Garland Defends Decision to Represent Trump in Defamation Case
(Bloomberg) -- Attorney General Merrick Garland defended controversial positions the Justice Department has taken under his leadership, including a move to represent former President Donald Trump in a defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who accused him of raping her.
In a surprising move this week, Garland’s department told a federal appeals court in New York it wants to take over Trump’s defense in the lawsuit filed by New York advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, who sued Trump for calling her a liar in 2019 after she accused him of raping her in the 1990s.
“The job of the Justice Department and making decisions of law is not to back any administration, previous or present,” Garland told a Senate appropriations subcommittee during a hearing Wednesday. “Our job is to represent the American people, and our job in doing so is to ensure adherence to the rule of law.”
The department said Trump’s comment was an official act that should be shielded from the lawsuit, which is the same position taken by former Attorney General William Barr.
Garland was asked about other positions his department has taken, including fighting to keep secret redacted portions of a memo relating to Barr’s controversial decision that Trump didn’t obstruct justice during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
“Sometimes it means that we have to make a decision about the law that we would never have made, and that we strongly disagree with as a matter of policy,” Garland said.
Garland, who took office in March, said there’s a difference between adhering to the rule of law versus taking policy positions. He noted that he has reversed several positions taken by the Trump administration.
On other matters, Garland said he and the Biden administration don’t support defunding the police, as some protesters have demanded. He cited funds requested in the department’s fiscal year 2022 budget that would increase grants to police departments.
“We believe in supporting the police,” Garland said.
Nonetheless, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina chided Garland, asking whether it’s “possible that some of the rhetoric about defunding the police” has contributed to a rise in violent crimes nationally.
Garland also said the Justice Department and other agencies are now better coordinated when it comes to prevent an attack like the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by a mob of Trump supporters.
“I’m reasonably confident we won’t have a problem like that again,” Garland said.
The Justice Department is seeking $35.3 billion for coming fiscal year, which is about $1.9 billion more than spending during the current year and the largest increase sought for the department in eight years.
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