Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday defended the Justice Department’s handling of separate investigations by special counsel into classified documents linked to former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden, saying it does not have different rules for Republicans and Democrats.
In his first public comments on the matter after yet more classified documents were found at Biden’s Delaware home, Garland was asked if he believed the Justice Department was handling the two investigations fairly.
“The department has a set of rules and practices,” he said. “These are essential for us to continue. They make sure that we adhere to the rule of law. This means, among other things, that we don’t have different rules for Democrats or Republicans, different rules for the powerful and the powerless, different rules for the rich or the poor. We apply the facts and the law in each case in a neutral and nonpartisan manner. That’s what we always do, and that’s what we do on the issues you’re referring to.”
Garland spoke at a roundtable discussion with members of the Justice Department’s Reproductive Task Force as Republicans accused the Justice Department of treating Trump and Biden differently after classified Trump administration documents were found in their Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida and classified Obama administration documents were discovered at Biden’s home in Wilmington and at a Washington office he had used.
“The role of the Department of Justice is to apply the facts and the law in each case and make the appropriate decisions in an impartial and neutral manner regardless of who the subjects are,” added Garland, who was nominated by Biden. “That is what we have done in each of these cases. And that is what we will continue to do.”
Garland named former federal prosecutor Jack Smith as special counsel in November in a pair of Trump investigations: the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago and Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Garland announced this month that Robert Hur, who was a Trump-appointed federal prosecutor, would serve as special counsel in the Biden investigation.
Congressional Republicans have launched their own investigations into the Biden documents. Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., Chairman of the Oversight and Accountability Committee, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio are leading investigations.
Biden and Trump have had contrasting responses to the discovery of classified documents, which are supposed to be turned over to the National Archives when the presidents or vice presidents leave office.
The National Archives corresponded for several months with Trump officials after requesting that the missing records be returned before receiving some of those records in a Mar-a-Lago box collection in January of last year. Trump later failed to comply with a subpoena for the remaining records, leading to an eventual search of his Florida home.
In Biden’s case, the National Archives was unaware of any missing records until notified by the White House counsel’s office shortly after Biden’s lawyers found the records, according to Richard Sauber, the president’s special counsel on the White House.