The Incredible Shrinking Merrick Garland




Below is my column in USA Today on the diminishing role of Attorney General Merrick Garland at the Justice Department after a series of controversies. As a well-known moderate, many of us had hoped that Garland could be a unifying presence at the Department; assuring a divided nation that justice would be pursued in an even-handed and apolitical fashion. Yet, in controversy after controversy, Garland has failed to take modest steps to make such assurances. After well documented cases of bias and false statements by FBI and DOJ officials in past investigations, there was a clear need for greater transparency and independence in investigations. Garland has consistently swatted away such options. This week, Garland stayed on that path and refused to release any part of the affidavit used as the basis for the search of Mar-a-Lago. This included the possible issuance of a redacted copy or even responses to specific concerns over the timing or basis for the search. While Trump has called for the release of the affidavit, Garland will not even release those sections dealing with the account of the prior discussions and agreements with the Team Trump. There is little proactive effort to anticipate or address such concerns as vividly shown in the last week.

Here is the column:

In the cult classic, “The Incredible Shrinking Man,” the character Scott Stuart is caught in a thick fog that causes him to gradually shrink to the point that he lives in a doll house and fights off the house cat. At one point, Stuart delivers a strikingly profound line: “The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet — like the closing of a gigantic circle.”

If one image sums up the incredibly shrinking stature of Attorney General Merrick Garland, it is that line in the aftermath of the Mar-a-Lago search.

Two years ago, I was one of many who supported Garland when he was nominated for attorney general. While his personality seemed a better fit for the courts than the Cabinet, he is a person with unimpeachable integrity and ethics.

If there are now doubts, it is not about his character but his personality in dealing with political controversies. Those concerns have grown in the past week.

In the aftermath of the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s home in Florida, much remains unclear. The inventory list confirms that there were documents marked TS (Top Secret) and SCI (Sensitive Compartmented Information) —two of the highest classification levels for materials. The former president’s retention of such documents would appear to be a very serious violation.

However, the status of the documents is uncertain after Trump insisted that he declassified the material and was handling the records in accordance with prior discussions with the FBI. While the declassified status of these documents would not bar charges under the cited criminal provisions, it could have a significant impact on the viability of any prosecution.

I have not assumed that the search of Mar-a-Lago was unwarranted given that we have not seen the underlying affidavit. Yet in another controversy, Garland seemed largely reactive and rote in dealing with questions over bias or abuse in his department.

In his confirmation hearing, Garland repeatedly pledged that political considerations would hold no sway with him as attorney general. Yet, in just two years, the Justice Department has careened from one political controversy to another without any sign that Garland is firmly in control of the department. Last year, for example, Garland was heavily criticized for his rapid deployment of a task force to investigate parents and others challenging school boards.

When Garland has faced clear demands for independent action, he has folded. For example, Garland has refused to appoint a special counsel in the investigation of Hunter Biden. But there is no way to investigate Hunter Biden without running over continual references to President Biden.

By refusing a special counsel, Garland has removed the president’s greatest threat. Unlike the U.S. Attorney investigating Hunter Biden, a special counsel would be expected to publish a report that would detail the scope of the Biden family’s alleged influence peddling and foreign contacts.

Likewise, the Justice Department is conducting a grand jury investigation that is aggressively pursuing Trump associates and Republican figures, including seizing the telephones of members of Congress. That investigation has bearing on the integrity and the status of Biden’s potential opponent in 2024.

The investigation also has triggered concerns over the party in power investigating the opposing political party. It is breathtaking that Garland would see no need for an independent or special counsel given this country’s continued deep divisions and mistrust.

Democrats often compare the January 6 investigation to Watergate but fail to note that the Watergate investigation was led by an independent counsel precisely because of these inherent political conflicts.

Then came the raid. While Garland said he personally approved the operation, he did little to help mitigate the inevitable political explosion. This country is a powder keg and the FBI has a documented history of false statements to courts and falsified evidence in support of a previous Trump investigation.

Yet, there was no prepared statement or response for days, which allowed speculation and rage to grow. When Garland did respond, he offered a boilerplate defense of the department and sought only the release of the warrant and inventory list.

If there was one occasion for total transparency, including the release of the FBI affidavit, this was that moment. Yet, Garland refused to act further. He declined to seek the release even as news media reported an array of leaks from the Justice Department, including the allegation that Trump took nuclear weapon secrets to Mar-a-Lago. As his department leaked like a sieve, Garland withheld the document that would set the record straight. 

The Justice Department also reportedly refused to allow a special master to review the seized material after alleged attorney-client material was taken — a move that would have addressed concerns that the search was “pretextual” to seize January 6th evidence.

Despite this record, I do not view Garland as inherently political in contrast to predecessors like Eric Holder. Garland’s judicial temperament may be ill-suited to the demands of this office.

Garland sometimes looks more like a pedestrian than a driver on decisions in his own department. Top positions were given to figures denounced as far-left advocates on issues from defunding the police to racial justice. For the moderate Garland, these did not seem like natural choices. Neither did the department’s recent controversial move to effectively circumvent a Trump pardon to prosecute a Florida nursing home operator.

And Garland has not responded to new allegations of bias at the FBI and Justice involving the downplaying of evidence involving the Hunter Biden laptop controversy.

Concerns also have been raised about the decision to appoint the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit office to lead the Washington, D.C., office. The agent, Steven M. D’Antuono, led the disastrous investigation of the alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Many observers viewed that case as clear entrapment and abuse by the FBI. Given the importance of the January 6 investigation, it is baffling that the Department of Justice would make this controversial transfer at this time.

An attorney general should not be motivated by optics in his decisions, but he also cannot ignore optics when they undermine the integrity of his department. The search of Mar-a-Lago was a historic raid with sweeping political implications, including on the approaching midterm elections. Garland must have known that it would be viewed by many as an “insurance policy” taken out against a Trump presidential run.

Yet, with leaks coming out of his department undermining Trump’s claims, Garland merely offered “trust us we’re the government” assurances while resisting the release of the affidavit.

When Scott Stuart faced his diminished stature, he asked, “I was continuing to shrink, to become… what? The infinitesimal? What was I?” That is a debilitating question for any person, but it is disastrous in an attorney general.

It is not that Merrick Garland is absent but that his presence often seems immaterial.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter: @JonathanTurley

484 thoughts on “The Incredible Shrinking Merrick Garland”

  1. Fellow blog readers, the above post from Anomaly is clear proof that we are dealing with twelve year olds.

  2. Oh my, they don’t want to release the affidavit but they leak it’s supposed contents to the WP and the NYT. So releasing the affidavit might prejudice the case but leaking it will have no affect on the case or possible whistle blowers. Figuring out the identity of a whistleblower is possible by narrowing the possibilities to who would be in a position to know. This fake concern doesn’t hold water when the leaks are being used to a political advantage. Concern for the case or people involved has no importance when their trying to get there scoop. An applicable phrase would be, The cat is already out of the bag. Try as they might the can’t put the kitty back in the bag now without suffering severe scratches. Self inflicted wounds deserve little pity.

  3. OT

    “My body my choice.”

    – Feminazis

    It’s not her body, it’s the body of the male that provided the seminal catalyst, the instruction, to replicate, in the absence of which, there is nothing but an infinitesimal mass of tissue, an ovum, infinitely.

    Since he gives the order, it must be his body and his choice, in the final analysis.

      1. “It’s the [baby’s body], stupid!”

        – James Carville

        I am so glad you have finally regained your faculties and made the correct decision to agree.

        It’s neither his nor hers; it’s the baby’s body, created on seminal orders from the man.

        Think of it as a sort of natural affirmative action.

        How’s that?

        You may now be allowed out of the demonic realm and back into the human race.

    1. ROFL at your lack of understanding of biology.

      BTW, a single human egg — which you can “infinitesimal — is ~10 million times the volume of a single human sperm cell.


        My “…lack of understanding of biology.[?]

        “I can’t…I’m not a biologist.”

        “…in my work as a judge, what I do is I address disputes. If there’s a dispute about a definition, people make arguments and I look at the law and I decide.”

      1. I’m telling my wife you said that right now!

        And, I’m not sayin’ I did, but if I ever killed anything, it wasn’t an innocent and defenseless baby and it was under strict orders from the government.

  4. I’ll give you the benefit of knowing AG Garland on a personal level about understanding his character. However, there’s a glaring hole in your viewpoint: Garland’s horrible decisions show a pattern of corruption that cannot be ignored, no matter how badly his friends and supporters wish otherwise. People standing too near shrinking people tend to suffer the same fate- just saying.

  5. more inconsistencies are being observed by those who seek facts. CNN’s Jim Acosta, Don Lemon, Anderson Cooper, et al are too busy to investigate, likely because they are going through Melania’s clothing to see how they can improve their ratings.

    Note to FBI: contact me to tell you how the Castros destroyed democracy in Cuba. Not even they were as stupid as you idiotas

    Merrick Garland, the Washington Post and the Nuclear Story

    The Journal’s Sadie Gurman and Aruna Viswanatha report from Washington:

    Attorney General Merrick Garland deliberated for weeks over whether to approve the application for a warrant to search former President Donald Trump’s Florida home, people familiar with the matter said, a sign of his cautious approach that will be tested over the coming months. The decision had been the subject of weeks of meetings between senior Justice Department and FBI officials, the people said.


    Mr. Garland’s long period of pondering is completely incompatible with a news report that has been widely circulated since last week. In a story published on Thursday and updated on Friday, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Perry Stein and Shane Harris reported for the Washington Post:

    Classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents sought in a search of former president Donald Trump’s Florida residence on Monday, according to people familiar with the investigation.

    Experts in classified information said the unusual search underscores deep concern among government officials about the types of information they thought could be located at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and potentially in danger of falling into the wrong hands.

    Their concern was so deep that they had to kick the issue around at meetings for much of the summer before trying to do anything about it?

    For exactly how many weeks was Mr. Garland’s hair on fire before he signed off on seeking the warrant?

    The Washington Post for its part has been on fire with a flurry of atomic stories. On Friday the Post published a podcast called “The nuclear documents.” …..This week the Post published still more “analysis,” this time from Timothy O’Brien of Bloomberg who raises the possibility that Mr. Trump concluded “he could sell himself — or, possibly, state secrets” for big money. Mr. O’Brien claims that Mr. Trump has suffered business setbacks and then adds;

    That’s a lot of financial pressure, especially for someone already prone to be a money-grubber. It should also raise alarms for any rational observer concerned that Trump might have been inspired to use the powers and access to records that his presidency provided to rake in lucre by peddling classified information after he left the White House.

    How are we supposed to take any of this seriously if Justice didn’t?

    1. Noticed the same thing. Looks more like a hostage reading a script on video than a supposedly confident AG that has his ducks in a row.

  6. Has William Barr said anything at all about the decision to search MAL? I know Michael Mukasey has spoken out.

    1. Ah, yes, a word from the Deep Deep State Swamp. William “Mr. Deep Deep State Swamp” Barr is Lizzy Borethem’s political confrere and would be fine with the presidential removal procedure employed in 1963, George “King Deep Deep State” Bush’s deceptively innocent proclamation of a “kinder gentler” nation notwithstanding, and not that he would personally participate, right?

  7. In all honesty, TDS is the weirdest phenomena I have ever seen in my life. It is literally impossible for me to wrap my head around this kind of irrational hatred. Don’t know what else to say other than Trump has not been POTUS for nearly two years, and Biden killed very nearly everything Trump put into motion on day one with executive orders. If anyone has beefs, they’d be better served directing their attention to the people that have actually been in power during that same time frame. There is nothing healthy or even American about any of this.

    1. The American Founders and Framers did not ratify Amendments after the Bill of Rights.

      Those unmendments undo the Constitution.

      It’s a free-for-all of enmity, covetousness, hysteria and incoherence.

    2. James,
      TDS, it is weird.
      When I read about shrinks seeing an increase in patients or sessions with patients increase all because of TDS, what is wrong with these people? People loosing weight? Sleepless nights?
      Over what?
      Does not help when MSM cranked up the crazy to 11. All their predictions of . . . whatever, never came true.

  8. maybe trump will be indicted….maybe he will not run for president that is their motives

  9. To MAGA nuts: Is there any crime that Trump could commit that would cause him to lose your support?

    1. To you, there are either people in lockstep with the DNC, or MAGA nuts. That is precisely why dems are about to be relieved of power. You are so full of hatred and vitriol you’ll never see it. Not everyone that disagrees with democrats is a backwoods Cletus. A great deal many, in fact. But carry on in your echo chamber of hateful delusion, by all means. The rest of us do not have to live in your tortured mind, thank Zeus.

    2. Hillary should not have even been around in ’16. Whitewater, etc., etc., etc., should have taken Bill the rapist and Hillary the BleachBit artist out long before Real President Donald J. Trump came down the escalator with “Melania the Beautiful.”

      90% of the CEOs in America would be in jail were they compelled to suffer the anal exam Real President Donald J. Trump has…

      understanding that democrats “take wealth” having never “created wealth,” per the American thesis: Freedom and Self-Reliance.

      2 million more illegal democrat voters illegally cross the border as illegal foreign invaders annually.

      You’re a ——- joke.

      How’s the Biden Crime Family today?

      There’s all the proof one needs; there’s no functioning judicial branch.

    3. Yes, if he surrendered to the fascists and corrupt Federal Government which includes the Judiciary.

      1. The fascist Democrats have made all of America far less safer since their defund the police mantra. This is on Merrick Garland’s handlers

        Defunding the Police and Consequences

        This trend is nationwide, despite cities offering bonuses and raising compensation. Why do the dangerous work of policing if you’re going to be vilified or put in the dock in a dispute with a suspect? The citizens of Evanston can thank the politicians they elected when their homes are robbed and nobody responds.

  10. In a lovely Freudian slip, Trump’s attorney, Alina Habba, said today that “The [former] President’s position … is to ask them to uncover everything.” We, too, would like everything uncovered about Trump. Presumably she meant “unseal.”

  11. “Yet, in just two years, the Justice Department has careened from one political controversy to another without any sign that Garland is firmly in control of the department.”

    – Professor Turley

    Professor, do give Susan Rice a call.

    She’ll assure you, in conjunction with her working colleague, Valerie Jarrett, that Obama is in full control and is not wavering in his course to nullify Americans and further his frantic endeavor in “…fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

    “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

    – Barack Obama

    “We will stop him.”

    – Peter Strzok to FBI paramour Lisa Page

    “[Obama] wants to know everything we’re doing.”

    – Lisa Page to FBI paramour Peter Strzok

    “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way he gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before 40.”

    – Peter Strzok to FBI parmour Lisa Page

    “People on the 7th floor to include Director are fired up about this [Trump] server.”

    – Bill Priestap

    The Obama Coup D’etat in America is the most egregious abuse of power and the most prodigious crime in American political history. The co-conspirators are:

    Kevin Clinesmith, Bill Taylor, Eric Ciaramella, Rosenstein, Mueller/Team, Andrew Weissmann,

    James Comey, Christopher Wray, McCabe, Strozk, Page, Laycock, Kadzic, Sally Yates,

    James Baker, Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, Priestap, Kortan, Campbell, Sir Richard Dearlove,

    Christopher Steele, Simpson, Joseph Mifsud, Alexander Downer, Stefan “The Walrus” Halper,

    Azra Turk, Kerry, Hillary, Huma, Mills, Brennan, Gina Haspel, Clapper, Lerner, Farkas, Power,

    Lynch, Rice, Jarrett, Holder, Brazile, Sessions (patsy), Nadler, Schiff, Pelosi, Obama,

    Joe Biden, James E. Boasberg, Emmet Sullivan, Gen. Milley, George Soros, John McCain,

    Marc Elias, Igor Danchenko, Fiona Hill, Charles H. Dolan, Jake Sullivan, Strobe Talbot,

    Cody Shear, Victoria Nuland, Ray “Red Hat” Epps, Don Berlin, Kathy Ruemmler, Rodney Joffe,

    Paul Vixie, L. Jean Camp, Andrew Whitney et al.

  12. The case docket has been updated and now shows that the judge will have a hearing on Thurs. at 1pm to hear arguments about unsealing the affidavit.

    1. The case, the docket, the judicial branch and American jurisprudence are all totally corrupt.

      This warrant must have never been issued per the 4th Amendment, its underpinnings having been artistically and flagrantly contrived with exponential license.

      Where is the case against one of the biggest proven crooks in American history, Hillary Clinton, whose weapons of choice were a hammer and BleachBit?

      Oh, yeah, we’ll wait with bated breath for the corrupt Deep Deep State mouthpieces to speak once again at 1 pm Thursday.

      Are you out of your ——- mind?

      Did the Americans wait for King George III to pontificate juridically or politically?

      Where are George Washington et al. when you need them?

      They’ve been “fundamentally transformed” out of America.

      “–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

      – Declaration of Independence, 1776

  13. “To him that is given more (power, you know, like the DOJ) MORE is expected.” (Luke 12:48). Burden should be on the DOJ, and not on the defendant, like the lay down lazy media demands. Stop hiding behind leaks.

  14. OT: When responding to Anonymous the Stupid and Svelaz the Clueless we should always think about what they said in the past and how wrong they were.

    CDC walk-back of COVID guidance vindicates legal challenges to mandates, lawyers say
    Teenager studies find vaccine efficacy wanes in less than four weeks, second dose followed by “cardiovascular effects” in nearly a third.

    The CDC now acknowledges that “primary series” vaccination “provides minimal protection against infection and transmission” and boosters offer only “transient” increased protection. Earlier CDC research suggested unboosted vaccines become worse than nothing. …
    A new Thai study of 300 teenagers, not yet peer-reviewed, found “cardiovascular effects” in nearly a third after their second Pfizer dose, “ranging from tachycardia, palpitation, and myopericarditis,” though they were “usually mild” with full recovery in two weeks.

    “This is exactly the kind of study the FDA said it wanted Pfizer to do” when it approved that mRNA vaccine, Philadelphia cardiologist Anish Koka wrote in a granular review of the Thai study.

    Then again we have to consider the Constitutional rights that the left violated. These two constantly stood up for authoritarianism and incorrect data. They are dangerous to your health and the health of your children.

    1. Folks, you’ll have to excuse S. Meyer for his obsessive compulsive need to regurgitate an old argument he lost a long time ago. He never got over it. Like Trump he wants to relive it so he can re-argue how he was so wrong.

      S. Meyer uses this deflection often when he knows he can’t make a competent argument and ends up making incoherent rambling “points”. Fair warning he insists on embarrassing himself often.

      1. Svelaz the Clueless, don’t you remember all those dumb responses you made? I know you want to forget that Stupidity so you can provide more stupidity in the present.

      2. Svelaz,

        Please explain by what logic you can dismiss Meyer’s argument as being lost “a long time ago” when he cites a relevant CDC action that was reported only two days ago??

        I don’t believe that you can. This is why you have zero credibility.

  15. Taken as a whole, the Merrick Garland experience should put an end to any thought that there might be such as thing as a Democrat who puts principle above partisanship, and any Republican who gives an credence to that idea should just be considered complicit in the ongoing partisan takeover and corruption of our most-cherished institutions.

  16. OT


    Congress needs to pass a “Trump Act,” relieving Real President Donald J. Trump of any possibility of charges or otherwise culpability, in perpetuity.

    The communists (liberals, progressives, socialists, democrats, RINOs) have so egregiously abused and exponentially exceeded the constitutional exemption from “double jeopardy,” that Real President Donald J. Trump must be absolutely and definitively absolved of all potential culpability, prosecution and litigation, criminal and civil.

    After passage, Congress must proceed to impeach and convict each and every communist (liberal, progressive, socialist, democrat, RINO) who participated in the fraudulent and criminal 7-year prosecution and persecution of Real President Donald J. Trump, including all of the co-conspirators in the Obama Coup D’etat in America.

    I am certain that the eminently reliable conservative and republican Congressman from, none other than, BAKERSFIELD, California, the effete, dastardly and covert RINO, Hillary Clinton in drag, Kevin “Hayseed” McCarthy, will see to both of those tasks with great dedication and haste…not!

    The first thing any new Congress must do to establish and maintain any degree of credibility is get rid of Kevin McCarthy, post haste and with extreme prejudice.


      “…the Case Against Donald Trump Remains Incomplete”

      – Professor Turley

      “It’s the [corruption], stupid.”

      – James Carville

      “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

      – Edmund Burke

      “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

      – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

      The entire judicial branch has been corrupted and requires overhaul through the liberal application of impeachment and conviction. Very little of current extant America is constitutional. Branch “overreach,” “mission creep,” “legislation from the bench” and general putrefaction constitute capital criminal acts of high office. The judicial branch has no power to legislate, modify legislation or legislate through “interpretation.” Yet it does so on a daily basis. The singular American failure since 1860 has been and remains the judicial branch, the valiant attempt by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney to implement the dominion of the “manifest tenor” of the Constitution and Bill of Rights notwithstanding.

      To wit,

      “The clause in the Constitution which authorizes the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is in the ninth section of the first article. This article is devoted to the Legislative Department of the United States, and has not the slightest reference to the Executive Department.”

      “I can see no ground whatever for supposing that the President in any emergency or in any state of things can authorize the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, or arrest a citizen except in aid of the judicial power.”

      “I have exercised all the power which the Constitution and laws confer on me, but that power has been resisted by a force too strong for me to overcome.”

      – Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, May 28, 1861

      “…courts…must…declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void.”

      “…men…do…what their powers do not authorize, [and] what they forbid.”

      “[A] limited Constitution … can be preserved in practice no other way than through the medium of courts of justice, whose duty it must be to declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void. Without this, all the reservations of particular rights or privileges would amount to nothing … To deny this would be to affirm … that men acting by virtue of powers may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.”

      – Alexander Hamilton

    2. Do you like to wear drag George? You’re certainly a drama queen. Get an outfit to go with your histrionics.

      1. Actually, I mean since you ask, I just purchased three new shirts from Orvis.

        I am very happy with them.

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