Don’t Fall for the Myth of Moderate Merrick Garland

Don’t Fall for the Myth of Moderate Merrick Garland
Attorney General Merrick Garland convenes a Justice Department meeting in Washington on March 10, 2022. (Kevin Lamarque/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Benjamin Weingarten

For years, we were subjected to hysteria over the idea that Donald Trump would politicize the very Justice Department that arguably led the bureaucracy’s war against him. Now, open criticism of the DOJ by the party genuinely in control of it has been deemed acceptable.

Leading Democrats are apparently fed up with an attorney general, in Merrick Garland, too feckless to satisfy their Jan. 6 bloodlust. But does their hypocritical bluster presage an epic internecine clash, or are we witnessing a charade, and if so, to what end?

“Do your job,” thunders Democrat Elaine Luria of Virginia, a member of the House’s Jan. 6 Select Committee. Luria, echoing several of her colleagues, is upset that Garland’s DOJ isn’t responding quickly enough to the committee’s criminal contempt referrals, which aim to punish Trump-world figures who refuse to participate in the political show trial.
Meanwhile, despite the fact that President Joe Biden “has never communicated his frustrations directly to Mr. Garland”—apparently preferring to do so in the most conspicuous way possible via a New York Times leak—the Grey Lady tells us that Biden “has said privately that he wanted Mr. Garland to act less like a ponderous judge and more like a prosecutor who is willing to take decisive action over the events of Jan. 6.”

And the president apparently believes that, like the Select Committee, his political opponents must pay:

“Mr. Biden ... is aghast that people close to Mr. Trump have defied congressional subpoenas and has told people close to him that he does not understand how they think they can do so, according to two people familiar with his thinking. ...

“In October, he told reporters that he thought those who defied subpoenas from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack should be prosecuted.

“‘I hope that the committee goes after them and holds them accountable criminally,’ Mr. Biden said. When asked whether the Justice Department should prosecute them, he replied, ‘I do, yes.’”

On its face, such seeming ingratitude would have to pain the attorney general, given his devotion to pursuing Jan. 6 like the republic-imperiling terrorist attack fellow Democrats claim it to be.

Garland ironically finds himself under public assault just as his Justice Department is expanding its Jan. 6 probe to encompass people and events that are removed from the breach of the Capitol itself—as the Select Committee has done—and while the DOJ is seeking to add dozens of new prosecutors for its effort at the cost of tens of millions of dollars.
This builds on the DOJ’s unprecedented investigative and prosecutorial effort in size, scope, and intensity to match the narrative of insurrection, regardless of how unmoored from reality it may be. This was recently laid bare when a federal judge for the first time acquitted a Jan. 6 defendant on all trumped-up trespassing charges—the kind the Justice Department has leveled at a substantial number of similarly situated defendants—the accused testifying to having been “waved” into the Capitol by cops before spending roughly 10 minutes in the building.
Garland’s Justice Department is also responsible for handing down sedition charges this past January, amid pressure from progressive partisans, knowing full well how grave the charges are, and how rarely such cases are successfully prosecuted.

Meanwhile, many nonviolent Jan. 6 defendants without prior criminal backgrounds languish in horrible pretrial detention conditions as federal prosecutors have advocated for on often ideological grounds, giving the accused a legitimate claim to the idea that they’re political prisoners.

Yet the NY Times—presumably on behalf of the Democratic Party—tries to draw a contrast between fiery Joe Biden and milquetoast Merrick Garland.

It paints Garland as moderate—his peers describing him as “a political centrist” and patient—his critics describing him as “slow and overly deliberative,” and friends as someone who “carefully consider[s] legal issues.” It also lavishes on Garland descriptions such as “quiet and reserved,” and “evenhanded and independent.”

It quotes Garland as stating that “the best way to undermine an investigation is to say things out of court.”

“Even in private, he relies on a stock phrase: ‘Rule of law,’ he says, ’means there not be one rule for friends and another for foes,'” it writes.

What’s behind this purported disconnect between Democrats and Garland that the “paper of record” is playing up?

There are two possibilities: One is that the NY Times is presenting things as they truly are, with a president and his party out for blood, and a moderate attorney general trying to ensure that the center holds.

Under this scenario, that the White House is leaking out its criticisms, in tandem with the Jan. 6 Committee, would suggest it believes in pressuring the supposedly apolitical, independent, and unimpeachable non-Biden Justice Department—“norms” and institutional integrity be damned.

And to be fair, Garland himself has on several occasions alluded to the fact he listens to what’s going on in the public, and acts.

He told NPR after reading one of its stories that his office started investigating and would be changing its policy regarding compassionate release.
And he indirectly acknowledged how attuned he was to public discourse—namely from the left—when he said the following on the eve of Jan. 6, 2022:

“Because January 6th was an unprecedented attack on the seat of our democracy, we understand that there is broad public interest in our investigation. We understand that there are questions about how long the investigation will take, and about what exactly we are doing.

“Our answer is, and will continue to be, the same answer we would give with respect to any ongoing investigation: as long as it takes and whatever it takes for justice to be done—consistent with the facts and the law.”

A week later, his DOJ issued its first and, to date, only set of sedition charges.

But does Garland really have to feel the heat publicly to get in line with the administration and the progressive Democratic Party it represents?

AG Garland may appear meek and soft-spoken, and his record as a judge might not please Ketanji Brown Jackson, but temperament and action are two different things.

Biden’s DOJ, as led by Garland, has arguably been as radical as any this side of Eric Holder. Consider that beyond the Jan. 6 effort, it has:
  • Opened a new domestic terror unit, despite having never justified or substantiated claims of the threat it purports to pursue—while contemporaneously killing its imperative China Initiative, under pressure from progressive activists who called it racist;
  • Drafted a memo, working hand-in-glove with the White House and the National School Board Association, to pursue as terrorists parents who dared challenge the public school establishment over draconian and detrimental COVID-19 policies and critical race theory in schools;
  • Issued a letter threatening to target states that dare to restrict “gender-affirming care” for “transgender youth”—that is, states that wish to limit the ability of kids to get sex-change operations, use hormone blockers, and subject themselves to other medical interventions, as radical progressive ideologues encourage;
  • Threatened states—red states, of course—that would dare undertake election audits;
  • Done little if anything to restore law and order on America’s increasingly violent and chaotic city streets; and
  • Effectively punished Project Veritas over its effort to obtain Ashley Biden’s diary—something done by all accounts lawfully—and without ever revealing the contents.
Why would the Democrats’ long knives be out for such an attorney general?

Maybe they’re not. Perhaps the Biden administration and congressional Democrats would like you to believe that they believe Garland is too plodding, too even-handed, and too moderate because it serves their ends.

By attacking Garland as they are, Democrats may be shifting the Overton Window. If they demand the most radical of approaches with respect to Jan. 6, anything the Justice Department does short of them will appear moderate. That is, by attacking Garland, the Democrats legitimize efforts that would otherwise be considered well beyond the pale—all while satisfying their animated progressive base.

They can spin future DOJ efforts positively, no matter the outcome. If the DOJ lands one millimeter to the “right” of the Democrats’ demanded positions, Democrats can claim that “See, Joe Biden keeps his hands off his Justice Department. And still, look at how strongly even the unimpeachable and moderate Garland-led DOJ was forced to act in pursuit of the rule of law.”

Color me unconvinced that criticism of Garland is rooted in genuine philosophical or tactical differences aimed at pressuring the supposed centrist into action.

What transpires in the case of Hunter Biden may well give us a clue as to whether we are witnessing reality, or a ruse.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Ben Weingarten is editor-at-large at RealClearInvestigations. He is a senior contributor to The Federalist, columnist at Newsweek, and a contributor to the New York Post and The Epoch Times, among other publications. Subscribe to his newsletter at
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