GOP Senators don’t seem to like acknowledging the actual basics of how the Justice Department operates.
Whether it’s Ted Cruz of Texas ignoring the role that U.S. Marshals have in deciding whether to arrest demonstrators in favor of reproductive rights near the residences of Justices on the Supreme Court or Josh Hawley of Missouri glossing over the already established fact that lower-level figures decide on the mechanics of carrying out many arrests, like that of anti-abortion activist Mark Houck, it’s a trend.
“Determinations of how to make arrests under arrest warrants are made based by the tactical operators in the district,” Garland tried to explain to Hawley during a hearing this week. Hawley, also like other Republicans, promptly interrupted him. Garland also contended with the description of the circumstances of Houck’s arrest, basing his remarks on the FBI’s own stance. Hawley, who was repeating the claim of dozens of agents participating in the arrest, was himself displaying an image that only showed a few people.
Garland kept trying to explain the same point to Hawley, who was getting louder. “What I’m saying is the decisions about how to go about this were made on the ground by FBI agents,” Garland insisted. After another interruption from Hawley, Garland repeated himself. “I’m saying what I just said,” the law enforcement official continued.
Objectively, Hawley’s self-righteous questions didn’t even make sense! He belted out an inquiry of whether Garland thought it was appropriately reasonable to send the dozens of agents he referenced to do the arrest, but if the premise of the question — meaning the nature of the operation — is itself contested, how’s Garland supposed to answer that? Hawley also discussed internal materials from the FBI indicating an interest in cultivating an intelligence network in certain Catholic communities, an idea from which Garland distanced himself in very direct terms — and which is distinct from actually implementing such action.
“We have a rule against investigations based on First Amendment activity, and Catholic churches are obviously First Amendment activity,” Garland said. “Apparently, on your watch, this Justice Department is targeting Catholics, targeting people of faith, specifically for their faith views, and Mr. Attorney General, I’ll just say to you, it’s a disgrace,” Hawley insisted. That’s just not true. Houck didn’t face any charges because of his personal faith. Rather, he was charged because of a brief physical altercation in which he was involved. That’s where the case hinged — on something that was objectively documented to have happened, not just because the guy was opposing abortion and Catholic.
Hawley also questioned Garland about the decision-making process before the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s southern Florida residence, amid the criminal investigation into Trump’s handling of classified documents from his administration. Hawley brought up an article in The Washington Post about supposed disputes between personnel at the FBI and broader Justice Department regarding conducting the raid — and accompanying criminal probe — at all, and Garland noted in part in reply that discussing some of these specifics among the controlling officials before something like the Mar-a-Lago raid is relatively routine. Garland also disputed the finality with which Hawley was characterizing what happened and what the article said. The Senator insisted on the sole characterization that top department leadership “overruled” the FBI.
Check out the exchanges below: