Merrick Garland grilled over Jack Smith's appointment

 June 5, 2024

Attorney General Merrick Garland angrily rejected claims that the Justice Department has been weaponized during a congressional hearing Tuesday where he defended his appointment of Jack Smith as legally proper.

Despite being a private citizen, Smith has been empowered to lead two separate federal prosecutions into Donald Trump.

The legal basis for Smith's sweeping authority as Special Counsel has been called into question by prominent lawyers like former Ronald Reagan attorney general Edward Meese.

Smith's appointment challenged

Meese has called Smith the proverbial "emperor with no clothes", arguing his office was created without necessary authorization from Congress. Even if Smith's office had been properly created, he is a "principal officer" who requires Senate confirmation.

Republican Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) cited Meese's arguments during his questioning of Garland at a House Judiciary hearing.

"It seems that you've created an office that would require an act of Congress," Massie told Garland.

"Was Jack Smith nominated by President Biden? Was he confirmed by the Senate?" Massie asked.

In response, Garland cited "regulations" that he said have been used for decades by both parties to appoint Special Counsels.

"The matter that you're talking about, about whether somebody can have an employee of the Justice Department serve as special counsel has been adjudicated," he said.

Garland grilled on weaponization

In his opening statement, Garland angrily blasted "threats to defund" Smith's prosecution and defended the DOJ against "conspiracy theories" about coordination with local Democratic prosecutors to go after Trump, who was found guilty in a New York "hush money" trial last week.

"We do not control those offices, they make their own decisions," Garland said.

Garland furiously rejected accusations that he had a role in sending Matthew Colangelo, a former top-ranking DOJ official, to work for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office. Trump allies have pointed to Colangelo as evidence of federal interference in the trial.

Trump is the target of four criminal prosecutions in total, two of which are being led by Smith. A January 6th case is paused pending a Supreme Court ruling on presidential immunity, and a separate classified documents case has been postponed indefinitely by the judge, Aileen Cannon.

Cannon has scheduled a June 21 hearing to hear arguments about Smith's authority. Meese will argue that the indictment should be dismissed.

Smith previously defended his appointment by claiming he is an "inferior" officer. Trump blasted this as an admission that Smith is not independent of the Biden administration.

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