U.S. attorney general slams Republican conspiracy theories in Trump criminal cases

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland took aim on Tuesday at Donald Trump's Republican allies, accusing them in congressional testimony of peddling false narratives that endanger law enforcement and undermine the Justice Department's integrity.

'Baseless and extremely dangerous falsehoods' put lives at risk, Merrick Garland says

U.S. attorney general insists justice system remains unswayed by interference

1 month ago
Duration 2:01
Speaking in the House of Representatives, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland says the Justice Department continues to operate independently and with integrity, despite what House Republicans allied with former president Donald Trump might allege. He also criticized 'baseless and extremely dangerous falsehoods' being spread about FBI operations and 'heinous threats of violence' against Justice Department officials.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland took aim on Tuesday at Donald Trump's Republican allies, accusing them in congressional testimony of peddling false narratives that endanger law enforcement and undermine the Justice Department's integrity.

"I will not be intimidated," Garland told lawmakers before the Republican-led House judiciary committee. "And the Justice Department will not be intimidated. We will continue to do our jobs free from political influence. And we will not back down from defending our democracy."

Garland's appearance before Congress comes after Trump was convicted last week by a jury in New York City on 34 counts of falsifying documents to cover up a payment to silence an adult film star ahead of the 2016 election. It's the first time a former president has been criminally indicted, let alone convicted.

Several Republicans in Congress have pilloried the verdict, with some suggesting that the department in U.S. President Joe Biden's administration was somehow influencing the decision to prosecute in New York.

An older cleanshaven man wearing glasses and a suit and collared shirt is shown in closeup.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is shown during Tuesday's House judiciary committee hearing, which occurred in the wake of a historic conviction of a former president, Donald Trump. (Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press)

Concerned about threats to public officials

Trump still faces three other looming criminal cases — two brought by federal special counsel Jack Smith over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his mishandling of classified documents, and a state case in Georgia also tied to his actions in the 2020 election.

Republicans have claimed all four cases are politically motivated and represent an effort by Trump's rival Biden to interfere in the 2024 election on Nov. 5, though every investigation that led to charges began before Trump announced he was running for the nation's highest office.

"We do not control the Manhattan district attorney, the Manhattan district attorney does not report to us," said Garland of Trump's recent conviction by a jury.

"That conspiracy theory is an attack on the judicial process itself," he said at another point.

With respect to the documents case, Garland defended law enforcement after Trump falsely claimed the FBI was "authorized to shoot me" and was "locked and loaded" when a search warrant was executed at his Florida estate in August 2022.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon declined to impose a gag order barring Trump from making inflammatory comments that could endanger FBI agents, some of whom will be witnesses at trial.

WATCH l Trump warns of potential 'breaking point' for public if he's imprisoned: 

Trump unsure public ‘would stand’ for jail time, house arrest

2 months ago
Duration 2:38
Former U.S. president Donald Trump told Fox News he would be ‘OK’ with house arrest or jail time following his conviction, but he doesn’t think the public ‘would stand for it.’ Trump’s opponents considered the comments as being able to incite violence.

Garland said "baseless and extremely dangerous falsehoods" are being spread about the FBI's law enforcement operations, and that he was distressed by an atmosphere in which prosecutors, witnesses, civil servants and election workers are receiving threats for performing their duties.

On Monday, NBC News reported that Michael Cohen, the former Trump lawyer who testified against him, had been subjected to doxing of personal information.

His department was prepared to file charges for any action against public servants that crosses over into criminality, he said.

Not long after the search at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, an Ohio man was killed in a gun battle after an attack on an FBI office. A year later, in August 2023, a Utah man who had made violent threats online against Biden and prosecutors in Trump cases was shot dead.

Democrats, including Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen at Tuesday's hearing, have countered Republican claims of a weaponized or two-tier justice system by pointing out that Garland's department has filed criminal charges against Democratic legislators Bob Menendez and Henry Cuellar in corruption cases.

As well, Garland appointed a special counsel to examine various allegations involving Hunter Biden, the president's son. Hunter Biden is facing trial beginning this week on an illegal gun possession charge, and he faces a September trial date for alleged tax offences.

Despite those prosecutions, Republican congressman Tom McClintock on Tuesday asserted that the president's son had received "a sweetheart deal" without elaborating.

WATCH l Wildly different conclusions in Congress to report on presidential probe: 

Special counsel defends not charging Biden over classified documents

4 months ago
Duration 2:05
Special counsel Robert Hur defended his characterization of U.S. President Joe Biden in the report into the president's handling of classified documents. In testimony to Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike criticized him for being both anti- and pro-Biden.

The House's judiciary committee and the House's oversight committee have also sought to advance contempt proceedings against Garland, after he refused to provide audio recordings of Joe Biden's interview with a special counsel who investigated his retention of classified records. Garland said that Republican request serves "no legitimate purpose."

That special counsel, Robert Hur, said in a report that a jury would possibly sympathize with Joe Biden as a "well meaning, elderly man" with a "poor memory."

Elsewhere, Garland touted the department's efforts to disrupt international drug trafficking as well as prosecuting corporate malfeasance, pointing to the recent lawsuit directed at Live Nation, owner of Ticketmaster.

With files from CBC News