Attorney General Merrick Garland fires back at House GOP contempt threat: 'I will not be intimidated'

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland testifies before the House Judiciary Committee in Washington, June 4, 2024.

Anna Rose Layden | Reuters

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday hit back at House Republicans threatening to hold him in contempt, calling their efforts part of a wave of “unprecedented and unfounded” attacks against the Department of Justice.

“I will not be intimidated,” Garland said in his opening remarks at the start of a hearing before the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee.

The Justice Department will not be intimidated,” he said. “We will continue to do our jobs free from political influence. And we will not back down from defending our democracy.

He also pushed back on the swell of conspiracy theories surrounding Thursday’s historic criminal conviction of former President Donald Trump, including the false claim that the guilty verdict by a New York state jury “was somehow controlled by the Justice Department.”

“That conspiracy theory is an attack on the judicial process itself,” Garland said.

His unusually direct rebuke came as House Republicans are moving toward a contempt vote over the DOJ’s refusal to share audiotapes of President Joe Biden’s interview with special counsel Robert Hur, who investigated the president’s handling of classified documents.

Hur found that Biden “willfully” retained classified materials after he served as vice president under Barack Obama. But the special counsel declined to bring criminal charges against the Democratic incumbent.

The Judiciary panel’s hearing Tuesday morning was billed as an examination of how the DOJ under Garland has become “politicized and weaponized.”

“Many Americans believe there’s now a double standard in our justice system,” Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said at the start of the hearing. “They believe that because there is.”

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But Garland in his opening testimony shot back that “certain members” of the Judiciary and Oversight committees “are seeking contempt as a means of obtaining — for no legitimate purpose — sensitive law enforcement information that could harm the integrity of future investigations.”

“This effort is only the most recent in a long line of attacks on the Justice Department’s work,” Garland said.

He pointed to recent congressional threats to defund the ongoing prosecution of Trump by special counsel Jack Smith, as well as “baseless and extremely dangerous falsehoods” being spread about the FBI.

“We are seeing heinous threats of violence being directed at the Justice Department’s career public servants,” Garland said.

“These repeated attacks on the Justice Department are unprecedented and unfounded,” he said, but “these attacks have not, and they will not, influence our decision-making.”

“I view contempt as a serious matter,” he said. “But I will not jeopardize the ability of our prosecutors and agents to do their jobs effectively in future investigations.”

This is developing news. Please check back for updates.

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