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Merrick Garland delivers remarks after being nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President Joe Biden at The Queen theater January 7, 2021 in Wilmington, Delaware. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Justice Is Blind. And So Is Merrick Garland

The DOJ's long fall from grace.

Daniel Boguslaw

Punch for punch, the debasement of Attorney General Merrick Garland is without historical correlate. The self-defeating adherence to ideological centrism (often indistinguishable from passivity in the face of elite resistance), paired with his masochistic devotion to the status quo, represents the kind of Blue Dog/New Dem totem that could have only emerged from a lab. Corporatist Democrats believed during the Obama years, as they do now, that through the ritual sacrifice of their Democratic ideals, they could resurrect the corpse of a forgotten age when left and right joined hands to strangle the everyday citizen. That union never happened after the GOP realized they could simply steamroll Democrats like Garland who refuse to open their eyes to the Conservative onslaught, even when it was punching them in the face.

If Garland's stain on DOJ wasn't bad enough, Biden's failure to man the DOJ's barracks with U.S. attorneys has further deflated the already anemic law enforcement agency.

The consolation prize Garland received after a thorough curb stomping by Mitch McConnell on the steps of the Supreme Court is his chair in the DOJ's highest office. Perched above the statue of lady justice, Garland seems to have taken inspiration from her shrouded visage and affixed his own blindfold to blot out the clown car of cartoon villains unloading into congressional hearings to stand trial for their respective roles in the attempted insurrection.

Tens of millions of Americans will tune in to the ongoing January 6 hearings in an attempt to reconcile the desecration of their Capitol with America's wilted top cop Garland cowering in the corner. In the shadow of the hulking figure Bill Barr once cut, a shaken tit mouse has taken up residence, beset on all sides by crumbling institutions and sinister schemes: Donald Trump plotting a comeback, unchecked Wall Street profiteers, and a host of corporate criminal enterprises seizing on a cowed Attorney General.

Similarly pathetic is the talk of secret progress being made to hold accountable the orchestrators of the attempted coup; a story identical to the prosecutions of Wall Street fraudsters under Obama. With the statute of limitations already passing on multiple Trump crimes and some Trump lackeys being allowed to evade Congressional subpoenas, better to call out the likelihood of failure when pressure can still alter its course than to wait for certainty of failure. This is especially the case since both the height of the midterm elections and Trump's likely entrance into the presidential race immediately thereafter will only exacerbate the downsides of Garland's plodding course thus far.

If Garland's stain on DOJ wasn't bad enough, Biden's failure to man the DOJ's barracks with U.S. attorneys has further deflated the already anemic law enforcement agency. As RDP's Toni Rosenthal wrote this week, "This month President Biden nominated five additional people to helm the 93 districts of the Office of the United States Attorney. These five nominees brought Biden's total nominations for the office up to just 53 out of 92 nominees for the office, or a little more than half.  Now, nearly a year and a half into Biden's presidency, the fact that almost half of these positions are still left without a nominee is a glaring indictment of Biden's failure to prioritize these critically important positions."

For the few and far between enforces who have spine enough to pursue the giant corporations robbing Americans blind, Garland has effectively neutered them, at least for the time being. As Andrea Beaty, my colleague here at the Revolving Door Project (RDP), wrote this week:

The Department of Justice's recent decision to bar Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust, Jonathan Kanter, from working on investigations into tech giant Google while the Department weighs whether to force his recusal outright reflects an undeniable double standard in light of the widespread conflicts of interest at the DOJ. Kanter's mistreatment further demonstrates the Justice Department's overwhelming commitment to protecting the interests of big business.

Kanter's critics within the DOJ charge that his previous work in the private sector presents a conflict of interest when it comes to cases involving Google. In doing so, they and their allies in Silicon Valley not only mischaracterize the nature of Mr. Kanter's work, but are also establishing an 'ethical' precedent that many current DOJ officials do not come close to meeting.

Governance

The DOJ is not the only oversight agency wielding vast powers to crack down on bad actors that continues to flail under the Biden administration. The Food and Drug Administration has deflated under a decades-long decline, culminating in the fatal, tragic, and politically disastrous baby formula shortage that has wreaked havoc across the country. 

As RDP's Toni Aguilar Rosenthal and Mekedas Belayneh wrote this week, "Government negligence has resulted in a hollowed-out FDA failing to prevent the deadly food outbreaks that kill 3,000 people a year. To put this number in perspective, the FDA's failure to protect the food we eat kills the same number of people as died in 9/11, every single year. The public deserves better. People across the country should be able to go to the grocery store and buy food that they know is safe, not that they simply hope to be. FSMA provided a blueprint for greater food safety enforcement and oversight at the FDA, but the underfunded, disorganized, apathetic agency never fulfilled the goals of the legislation. Will it take another crisis for the government to take its approach to food safety seriously?"

Tech

Meanwhile, the very titans of digital industry that an invigorated DOJ should be cracking down on are buoyed and supported by none other than Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo as she seeks to position herself for a new job as Treasury Secretary. Instead of advocating for American workers and the companies that pay living wages to produce American products, Raimondo has used her position to advocate for the very tech companies that have weaponized social media platforms into political instruments and destabilized entire countries.  Writing in The American Prospect on Tuesday, RDP's Mekedas Belayneh noted:

"The Department of Commerce is currently conducting digital trade talks with nations from the Indo-Pacific and Europe, with negotiations led by its secretary, Gina Raimondo. Through her role as lead negotiator in President Biden's newly established Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) and one-year-old U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council (TTC), Raimondo is poised to influence global trade policies.

[...]

Last December, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) attacked Secretary Raimondo for "lobbying on behalf of Big Tech companies overseas," and it's easy to see why. Deemed "tech's favorite Biden official," by Axios for defending American tech companies from European regulators, Raimondo's sympathy with Big Tech's agenda has become even more obvious in these high-stakes negotiations."

With so much stake and time running out, the administration's failures at the DOJ, the FDA, and the Commerce Department can no longer be tolerated. It's time for Merrick Garland to see the light, before November's darkness swallows us whole.


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Daniel

Daniel Boguslaw

Daniel Boguslaw is a researcher at the Revolving Door Project. He previously worked as an investigative journalist covering political corruption, organized labor, and corporate greed. He studied political science at Reed College. His prior work has focused on union power and wildfire management.

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