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Garland says DOJ won't be 'intimidated' by 'conspiracy' theories in House testimony

By Chris Benson
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland testifies Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee on Oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice on Capitol Hill. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI
1 of 9 | U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland testifies Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee on Oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice on Capitol Hill. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

June 4 (UPI) -- Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to defend the Justice Department from conspiracies and "repeated attacks" in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

In his opening remarks during the hearing in the GOP-led chamber that said it sought to "examine how the DOJ has become politicized and weaponized" under his leadership, Garland, called out "certain members" he claimed are seeking to charge him with contempt "as a means of obtaining -- for no legitimate purpose -- sensitive law enforcement information that could harm the integrity of future investigations."

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The Oversight and Judiciary committees sought to hold Garland in contempt last month after he and the Justice Department declined to release audio recordings from special counsel Robert Hur's investigation into President Joe Biden's handling of classified documents.

"This effort is only the most recent in a long line of attacks on the Justice Department's work," Garland said on Tuesday.

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Biden last month invoked executive privilege to block the release of the documents and attempt to shield Garland from the charges.

Hur released a report on the conclusion of his investigation in February declining to file charges against Biden that also included comments that questioned the president's memory. The Republicans, who are in possession of the transcripts, which were made public in March, issued a subpoena in demand of the recordings as part of their impeachment investigations into the president.

Garland answered a wide-range of questions from Republicans and got into a heated exchange with Rep. Matt Gaetz, R- Fla., who clashed with Garland over if DOJ will release alleged communications with prosecutors involved in Trump's other legal imbroglios.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department said earlier that the 86th attorney general's intent on Tuesday was to reject "false narratives regarding the Department's employees and their work."

Garland told lawmakers he views contempt "as a serious matter," but that he will "not jeopardize the ability of our prosecutors and agents to do their jobs effectively in future investigations."

"I will not be intimidated. And the Justice Department will not be intimidated," he said. "We will continue to do our jobs free from political influence. And we will not back down from defending democracy."

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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, took aim at the Justice Department over former President Donald Trump's conviction on 34 counts related to falsifying business records to facilitate hush-money payments seeking to cover up alleged affairs during his remarks Tuesday as he said justice "is no longer blind in America," he claimed.

"Today it's driven by politics. Example number one is President Trump," the Ohio Republican said.

Garland disputed unfounded claims by Republicans that state prosecutors brought charges against Trump at the urging of the U.S. Justice Department despite the fact the federal government declined to prosecute.

He called the "repeated attacks" on the Justice Department "unprecedented and they are unfounded," adding how such attacks "have not, and they will not, influence our decision-making."

"It comes alongside false claims that a jury verdict in a state trial, brought by a local district attorney, was somehow controlled by the Justice Department," said Garland. "That conspiracy theory is an attack on the judicial process itself."

The Judiciary Committee's ranking Democrat Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., accused his Republican colleagues of not caring "about what's in the interest of the American people.

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"They just care about getting their favorite felon back in the White House," Nadler commented Tuesday, also saying his Republican counterparts are "little more than a field office for the Trump campaign."

Trump's ex-national security adviser John Bolton said last week that enemies of the United States rejoice when citizens question their institutions.

"It's dangerous to question the integrity of our entire legal system," said Bolton, who was also an appointee of former President George W. Bush.

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