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Lawmakers Decry ‘Politicization’ of Justice Department Under Garland

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Concern about potential political bias at the Department of Justice (DOJ) was bipartisan on Capitol Hill on March 1 as Attorney General Merrick Garland was set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Merrick Garland, sadly, has been the most political attorney general we’ve ever had,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told NTD News, sister outlet of The Epoch Times, prior to the hearing.

“He’s used the Department of Justice and the FBI as a weapon to attack his political enemies,” Cruz charged, “and I think it is profoundly harmful to the rule of law and to justice in America.”

Other lawmakers who echoed that sentiment included Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), who both pointed to the DOJ’s targeting of parents who criticize school boards as evidence that the department had been weaponized against those who oppose the administration’s political agenda.

“Look at his track record,” Norman said. “He’s weaponized his role as attorney general. He’s gone after people that he shouldn’t go after. … His exit can’t come soon enough.”

And while Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-N.C.) did not criticize the attorney general, he did say that he felt his Republican colleagues’ concerns were valid.

“These hearings are often quite heated, and colleagues on both sides of the aisle have raised issues of concern with the department,” the senator noted. “And certainly, it’s a vital task of the department to ensure that the rule of law is upheld impartially and without bias.”

During the hearing, Garland claimed that, under his leadership, the Justice Department had “reinforced” and “strengthened” policies that were meant to “protect the independence of the department from partisan influence.”

“For example, we strengthened our policy governing communications between the Justice Department and the White House, and the White House did the same,” Garland said. “That policy is designed to protect the department’s criminal and civil law enforcement decisions and its legal judgments from even the appearance of political or other inappropriate influences.”

But the attorney general’s claims of neutrality did not sit well with Republicans on the committee.

“The politicization of the department is a problem,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) asserted during his line of questioning, pointing to recent abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by those within the DOJ as an example.

Meanwhile, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) asked Garland if his department had a problem with “ant-Catholic bias,” grilling him on the DOJ’s decision to conduct an early-morning raid on the home of Catholic pro-life activist Mark Houck over an incident that the Philadelphia district attorney had declined to prosecute him for.

Noting that Houck’s wife and seven children were at home during the raid, Hawley noted: “Mrs. Houck has said repeatedly the children were screaming—they feared for their lives. … He has offered to turn himself in, and this is who you go to terrorize.”

Hawley also pointed to a recently leaked FBI memo that characterized traditional Catholics as “violent extremists” and advocated for spying on them in their houses of worship as further evidence of anti-Catholic sentiment at the DOJ.

But Garland, denouncing the memo as “appalling,” maintained: “The FBI is not targeting Catholics. And as I’ve said, this is an inappropriate memorandum and it doesn’t reflect the methods that the FBI is supposed to be using.”

In the Republican-led House, the Committee on the Judiciary has launched an investigation into the alleged politicization of the DOJ and FBI, with members of the new Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government holding the critical power to probe ongoing FBI investigations.

The panel held its first hearing on Feb. 9.



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