Opinion | Merrick Garland: Unfounded Attacks on the Justice Department Must End

Photo Google

Conspiracy Theories, Falsehoods and Threats of Violence Against DOJ Personnel are Not Normal.

 

Last week, a California man was convicted of threatening to bomb an FBI field office where hundreds of agents and other employees work. In one of his threats to the FBI, the man wrote: “I can go on a mass murder spree. In fact, it would be very explainable by your actions.”

These heinous threats of violence have become routine in an environment in which the Justice Department is under attack like never before.

In recent weeks, we have seen an escalation of attacks that go far beyond public scrutiny, criticism, and legitimate and necessary oversight of our work. They are baseless, personal and dangerous.

These attacks come in the form of threats to defund particular Department investigations, most recently the special counsel’s prosecution of the former president.

They come in the form of conspiracy theories crafted and spread for the purpose of undermining public trust in the judicial process itself. Those include false claims that a case brought by a local district attorney and resolved by a jury verdict in a state trial was somehow controlled by the Justice Department.

Attorney General of the USA, Merrick Garland. Foto Google.

They come in the form of dangerous falsehoods about the FBI’s law enforcement operations that increase the risks faced by our agents.

They come in the form of efforts to bully and intimidate our career public servants by repeatedly and publicly singling them out.

They come in the form of false claims that the Department is politicizing its work to somehow influence the outcome of an election. Such claims are often made by those who are themselves attempting to politicize the Department’s work to influence the outcome of an election.

And media reports indicate there is an ongoing effort to ramp up these attacks against the Justice Department, its work and its employees.

We will not be intimidated by these attacks. But it is absurd and dangerous that public servants, many of whom risk their lives every day, are being threatened for simply doing their jobs and adhering to the principles that have long guided the Justice Department’s work.

In my first job at the Justice Department some 45 years ago, I worked on what would become the Department’s first edition of the Principles of Federal Prosecution. That set of rules for prosecutors enshrined what every Department employee lives by every single day: an unwavering commitment to the fair and impartial application of our laws. That commitment has been sustained by dedicated career professionals who serve across administrations of both political parties.

The Justice Department makes decisions about criminal investigations based only on the facts and the law. We do not investigate people because of their last name, their political affiliation, the size of their bank account, where they come from or what they look like. We investigate and prosecute violations of federal law — nothing more, nothing less.

We do this not only because of the principles that have long guided our work, but also because we know that our democracy cannot survive without a justice system that ensures the equal protection of law for all its citizens.

The Justice Department will continue to uphold its obligation under the Constitution to fiercely defend the right of all Americans to peacefully express opinions, beliefs and ideas. Disagreements about politics are good for our democracy. They are normal.

But using conspiracy theories, falsehoods, violence and threats of violence to affect political outcomes is not normal. The short-term political benefits of those tactics will never make up for the long-term cost to our country.

Continued unfounded attacks against the Justice Department’s employees are dangerous for people’s safety. They are dangerous for our democracy. This must stop.

 

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