As Attorney General Merrick Garland settles in with confirmed senior officials at the Justice Department, he is taking Teddy Roosevelt's advice: Speak softly and carry a big stick.
Garland is not flashy, does not hang out at the White House to get face time with the president, and stays off TV. But he is briskly turning around the Justice Department. Garland opened pattern-or-practice discrimination investigations of the Minneapolis and Louisville police departments. He issued hate crimes indictments against three Georgia men in connection with the February 2020 killing of Ahmaud Arbery. And he initiated prosecution against a Louisiana police officer for using "unreasonable force against an arrestee by punching him in the face and head, kneeing him in the stomach, tasing him in the neck and head, pistol-whipping him in the head, slamming his head into the ground, and kicking him in the face." An indictment was also issued in West Virginia against a police officer for abusing an arrestee.
Without political interference or even discussion with the White House, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York acted on warrants to grab documents at the home and office of Rudolph W. Giuliani, who served as personal lawyer to the disgraced former president. (Such action would need to be approved at the highest levels of the department.)
Garland also expanded the indictment against the men who allegedly plotted to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) to include intent to use weapons of mass destruction.
Even more remarkable, with the exception of the Minneapolis investigation, all this happened this past week. The attorney general apparently does not lack focus or energy.
Major issues await him, including whether he should prosecute the disgraced former president or any of his aides; how he holds other Justice Department lawyers accountable for possible violation of professional and department standards in the last administration; what processes he puts in place to prevent politicization of prosecutions; how far he goes in prosecuting the Jan. 6 insurrection(will he go after its funders, instigators or organizers not present during the violence?); which charges, if any, he brings against Giuliani; whether he revisits the Justice Department's guideline preventing prosecution of a sitting president; and whether he pushes for new legislation to go after domestic terrorists. He also must diversify his department, tidy up the special counsel guidelines and address white supremacists' infiltration of law enforcement.
The good news is that he has in place top-flight senior advisers, including Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. The bad news is that, in the face of a nationwide swarm of Jim Crow-style legislation impeding access to the ballot box, the department is operating with one hand tied behind its back. Without the pre-clearance provision in the Voting Rights Act (VRA), Garland cannot prevent such laws from taking effect. Whether Senate Democrats have the nerve to punch through the filibuster to protect the fundamental right to vote remains an open question. How Garland, with or without a revived Section 5 of the VRA, addresses this threat to our democracy will determine whether he succeeds in returning the department to its former luster.
For his fast start and focus in reaffirming the principle of equal justice under the law, we can say well done, Mr. Attorney General.
Jennifer Rubin, option piece, Washington Post, May 2, 2021
May 3, 2021
Voices4America Post Script. Like the man who appointed him, #MerrickGarland, our Attorney General, is not flashy. Mr. Garland, he gets the job done. #PolOfTheWeek Share this!