Garland slams attacks on the Justice Department, telling lawmakers: ‘I will not be intimidated’

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Merrick Garland forcefully rebuked what he described as unprecedented attacks on the Justice Department Tuesday, telling Republicans who have sought to hold him in contempt that he will “not be intimidated.”

During a hearing before the the House Judiciary Committee, Garland condemned the “conspiracy theory” pushed by Donald Trump’s allies that the department was behind Trump’s state court prosecution in New York in which the former Republican president was convicted of 34 felony charges.

Garland called the unsupported claim “an attack on the judicial process itself.”

And Garland pushed back against “baseless and extremely dangerous falsehoods” being peddled about the FBI as well as threats to defund the special counsel prosecutions of former President Trump.

His appearance came as Republicans have moved to hold him in contempt for the Biden administration’s refusal to hand over audio of President Joe Biden’s interview with special counsel Robert Hur, which focused on the president’s handling of classified documents.

A transcript of Biden’s interview has been made public, but the president asserted executive privilege over the audio last month to block its release. The White House has said Republican lawmakers only want the audio so they can chop it up and use it for political purposes.

The Justice Department has argued witnesses might be less likely to cooperate if they know their interviews might become public. Garland told lawmakers he would not “jeopardize the ability of our prosecutors and agents to do their jobs effectively in future investigations.”

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

Rep. Jim Jordan, the committee’s top Republican, criticized Garland in his opening statement for a broad array of what he depicted as politically motivated decisions by federal law enforcement — including the conclusions by different special counsels that Trump criminally mishandled classified documents while Biden did not.

“Many Americans believe there’s now a double standard in our justice system. They believe that because there is,” Jordan said.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, who was investigated by the Justice Department but not charged in a sex trafficking inquiry, had a tense exchange early in the hearing when he demanded to know if the department would produce records related to the New York state case in which Trump was convicted last week.

Garland disputed as false allegations by Gaetz that he had “dispatched” to the Manhattan District Attorney office a Justice Department attorney who later became part of the Trump prosecution team, insisting that he had nothing to do with it.

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