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Ringing the alarm for Merrick Garland: Department of Justice stands in real peril because of Trump

If Merrick Garland truly wants to protect the Department of Justice (DOJ) from political interference and salvage the institution’s reputation, then he must indict Donald Trump for his crimes related to his 2020 coup attempt. That is the key finding of the House Committee of Inquiry into January 6th. It’s the message the committee clearly hopes will be heard by the attorney general and was the underlying message of the committee’s fifth hearing on Thursday.

Garland has come under increasing criticism for failing to hold senior Republicans accountable for the role they played in both the overall coup attempt and the January 6 attack on the Capitol, which was largely perceived as an attempt to shut down the DOJ “depoliticize” after Trump and his Attorney General Bill Barr did so much to embarrass the agency. But as Thursday’s hearing undeniably made, Trump himself is the biggest threat to the DOJ’s reputation for independence from politics. As long as Trump is free to wriggle his way back into the White House, legally or not, the DOJ faces a very real risk of being corrupted in Trump’s image.

“Imagine if your mayor lost a re-election bid, but instead of giving up the race, they picked up the phone, called the district attorney and said, ‘I want you to say this election was stolen,'” the MP said Bennie Thompson. D-Miss, stated in his opening remarks on Thursday. That’s exactly what Trump did – but on a much larger scale.

RELATED: Trump and his henchmen must be punished: It’s the only way to save America

Thursday’s hearing focused on efforts Trump made during the coup to get the DOJ to back up its false claims that the election was stolen.

Jeffrey Rosen, Richard Donoghue, and Steven Engel — all three senior DOJ officers under Trump — testified that they had a meeting with Trump on Jan. 3, 2021. During the meeting, they threatened to resign if Trump implemented a plan to use the DOJ for his criminal purposes. Trump’s plan was to appoint a man named Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general, these men reported, with the sole purpose of creating a legal pretext to void Joe Biden’s election victory.

As long as Trump is free to wriggle his way back into the White House, legally or not, the DOJ faces a very real risk of being corrupted in Trump’s image.

“Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen,” Trump reportedly told Justice Department leaders, Donoghue said.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., described the man Trump was trying to impose on the DOJ as acting attorney general: “Who is Jeff Clark? An environmental attorney with no experience relevant to running the entire Department of Justice. What was his only that he would do anything the President wanted him to do, including overturning a free and fair democratic election.”


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It is, of course, true that Republicans will accuse Garland of “playing politics” when the DOJ indicts Trump for the crimes outlined during the House hearings. It is also sadly true that many of the thumb-sucking centrists in the media will agree with this narrative rather than confront the very real threats to our democracy. But as Thursday’s hearing shows, indicting Trump is the best way to prevent the DOJ from becoming an utterly corrupt institution serving the whims of a dictatorial president.

In 2020, Trump’s efforts to corrupt the DOJ were halted by career bureaucrats who took the law more seriously than Trump’s concerns. As the committee made clear, Trump will ensure that this never happens again. Let Trump anywhere near the Oval Office again and you get a DOJ made up entirely of Jeff Clarks. That’s the powerful message the committee sent to Garland on Thursday.

RELATED: Jan. 6 committee makes case for Merrick Garland: Failure to prosecute Trump is political

“Imagine a future where the President could screen candidates for the Justice Department with a question, ‘Are you loyal to me or loyal to the Constitution?’ And it wouldn’t take long to find people willing to pledge their allegiance to the man,” Kinzinger argued.

It is not enough to let voters solve the Trump problem.

Apparently, the main reason Garland should charge Trump with crimes is the overwhelming evidence of guilt and a moral duty to convey the message that no one is above the law. But if the DOJ’s reputation is that important to Garland, then he should really be concerned that a free Trump is on the way to turning the DOJ into a giant agency of “fixers” focused solely on getting Trump on board to hold power.

It is not enough to let voters solve the Trump problem.

As Tuesday’s committee hearing showed, Trump’s plan to steal the 2024 election through yet another fake election manifesto has a high probability of working. The already too rare officials who could stand in the way of the conspiracy disappear. One could always hope that the 2024 election won’t be close enough to steal. But most Americans already knew before January 6 that Trump was a fascist pig, and enough of them in 2020 were okay with him getting close. If Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Republican, cannot be dissuaded from re-electing Trump despite Trump’s attacks on violent and deranged people in the Bowers family, then chances are other Trump voters will switch sides, in fact low.


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Bringing the Trump campaign to its knees with criminal charges may really be the best chance we have to save democracy. Unless democracy is saved, the DOJ’s reputation is doomed. Next time, threats of mass resignations won’t protect the DOJ’s integrity. Trump will make sure he fires anyone willing to stand up to him before it happens.

The good news is that the Jan. 6 hearings appear to be working as intended: They underscore the absurdity of the DOJ letting Trump and his conspirators run wild. The DOJ’s reputation for being “apolitical” isn’t doing very well these days. There’s a growing perception that because they’re wealthy and well-connected, Trump and his cronies can get away with crimes, which makes the DOJ look damn corrupt. So it’s a great relief to see that the tide is turning and Garland, albeit reluctantly, is letting his staff go to pursue higher echelons in the GOP who were involved in the coup.

Just this week, many of the bogus voters who were the subject of Tuesday’s hearing were finally hit with subpoenas. On Wednesday, just before the committee unloaded a truckload of evidence linking Clark’s role in a conspiracy to overthrow the government, federal agents searched his home:

The timing of all of this doesn’t seem entirely random. The Jan. 6 committee appears to be leading the DOJ to investigate criminal activity.

Bringing the Trump campaign to its knees with criminal charges may really be the best chance we have to save democracy.

There is no decision Garland and the DOJ can make that is “apolitical.” Refusing to arrest Trump in the face of overwhelming evidence of his guilt is political behavior, as it is far more about placating Republican partisans than following the law. With every move he’ll make shattered by politics, Garland needs to worry less about “looking” political and start fulfilling his promise to go where the evidence leads. Garland takes the DOJ’s reputation very seriously. If he wants his legacy to be one of upholding that reputation, he must indict Trump for his various crimes. Otherwise, Trump is an invitation to return to the White House, where he will immediately turn the Justice Department into a MAGA clown show.

https://www.salon.com/2022/06/23/garland-doj-arrest/ Ringing the alarm for Merrick Garland: Department of Justice stands in real peril because of Trump

Linh

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