Attorney General Merrick Garland testified before the House Judiciary Committee for nearly a half-dozen hours on Wednesday, fielding questions from lawmakers on the alleged politicization within the Justice Department under his leadership.
The hearing on Capitol Hill began at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday and lasted through the late afternoon.
Here are highlights from the hearing.
Garland was pressed by Republicans, as they lead an impeachment inquiry against President Biden and investigate allegations of corruption within the Biden family and surrounding the federal investigation into the First Son, on his involvement in the Hunter Biden investigation.
Garland stressed that he is “not the president’s lawyer,” and that the Justice Department’s “job is to follow the facts and the law, and that is what we do.”
“I promised the Senate that I would not interfere… I would not influence the investigation,” Garland said. “I do not intend to discuss internal Justice Department deliberations, whether or not I had them.”
Garland also said he does not know “the specifics of the investigation.”
Garland repeatedly said during the first hours of his testimony that he never had discussions with Weiss about the investigation, and said the prosecutor had the necessary tools to continue his years-long probe into President Biden’s son.
But whistleblowers testified to Congress that Weiss had requested special counsel authority from the Justice Department back in 2022, but was denied.
In August, Garland ultimately granted Weiss that authority.
“Mr. Weiss asked to be made special counsel. I had promised that I would give him all the resources he needed, and I made him special counsel,” Garland testified Wednesday.
House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, highlighted Hunter’s business dealings with Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings and noted that the DOJ had allowed the statute of limitations to lapse on any potential tax crimes Hunter may have committed during the time he served on the board of that company.
The DOJ had been considering tax charges against Hunter Biden for failing to pay income tax for 2014 and 2015—the years he served on the board. At the time, Hunter Biden did not report “approximately $400,000” in income he collected from his position on the board of Burisma Holdings.
Garland refused to answer Jordan’s questions directly, instead deflecting to future statements by Special Counsel David Weiss.
“Mr. Weiss was the supervisor of the investigation at that time and at all times,” Garland repeated. “He made the appropriate decisions. You’ll be able to ask him that question.”
“We all know why they did it,” Jordan said. “Everyone knows why they did it … those tax years, that involved the president. It’s one thing to have a gun charge in Delaware. That doesn’t involve the President of the United States. But Burisma? Oh, my, that goes right to the White House.”
Jordan was referring to information House Republicans have gleaned from their investigation into Biden’s alleged corruption and involvement in his son’s business dealings.
Garland had a contentious exchange with Rep. Jefferson Van Drew, R-N.J., regarding the Justice Department’s handling of investigations into Catholic and pro-life groups.
“Do you agree that traditional Catholics are violent extremists, yes or no?” Van Drew asked, referring to an anti-Catholic memo that circulated in the FBI and led to agents undercover at Catholic Churches.
“Attorney General … I ask you do you agree that traditional Catholics are violent extremists?” Van Drew repeated.
“I have no idea what ‘traditional’ means here,” Garland said before becoming animated. “The idea that someone with my family background would discriminate against any religion is so outrageous – so absurd that you would ask me that question.”
Garland comes from a family of Jewish immigrants who fled antisemitism in Eastern Europe in the early 20th century.
“It was your FBI that did this. It was your FBI that was sending – and we have the memos, we have the emails – undercover agents into Catholic churches,” Van Drew asserted.
“Both I and the director of the FBI have said that we were appalled by that memo,” Garland said.
The pair then spoke over each other for an extended period, with Van Drew repeatedly asking, “Are they extremists or not, attorney general?”
“Catholics are not extremists, no,” Garland ultimately said in a frustrated tone.
Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, grilled Garland on whether the Justice Department has stopped its alleged targeting of parents at school board meetings.
Roy was referring to Garland’s October 2021 memo that directed the FBI and federal officials to address violence and threats of violence against those on school boards and school administrators.
When asked if that memo had been rescinded, Garland said: “There’s nothing to rescind,” while stressing it said “nothing about parents being terrorists, nothing about attending school boards.”
Roy went on to note that the DOJ had prosecuted 126 instances of alleged crimes by pro-life groups but only four instances of alleged crimes by pro-choice groups under Garland’s tenure.
Roy turned to the case of Mark Houck, a pro-life activist who was arrested “in front of his wife and children” by heavily armed FBI agents. Houck faced 11 years in prison for demonstrating outside an abortion clinic, but he was later acquitted.
Roy noted that the jury in Houck’s case met for just one hour before acquitting him. He then asked whether Garland had investigated why his department wasted resources on such a case.
“The Justice Department respects the jury’s verdict. The accusations in that case were made by agents and prosecutors on the ground,” Garland responded.