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AG Garland to testify before Senate amid special counsel probes and other controversies


Attorney General Merrick Garland is set to testify before a Senate committee on Wednesday, where he’ll likely be peppered with questions on everything from the two recently appointed special counsels to reproductive rights to school board meetings.

Garland’s appearance before the Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee marks his first trip to Capitol Hill this year. It comes as investigations into President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have taken center stage in recent months.

Garland in his opening remarks will outline what the Justice Department has accomplished under his tenure and defend the work of department employees, according to a DOJ spokesperson.

His prepared remarks will touch on topics like efforts to combat the rise of violent crime and hate crimes, work to protect reproductive freedom across the country, and the department’s accomplishments in partnering with the Ukrainian government against Russian aggression.

“Every day, the 115,000 employees of the Justice Department work tirelessly to fulfill our mission: to uphold the rule of law, to keep our country safe, and to protect civil rights,” Garland will say, according to a copy of his prepared remarks.

He will praise agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the US Marshals who “put their lives on the line to disrupt threats and respond to crises,” and laud Justice Department employees’ efforts to protect national security and “our country’s democratic institutions.”

“Every day, in everything we do, the employees of the Justice Department adhere to and uphold the rule of law that is the foundation of our system of government,” Garland’s remarks say.

He is likely to face aggressive questions from Republicans as part of their war against the alleged “weaponization” of the Justice Department. Some of the focus could be on the ongoing federal investigations into classified documents recovered at the offices and homes of Biden, Trump, and former Vice President Mike Pence, including about why the department chose to omit certain actions from their timeline of the Biden probe, and whether Garland will put a special counsel in charge of the Pence probe if the former vice president announces a 2024 White House bid.

Senators may also ask about federal charges against Charles McGonigal, the former head of counterintelligence for the FBI’s New York field office. McGonigal is charged with illegally working for one of Russia’s most notorious oligarchs, Oleg Deripaska, who was linked to the FBI’s Russia probe thanks to his ties to Paul Manafort, who served for a time as Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman.

The attorney general, however, will likely be hesitant to answer questions about any ongoing investigations since doing so goes against longstanding Justice Department policy.

Republicans may also push Garland on debunked claims that he called parents terrorists for attending or wanting to attend school board meetings.

The claim stems from a 2021 letter from The National School Boards Association asking the DOJ to “deal with” the uptick in threats against education officials and equating that activity to “domestic terrorism.” Garland released a memo encouraging federal and local authorities to work together against the harassment campaigns levied at schools, but never endorsed the “domestic terrorism” notion. The issue has been seized on by some of Garland’s loudest critics in Congress, with at least one member of the Senate committee having called on him to resign over it.

For their part, Democrats may want to quiz Garland on how the Biden administration is responding to fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision last year to reverse Roe v. Wade. The federal government’s options for beefing up protections for the abortion are limited, but DOJ promised earlier this year to monitor new anti-abortion bills percolating in the states.

Lawmakers also might want to touch on whether there is more the department can do to curb police violence in the wake of Tyre Nichols’ death, and the department’s work to combat GOP efforts to undermine voting rights in states.

And senators from both parties might have questions for Garland on his department’s antitrust investigation into Live Nation Entertainment, the owner of Ticketmaster, which has drawn the ire of lawmakers, regulators and music fans alike after the service had a ticket sale meltdown last year.