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US Attorney General denies political influence on prosecutions

US Attorney General Merrick Garland strongly denied Wednesday that politics steered his investigative decisions, pushing back on Republican allegations that he has “weaponized” the Justice Department against President Joe Biden’s top rival Donald Trump.

With a Garland-appointed special counsel, Jack Smith, now pursuing two criminal prosecutions of Trump, the justice chief said in prepared testimony for a House hearing that he was neither Biden’s attorney nor Congress’s prosecutor.

“Our job is not to take orders from the president, from Congress, or from anyone else, about who or what to criminally investigate,” he said.

“Our job is to follow the facts and the law, wherever they lead. And that is what we do.”

The Justice Department released excerpts from Garland’s planned testimony before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday morning.

Garland was expected to come under scathing criticism from Republicans for prosecuting Trump while allegedly soft-pedaling an investigation of Biden’s son Hunter.

Committee Chairman Jim Jordan has accused Garland of doing Democratic President Biden’s bidding by going after his likely opponent in next year’s White House race.

The committee has “serious concern that Mr. Smith is not running an impartial and unprejudiced investigation and prosecution,” Jordan said in a letter to Garland in August.

Garland named Smith as independent special counsel to investigate the former president last November.

Since then Smith has brought two criminal cases against Trump: one in Florida for illegally concealing top secret documents, and the second in Washington over his effort to  upend the results of the 2020 US election, which led to the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.

Trump and his supporters call the cases a political “witch hunt,” and some Republicans have threatened to impeach Garland.

Republicans also accuse Garland of stalling the prosecution of Hunter Biden, who they allege, without evidence, improperly parlayed business schemes in Ukraine, China and elsewhere to earn millions of dollars for himself and his father.

They say a second Justice Department special counsel, David Weiss, has gone easy on the president’s son, charging him earlier this month with an illegal firearm charge and probing him for tax evasion.

Jordan says Weiss was not serious about the investigation, and that the gun charge was “largely an attempt to save face.”

“It’s the one thing that has nothing to do with the whole business operation and the links… to the president,” he said in an interview posted on his social media account Saturday.

He said witnesses have told his committee that there were many things “outside the norm for an investigation of this nature,” referring to Weiss’s probe.

“We must put a stop to this weaponization of government,” Republican committee member Ben Cline said Monday.

In his prepared comments, Garland also took aim at political attacks and threats against Justice Department officials like Smith and Weiss, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“Singling out individual career public servants who are just doing their jobs is dangerous — particularly at a time of increased threats to the safety of public servants and their families,” Garland said.

“We will not be intimidated. We will do our jobs free from outside interference,” he said.

pmh/nro