting civil rights.
The nation’s top law enforcement officer is also expected to highlight in his opening remarks the department’s work combating the rise of violent crime and hate crimes, working with Ukraine against Russia’s brutal invasion and protecting reproductive freedom after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the spokesperson said.
According to an excerpt of Garland’s opening remarks obtained by CBS News, he will remind the committee that every day, Justice Department employees ,”counter complex threats to our national security.”
“They fiercely protect the civil rights of our citizens,” Garland is expected to say. “They pursue accountability for environmental harms. They prosecute crimes that victimize workers, consumers, and taxpayers. They defend our country’s democratic institutions.”
His testimony comes as his department grapples with numerous politically sensitive investigations that are likely to be brought up by senators during Wednesday’s hearing, including two special counsel probes into President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump‘s handling of classified documents and an ongoing inquiry into the conduct of Mr. Biden’s son and frequent GOP target, Hunter. The Trump special counsel, Jack Smith, is also investigating the former president’s conduct surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and has subpoenaed former Vice President Mike Pence as part of the probe.
Garland has said there is “no higher priority” for his department than ensuring those responsible for the riot are held responsible, whether they were present at the Capitol that day or not.
Republicans in Congress have already begun comparing the two high-profile investigations into Mr. Biden and Trump, alleging unequal treatment favoring Democrats over Republicans and seeking further information about the department’s decision-making.
The 100,000 employees of the Justice Department contend with many other issues of national import that Garland would likely hope to talk about — from measures to curb the proliferation of ghost guns in America’s communities to combating China’s weaponization of data and Russian-backing ransomware attacks — but it remains to be seen how many of these topics he’ll be able to bring up during the hearing’s limited time.
The department is also addressing a federal civil rights investigation into the death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, an unarmed black man who died after being beaten in police custody. Garland and FBI Dir. Chris Wray both spoke out against the allegations of police misconduct and pledged their support.
The former judge-turned-attorney general has also made bipartisan areas of concern a priority, like working to stem the tide of fentanyl deaths across the country and countering Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Last year, the Justice Department initiated a task force to prosecute Russian oligarchs and their enablers seeking to evade U.S. sanctions and pledged support in the effort to investigate war crimes against the Ukrainian people. In February, Garland welcomed his Ukrainian counterpart to the nation’s capital to announce new tactics in the international fight to counter Russia’s aggression.
On Tuesday, Biden administration officials, including Garland, began a full court press in Congress to renew a politically charged surveillance program that the U.S. government has long seen as vital in countering overseas terrorism, cyberattacks and espionage operation under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
However, Garland could face opposition on this matter, since a number of congressional Republicans are suspicious of the intelligence community and believe the spy agencies unfairly used surveillance powers to undermine former President Donald Trump.