Attorney General Merrick Garland was caught flat-footed during a House Judiciary Committee hearing when Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) held up two large photographs, one showing Jan. 6 demonstrators breaking into the Capitol and the other of demonstrators assaulting the Department of Interior on Oct. 14.
When the Florida congressman asked Garland if the October event was an example of “domestic terrorism,” the attorney general demurred in his response.
“I’m not going to be able to reference that specific incident since this is the first I know of it,” he said.
Steube was referring to Oct. 14 protesters from an extreme left-wing environmental activist group, People vs. Fossil Fuels, which had organized five days of protests at the Interior headquarters building in Washington. They were seeking to force President Joe Biden to stop approving fossil fuel energy projects.
As happened with the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol, the October protestors forced their way into the building, and multiple federal security and law enforcement personnel were injured in the resulting confrontation, including some who required hospitalization. Fifty-five of the protestors were arrested.
“They forced their way into the Department of the Interior. They fought with security and police officers, sending some of those officers to the hospital. The extremists violently pushed their way into a restricted government building in an attempt to thwart the work of the department,” Steube told Garland.
“Police arrested at least 55 protestors on sight, but others got away. Mr. Garland, do you believe these environmental extremists who forced their way into Interior are also domestic terrorists?” Steube asked.
Steube was surprised to learn that Garland hadn’t heard about the incident prior to his question.
“This is the first you’ve heard about demonstrators who forced their way into a federal government building right here in D.C.?” Steube asked. “You didn’t hear about this at all?”
Garland appeared to be visibly irritated by the question.
“Just because I don’t know about this particular example, it doesn’t mean the Justice Department doesn’t know about it,” he said.
“At the Justice Department, we don’t care if the violence comes from the left or the right, or the middle, or from Up or from Down. We will prosecute violations of the law according to the statutes and facts we have.”
Noting that “we’re mostly all lawyers here,” Steube then held up the two large photographs, each showing multiple demonstrators forcing their way into government buildings.
“So looking at these pictures, and I know you say you are not aware of this one, it blows my mind that you aren’t aware of violent extremists forcing their way into a federal building right here in Washington,” Steube said.
“You see in both of these pictures people forcing their way into federal buildings. Would you call both of these acts domestic terrorism?”
“Look, I’m not going to comment about particular matters,” Garland said.
Steube said he was only asking him about the two photos.
“In one, you very welcomingly called it domestic terrorism,” Steube said. “But you are refusing to call groups like this, who committed the same atrocities, domestic terrorists.”
Garland insisted that “one I know the facts of, the other I don’t know the facts of.”
Seeming a bit exasperated, Steube then held the two photos up higher.
“Here’s the facts,” he said. “Exhibit A and exhibit B.”
But Garland again insisted that “with one picture, I’m not going to be able to resolve a legal determination.” He also stated that “we have terabytes of video” of the Jan. 6 riots.
Steube told The Epoch Times during a recess in the hearing that Garland not knowing about the Oct. 14 violence “absolutely blew my mind. … If he didn’t know that that happened, it raises so many other questions, like you’re telling me that you aren’t paying that much attention to what’s happening in the media in general, but your deputies didn’t raise that to you as an issue.”
Steube was then asked what Garland’s deputies not telling him about the Oct. 14 incident suggests about how the department is functioning.
“It shows they don’t care,” he said. “The Department of Justice obviously doesn’t care what happened to the Department of the Interior because it was their leftist ideologies that they support, just like all the riots we saw last summer, none of those people have been prosecuted with the full force of the department.”