Garland contempt charge profound but predictable end to yearslong saga

by Will Tubbs

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News

Merrick Garland, the man Barak Obama wanted for the Supreme Court and who President Joe Biden tabbed to head the Department of Justice, has never had many friends on the right. 

Last week, Republican exasperation with the attorney general came to a head when the conservative-led House found Garland in contempt of Congress over his refusal to share audio of special counsel Robert Hur’s interview with Biden. 

“He doesn’t want us to hear it,” Texas Rep. Chip Roy (R) said on X. “And there’s really only two reasons why that would be the case – either the transcript doesn’t match the audio, or the audio is so bad that he doesn’t want us to hear it.”

The Justice Department’s position is that its prosecutors do not bring contempt charges against an official who declined to turn over subpoenaed information to Congress when that information is subject to a president’s assertion of executive privilege.

“Consistent with this longstanding position and uniform practice, the Department has determined that the responses by Attorney General Garland to the subpoenas issued by the Committees did not constitute a crime, and accordingly the Department will not bring the congressional contempt citation before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute the Attorney General,” Carlos Uriarte, assistant attorney general, wrote in a letter at the time. 

House Oversight Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) later tweeted “Congress issued lawful subpoenas for the audio of Special Counsel Hur’s interview with @POTUS. AG Garland refused to comply. @HouseGOP held AG Garland in contempt of Congress. It’s as simple as that. Yet, Democrats continue to defend the indefensible.”

It was another, although as we will soon see not most recent, chapter in a saga fueled by the cases Garland has or has not seemed interested in pursuing and when he has or has not felt compelled to cooperate with Congressional Republicans. 

FISM News has followed Garland’s actions since he was first nominated and through the many chapters of his ongoing controversies. As Republicans prepare to take Garland to court on their own – the Justice Department has refused to prosecute – it becomes beneficial to retrace those steps. 

“Under Merrick Garland, DOJ exists to do two things, attack the Democrats’ enemies and protect the Democrats’ friends,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said this week during an appearance on Fox News. “The degree to which DOJ has been weaponized trying to stop the voters from electing Donald Trump is ridiculous. And the degree to which DOJ is protecting Joe Biden from the evidence of his corruption and protecting his friends is shameful. The damage Merrick Garland has done to DOJ has no precedent in history and it’s really sad.”

Cruz is by no means a neutral observer, but his words summarize the overarching complaint so many on the right have lodged about Garland – his interest in the law is secondary to his political allegiances. Naturally,  Garland and the Democrats deny this. 

He is hardly the first attorney general to face such accusations, but Garland might be the one whose actions and inactions have borne the most scrutiny. And, contrary to recent headlines, it doesn’t even boil down to his treatment of the two most recent presidents. 

In the great left-right divide, Republicans grouse that Garland has never landed in a position sympathetic to the right or come across as enthusiastic about taking an even-handed approach to law enforcement. 

FISM News has followed Garland’s actions since he was first nominated and through the many chapters of his ongoing controversies. As Republicans prepare to take Garland to court on their own, it becomes beneficial to retrace those steps. 

It’s a journey that reveals the right having never warmed to Garland and the attorney general, either intentionally or unintentionally, having given ample ammunition to conservatives.

ROCKY START WITH PARENTS, ROCKY CONTINUATION WITH PRO-LIFE

It’s almost hard to remember now, but long before Garland stepped up his efforts to prosecute Trump, he initially drew the ire of conservatives when he sent a memo urging local school boards to involve the FBI’s counterterrorism team if board leaders feared for their safety – ostensibly from unruly parents and/or activists.  

Garland has downplayed the memo, but never apologized, even after a whistleblower reported Garland and the DOJ specifically investigated conservative parents as terrorists. 

By 2022, Garland was again in the crosshairs for his zealous efforts to arrest pro-life activists and lethargic-at-best response to the bombings of pro-life health centers. 

Pro-lifers who ran afoul of the FACE Act had their homes raided – sometimes by dozens of agents who cuffed them in front of their children. 

It’s hard to say what has happened to people suspected of attacking pro-life centers because even as they gloat over their misdeeds on social media, Garland has said it’s difficult to identify any culprits. 

By the time Garland okayed raids on former President Trump’s home, any semblance of trust citizens on the right might have had was long gone. 

Garland’s decision to back efforts to prosecute Trump and avoid prosecuting Biden, even when both men were accused of illegally keeping classified documents, made him a permanent and primary target. 

But, even with a federal court case pending, the Garland saga continues to expand into new avenues. 

THE SAGA CONTINUES

Monday, Republicans announced two more issues they have identified with the DOJ. 

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) and Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) sent an official letter stating that the House was now investigating whether the DOJ is acting to penalize a pair of IRS whistleblowers. 

“IRS whistleblowers Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler blew the whistle about misconduct and politicization in the DOJ’s criminal investigation of Hunter Biden,” an X post by the House Oversight Committee reads in part. “Sadly, Mr. Shapley and Ziegler have faced retaliation for doing the right thing.”

On the same day, Cruz and New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer headed a small team of Congressional Republicans who accused Garland and previously impeached Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas of dismissing 350,000 illegal immigrant removal cases out of hand. 

“The repeated failures in border management under your leadership have led to an unprecedented backlog of 3.5 million asylum cases, posing a substantial burden on our immigration system and increasing the risk of criminal activities by illegal aliens,” the letter reads. “The American people deserve transparency and accountability regarding the administration’s handling of immigration and border security. The current state of affairs at our southern border is unacceptable and demands immediate and effective solutions.”

But, Garland has plenty of supporters. 

“Those who seek to discredit Attorney General Garland certainly bring contempt. But only upon themselves.” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) posted on X last week.

WHAT COMES NEXT? 

It remains to be seen what real actions Congress can take against Garland with the DOJ declining to act. 

Florida Republican Rep. Anna Paulina Luna has advocated employing “inherent contempt of Congress,” a little-known provision that allows the House sergeant at arms to arrest Garland and seize the tapes he’s refused to hand over, to bring the matter to a conclusion. 

However, this action hasn’t been used since the 1900s and never on such a grand scale – and it would necessarily rile people across the political spectrum and could cause any number of issues if the sergeant at arms sought to enforce it. 

The chances of this motion passing in the closely divided house is remote, meaning that the federal court system is the likely landing place for the fight. 

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