The Utter Failure of Merrick Garland

Below is my column in The Hill on Attorney General Merrick Garland at the midpoint of his tenure at the Justice Department. For an Attorney General who said that he wanted to restore the trust of the public in his department, Garland has manifestly failed to achieve his goal. It appears that the Justice Department and FBI are now trusted less than under his predecessor, Bill Barr. A new poll shows that 55 percent of the public view the Trump indictment as “politically motivated” and 56%  believe that it constitutes election interference.  A similar majority wanted Trump pardoned if convicted.

Here is the column:

Merrick Garland began his tenure as attorney general with the stated intention of restoring faith in the Justice Department and the rule of law. By that standard, Garland has been a failure.

In fact, if anything, the crisis of faith surrounding his department has only deepened on his watch, and he bears some of the blame.

Polls show that half the country distrusts the FBI. A recent poll by Harvard CAPS-Harris found that 70 percent are either very or somewhat concerned about election interference by the FBI and other intelligence agencies. An additional 71 percent agreed that changes post-2016 had not done enough to prevent further interference and that “wide-ranging” reform was still required. Another poll showed 64 percent view the FBI as “politically compromised.”

During the term of his predecessor, Bill Barr, 50 percent of the public viewed the department favorably, and 70 percent had a favorable view of the FBI. The public trust of the department appears to have declined under Garland. At the very least, it has not dramatically improved.

There is variation in these polls, but they show a deep-seated distrust of the Justice Department that continues to taint all of the department’s work.

For example, the recent indictment of former President Donald Trump contains extremely damaging elements, including an audiotape that directly contradicts Trump’s assertions that he declassified all of the documents in his possession. Yet even the Justice Department’s release of an unusually detailed indictment, with pictures designed to sway public opinion, appears to have had little effect. While 48 percent of the public believes that the charges are justified, 47 percent believe the charges are “politically motivated.”

The response to this indictment shows the gravitational pull of public perceptions of the Justice Department. That perception of bias is well earned. Various officials were removed from the Department by career officials for their express bias and misconduct during the Russia-collusion investigation. That investigation was recently found by Special Counsel John Durham to have been launched with the backing of the Clinton campaign and without the minimal evidence ordinarily required by the department.

The Justice Department and the media kept the investigation going for years despite the lack of credible evidence.

When Biden gave the nod to Garland, I thought it was a brilliant move. Garland had been an affable, principled and moderate judge. Many of us criticized the Senate’s refusal to give him a vote after his nomination to the Supreme Court. I now believe that he would have made a great justice for all the reasons he has proven to be a poor attorney general.

He is affable but not influential or effective in changing the department. He is the very symbol for maintaining a status quo that the public rejects.

Garland leads the department with the same judicial temperament and persona. Predecessors such as Barr came to the department as former prosecutors with a clarity of purpose and mission. That would put Barr in conflict with Trump, but he was a hands-on manager who penetrated every level of the department. While some opposed Barr’s priorities, no one doubted who was in control of that department.

Garland’s reputation is more like that of a supervising judge who defers to the views and decisions of his agency. The result has been disastrous for the department. Even FBI Director Christopher Wray admitted that the past scandals demanded fundamental changes in the department’s operations.

Yet Garland allowed the culture to remain unchanged. He remained largely reactive to new scandals like the task force quickly assembled at the request of the teacher’s union and school board officials to investigate parents challenging school boards.

Garland remained largely silent as the FBI cracked down on conservative groups across the country in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot. He said nothing as his subordinate prosecutor Michael Sherwin bragged on in a television interview how they sought to unleash “shock and awe” on those who supported the election challenge to ensure that certain “people were afraid to come back to D.C.”

While most of us supported the tough punishment of rioters, the Justice Department was criticized for its draconian treatment of people charged with relatively minor offenses such as trespass and unlawful entry into the Capitol.

The controversies continue to pile up, from the seizure of the phone of a member of Congress to alleged disparate treatment in investigations of pro-life over pro-choice groups. Some of these and other controversies are legitimately debatable; others are not.

Garland could have taken steps to assure the public that there is not a two-tiered system of justice but repeatedly refused to do so. For example, Garland has continued to refuse to appoint a special counsel in the investigation of Hunter Biden. By doing so, Garland has removed the president’s greatest threat in the form of a report that would detail the scope of the Biden family’s alleged influence peddling and foreign contacts.

Garland is now looking at a new inflammatory situation after Special Counsel Jack Smith has leveled 37 charges against Trump while Robert Hur, “the other special counsel” investigating Biden, has largely disappeared from sight.

There is also the notable absence of any decision by Smith on another part of his mandate: crimes associated with Jan. 6th. Some of us have argued that Trump’s controversial speech was constitutionally protected. While Smith was swift to charge on the documents matter, he has not resolved the other part of his mandate even though the Jan. 6th matter has widely investigated by the Justice Department and Congress. The concern is that the Justice Department does not want to undermine the widespread claims in the media and Congress that Trump committed crimes in supporting an “insurrection.”

Garland has also supported the appointment of controversial officials such as Kirsten Clarke and Rachael Rollins, deepening the distrust of conservatives.

Time and again, Garland could have made decisions to seek to assure the public with more moderate and transparent decisions. He has repeatedly failed to do so.

Garland is not solely at fault. Biden took office promising to be a unifier and a moderate. He immediately adopted far left policies and fueled divisions by denouncing millions of “MAGA Republicans” and his political opponents as “semi-fascist” extremists.

Garland repeatedly pledged that political considerations would hold no sway with him as attorney general. He has certainly refrained from Biden’s style of divisive rhetoric. However, he has done little prospectively to assure the public that the department is pursuing cases without political bias. He continues to repeat the mantra of “trust us, we’re the government,” long after that trust has been lost with many citizens.

The failure of Merrick Garland is becoming more and more evident by the day. The public continues to distrust the Department, and his assurances of fair dealing have been overwhelmingly rejected by Republicans and independents.

It is hard to dislike Merrick Garland as a man. But as an attorney general, there is little to like about his last two years.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

221 thoughts on “The Utter Failure of Merrick Garland”

  1. While your criticism of Garland is damning – and frankly does not go far enough. You are incorrect that it somehow reflects that he would have made a good Judge.

    It is the duty of the courts to stop exactly he conduct he is allowing.

    The last thing we need as a supreme court justice is someone who turns a blind eye as law enforcement tramples our rights.

    The job of a Judge includes saying NO to law enforcement when it violates peoples rights.
    The job of the Attorney General of the United states is to assure those violations of rights do not occur.

    We dodged a bullet with Garland.

    1. You betcha we dodged a bullet. Garland is a typical political hack, he even said he was against the 2nd Amendment ( no pun intended)

  2. “The bribery allegations are only allegations backed by zero evidence.”
    We KNOW Shokin was investigating Burisma.
    We KNOW Burisma wanted the investigations ended.
    We KNOW Hunter Biden worked for Burisma.
    We KNOW that Hunter Biden was paid parge amounts of money by Burisma.
    We KNOW that Hunter Biden was in near constant contact with the state department trying to get them to interfere in Shokin’s investigations of Burisma.
    We KNOW Shokin was fired – FACT
    We KNOW that Shokin was fired as a result of the demand that he be fired made by Joe Biden as an official act as VP of the united states.

    None of the above is an allegation – it is all FACT. It si also evidence.

    The allegation is that Burisma communicated to Joe Biden through Hunter and on two occasions directly to Joe Biden, that they would pay money to get Shikin Fired.

    That is the ONLY allegation, and it is a very credible allegation. It is made by a source the FBI rated as credible. It is consistent with the known facts.

    Whether you like it or not, there is more than enough actual evidence to get a jury in 90% of the country to convict.

    “The media has been covering the allegations.”
    No, they have not. As noted they have provided very little air time to them. And what little they have is like your post – fallacious and false spin.
    Not truth.

    “What Republicans keep failing to do is provide evidence.”

    Annonymous – there has been more than enough evidence to investigate since Summer 2015.
    The actually body of evidence has grown vastly since then.

    Contra your claims there is massive amounts of evidence.
    There is money being paid – it is likely we will find even more, but we already know that Hunter Biden received millions.
    There is actions being taken – VP Biden did using the power of the US govenrment get Shokin fired.

    I would further note that the allegation that Hunter/Joe were bribed is EVIDENCE.
    Alone it is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. But it absolutely is evidence.

    “Trump did more damage to himself in the recent Fox News interview than republicans have been trying to do for Biden.”
    Only in your head. Trump is doing just fine.

    There are no multidecade FBI credible sources claiming he took bribes from foreigners.

    There are not millions of unaccounted for funds sloshing arround in shell companies.

  3. “The prosecution can choose to leak information if it chooses to. Nothing says they can’t. ”

    False, it is both an ethical violation, and a violation of the constitutional rights of others and the law.

    Director Wray is not asserting that the FBI will not discuss an ongoing investigation because he feels like it.

    But because it is the law. Doing so violates the constitutional rights of everyone outside of government that is part of that investigation in anyway.

    “It’s still evidence that has already been filed as part of the indictment.”

    Indictments are not evidence. They are legal claims that evidence exists.

    “Since the transcript is public thru the indictment they can “leak” it.”
    No they can not. First they dd so before the indictment, nor as you falsely claim is the indictment evidence.

    The media is free to report whatever they want. But the govenrment speaks in criminal prosecutions before courts.

    “It’s not secret information.”
    Of course it is. All private communications between individuals not part of government that are not done in public are secret, and they are all constitutionally protected. Actually read the constitution.

    With great constitutional care these can be made public in a criminal prosecution, but the burden is always on the government that it legally obtained these communications, and that their use in court is legitimate.

    While our COURTS traditionally and wisely operate in public. Law enforcement itself does NOT.
    DOJ/FBI is ONLY free to make public private communications in the context of a criminal prosecution and ONLY those legitimately obtained and only those relevant to the prosecution itself.

    Nowhere in the constitution is federal law enforcement free to make public the private conduct or speech of others.

    When the constitutional constraints are not followed – it is unconstitutional, it is a violation of civil rights, it is illegal 18 US 1983, it is criminal.

    “It’s publicly available now that had indictment is public.”

    So making ones own criminal conduct public makes the crime of making it public go away ?

    BTW Leaking GJ material is a very serious crime. And that is absolutely what this was.

    Subsequently publishing it in an indictment does not alter the fact that the prior leak was a crime.

    If you wish to use picayune details of the law as weapons – you had better comply with the same picayune details of the law.

  4. Anonymous

    “No. It’s holding them accountable for breaking the law. Plus there’s plenty of evidence to show they did break the law thanks to the idiots filming themselves breaking the law.”

    When the law is applied creatively,. When it is applied differently based on poolitics – in this case RADICALLY differently – that is political corruption.

    You rant that the law was broken – if so PROVE IT.

    Do not rant about thwarting your political objectives. Demonstrate the initiation of force or Fraud to actually harm others.

    Tossing molotov cocktails into police cars is clear harm, and clear violence – the initiation of force.
    It is Arson which usually results in 10yr sentences for FIRST OFFENSES for people with no prior record.

    Plotting to shout and stomp your feat and rant at congress in the hope they will refuse to certify a lawless and fruadulent election does not harm anyone.

    Not getting your way in an election is not a crime. Not counting fraudulent votes is not a crime – counting them is.
    Being angry about an election is not a crime – or Democrats would all be in jail.

    You say you are holding people accountable for breaking the law.

    Demonstrate the initiation of force or fraud to actually harm others.

    Law is not arbitrary – it is not a means of accomplishing political objectives.

    Law is the entire purpose of government. Its core premise is that each of us is generally free to do as we please short of using force to get what we want from others.

    You and those on the left are destroying the rule of law to leverage the force of government against political enemies and to get what you want.

  5. Very warped logic.

    Thwarting corruption is not inherently corruption.

    I would further note that we have enormous differences between the executive and legislative branches.

    The Hatch act does not apply to congress.
    A congressional investigation has no power – beyond that of making law or exposing the conduct of those in government.

    Congress has no power to put a political oppponent in jail.
    Congress has no power to compel the media or social media to censor their critics.

    We vest the POWER of government in the executive.
    Both in the literal and figurative sense – only the executive can be politically weaponized.

    Only the executive wields FORCE. In many cases actually weapons

  6. Dear Mr. Turley,

    I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to bring to your attention the recent developments regarding Merrick Garland’s handling of the crimes related to the events of 9/11. As you are aware, there has been ongoing legal action and investigations by various organizations and advocates seeking accountability and justice for the events of that tragic day.

    The Lawyers Committee for 9/11 Inquiry, Inc., a nonprofit public interest organization, has filed a petition with the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, formally requesting the presentation of extensive evidence to a special grand jury regarding the unprosecuted federal crimes related to the destruction of the three World Trade Center towers on 9/11. The evidence presented in the petition, including scientific analysis, eyewitness testimony, and expert reports, suggests the use of explosives and incendiaries in the demolition of the buildings.

    Similarly, 9/11 family members and advocates have taken legal action against the FBI, urging the Bureau to assess and report the evidence of the World Trade Center’s explosive demolition, as well as other unreported 9/11 evidence. This action seeks to hold the FBI accountable for its failure to comply with a Congressional mandate related to the comprehensive investigation of the 9/11 attacks.

    Despite these significant efforts, it is disheartening to note that Merrick Garland’s tenure as attorney general has been marked by a failure to restore faith in the Justice Department and the rule of law, as he had initially intended. Polls indicate that public trust in the FBI and the Justice Department has declined, and there is a widespread perception of bias and political motivation in the handling of high-profile cases.

    Given your expertise and commentary on legal matters, I believe your analysis and perspective on Merrick Garland’s handling of the 9/11 crimes and the erosion of public trust in the Justice Department would be valuable. It is crucial to shed light on these issues and hold our institutions accountable for their actions.

    Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to any insights or comments you may have on this topic.

    Gene Laratonda
    9/11 Citizen Activist
    Pittsburgh, PA


    See Case 20-5051 Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry, et al v. Christopher Wray, et al

    See Case 21-1338 Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry v. Garland
    Plaintiff / Appellant:  Richard Gage, Robert McIlvaine, Lawyers Committee for 9/11 Inquiry, Inc., Michael O’Kelly, Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, Diana Hetzel, Christopher Gioia and Jeanne Evans
    Defendant / Appellee:   Geoffrey Berman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, United States Department of Justice, Merrick B. Garland, Attorney General of the United States and Audrey Strauss, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York

  7. “The Utter Failure of Merrick Garland”

    – Professor Turley

    I am certain that Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Barack Obama, Susan Rice, Andrew Weissmann, Lisa Monaco et al. consider Merrick Garland’s efforts a roaring success.

  8. A controlled demolition of the Biden family corruption scandal. Happening right before our eyes.

    1. The Obama Coup D’etat in America rolls on.

      “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, Lisa Monaco et al.

      1. With that many people against you, you might be doing something important and challenging their stranglehold on our government. Thanks for documenting…I had forgotten just how many despicable players were in this.

  9. * ” Resistance is Futile ” once the People let a (D)ominant take over your home. Also, ” talk ( texting ) is cheap ” when Folks who Protest the injustice can be prosecuted, persecuted and thrown in (D)uh Gulag ( without due process ) ! *

  10. I sure hope Trump’s attorneys make the case that equal protection under the law has been non-existent during the regime of Joe Biden. An entire class of Americans—Trump and those who support Trump—has been singled out for persecution.

    1. Current polls indicate this has ZERO impact on Trump’s popularity.
      That 75-80% of people beleive the prosecution is political.

      Conversely despite – nearly 400 minutes of air time on the Trump indictment and ZERO on the Biden bribery allegations.
      People are increasingly aware of the Corruption of the Biden family.

      Young voters are growing disillusioned with Biden and democrats.

      The Generic ballot is +2.5 GOP AFTER adjusting for the 2022 polling.

      Smith’s case has LOTS of problems.

      Several former US Attorny’s have noted that the allegations of attempted bribery and extortion made by a highly credible Attorney who is a contender for a judicial appointment and not some Trump sycophant is very damaging to SMITH and could scuttle the entire case.

      Further the DOJ and compliant Judges in DC gamed Attorney Client priviledge to get testimony that is not nearly so damaging as they claim, and there near certainly will be an effort by Trump lawyers to supress all that evidence – with a high probability of winning.

      Some of what is in the indictment is likely not admissible Regardless. Attorney’s are barred from becoming witnesses against their clients, and Smith used the coerced Testimony of Corcoran to admit myriads of things that are just not admissible and are tangential to his crime fraud exception claim.

      Statements By Trump to his attorny’s that are not efforts to involve the attorny in the commission of a crime are NOT ADMISSIBLE.

      Corcoran as an example can not testify regarding What Trump said unless the specific thing he said was an effort to entice the attorney into conspiring to commit a crime.

      1. Many of us are aware of the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege, but are nonplussed that Jack Smith would be using the tactics that he is using. What a guy!

        1. Most of us are not aware of how the crime fraud exception actually works.

          Nor are we aware of the extent to which the federal government specifically has routinely violated priviledge and gotten away with it.

          This is not a Trump issue, it was wide spread in the J6 defendants. With the DOJ placing spies in the Defence teams, and reading the lawyer client communications of J6 defendants in real time.

          We also saw this in the Guantonamo cases,

          The crime fraud exception is quite narrow – and does NOT allow anything Smith has provided so far.

          1. It most certainly allows exactly what Smith is doing, which is why invoking it required a significant production of the supporting evidence before the judge who approved it.

  11. Merrick Garland gave up all integrity and credibility when he submitted to the corrupt, illegitimate Biden regime.

    1. I would submit that he gave up all integrity and credibility when he became a dim-0-craq. Integrity and credibility has no place in the dim-0-craq party.

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