Joe Biden’s relationship with his Attorney General, Merrick Garland, is so frosty it’s “frozen,” according to a report released Saturday.
Biden and his aides are furious over Garland’s decision to appoint special counsels to investigate both Biden’s handling of classified documents and his son Hunter’s business affairs. They said The Wall Street Journal that Garland was seen as going too far in his efforts to appear independent of Biden, who nominated him.
But Garland aides told the newspaper that the low-key and well-respected official was simply trying to dispel any suspicion that Biden was influencing his decisions.
Biden, 80, repeatedly emphasized when hiring Garland, 70, that he was choosing someone with integrity and independence.
We see Joe Biden listening to his Attorney General, Merrick Garland, speak in June 2021. Relations between the two men are now said to be “frozen”
Biden aides say Garland mishandled investigation into president’s son Hunter
Determined to differentiate himself from Donald Trump, who has repeatedly lent his two attorneys general – Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr, Biden vowed he would not interfere in Garland’s work.
“For the last four years, we have had a president who has made clear his contempt for our democracy, our Constitution, the rule of law in everything he has done,” Biden said in January 2021, pointing to his cabinet as president-elect.
“More than anything, we must restore the honor, integrity and independence of the Department of Justice that has been so badly damaged.”
As he brought Garland on stage, he told him, “You don’t work for me.”
But now that very independence is proving problematic, sources told the newspaper.
Biden aides noted that prosecutors had already closed their investigation into former Vice President Mike Pence’s handling of classified documents, after papers were found at his Indiana home.
Pence’s papers were discovered the same month the documents were located at Biden’s Delaware home: Biden and Pence both turned the documents over to authorities and self-declared the discovery – unlike Trump.
But Biden’s case has now been referred to a special counsel, the aides pointed out.
Biden and Garland are seen at the White House in May 2022. The two men are said to be extremely distant from each other.
Biden, seen leaving the church in Delaware on Saturday, was angered by both the investigation into his handling of classified documents and the investigation into his son.
And a lawyer for Hunter Biden — who was federally indicted Thursday for lying about his drug use on a gun permit — accused Garland of being biased against the Bidens.
The lawyer said the decisions to appoint a special counsel and charge Hunter, after he accepted a plea deal, demonstrated “partisan interference in this process.”
Some Biden aides felt Garland should have done more in response to an IRS whistleblower, Gary Shapley, who publicly claimed the Justice Department was interfering in an investigation into Biden’s business and tax affairs. Hunter Biden.
Biden aides believed Shapley’s approach to Republican members of Congress, telling them he had concerns, constituted an inappropriate leak of information.
Garland worked as a senior official in the Justice Department under Bill Clinton’s attorney general, Janet Reno, who angered Clinton by launching an investigation that ultimately led to the revelation of his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
“Merrick comes from the exact same school,” said a former department official who worked with Reno and Garland.
“They both believe very strongly in the independent, apolitical nature of the department, which is good for the department, but not always so good for the relationship between the attorney general and the president.”
Bill Clinton was notoriously angered by the actions of his Attorney General, Janet Reno. The couple is seen together in July 1993
Barack Obama is seen with his Attorney General, Eric Holder, in May 2013.
Trump has publicly criticized Jeff Sessions, his attorney general, photographed at the White House in February 2017.
Trump was also brutal in his verdict against his second attorney general, Bill Barr.
Conversely, Barack Obama was criticized for his closeness to his attorney general, Eric Holder.
Trump, however, was notoriously combative with his own people, publicly criticizing them and weighing in on their decisions.
“Attorneys general should be sympathetic to the administration’s goals but should not be too personally close to the president,” said Bill Barr, Trump’s last attorney general.
And Barr said The Wall Street Journal it was a thankless task.
“There is no escape,” he said.
“The attorney general must take ownership of these decisions in high-profile cases. He can’t say, “Well, I just left it to someone else.” »
Garland’s spokesperson declined to comment.
White House spokeswoman Olivia Dalton said Biden nominated Garland “because of his decades of loyalty to the rule of law, consistent with his commitment when he ran for president to restore the independence of the Ministry of Justice, without political interference”.