Skip to main content

Let’s Cut Merrick Garland Some Slack

In any of the countless iterations of Law & Order, time is compressed into bite-sized chunks of plot that typically move the perp from arrest to trial to conviction, all in a single hour.

While we understand, deep down, that real life doesn’t work that way, their portrayal of “the criminal justice system” plays directly into our societal need for instant gratification. We expect the wheels of justice to be far better lubricated than they actually are.

So while we all would have loved to see Trump and everyone connected to his administration led from the White House in handcuffs, patience is called for.

Merrick Garland has taken a lot of heat so far, mostly for not providing us with the gratification — and retribution — we crave, on the timetable we crave it. We need to cut him some slack.

Yes, we’ve been puzzled by a few eyebrow-raising actions taken by his DOJ in recent weeks. It kept secret some parts of Bill Barr’s internal memo about the Mueller report. It continued defending Trump in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation civil suit. It dismissed a lawsuit over the violent sweep-up of Lafayette Square for Trump’s bible-clutching photo op. Yes, we were duly distressed.

But according to a lengthy WaPo article of July 25, these and more actions can be explained — if not excused — in the context of a wounded department trying to heal itself after four years of wanton abuse. Garland’s approach to this healing is to restore, in meticulous detail, the norms and prerogatives of the U.S. attorneys who make up that department.

Seen in that light, their treatment of the Barr memo appears to be about reaffirming their ability to keep internal deliberations private, which is probably, in general, a good thing.

The Carroll lawsuit seems to be about protecting the ability of presidents to speak their minds freely. This is, presumably, a legitimate legal issue, but I'm guessing it's one Garland doesn’t want on his front burner right now. The case still goes forward. The government stays on the defense side. But how good a defense can that be, given that Trump — the world’s worst client — is the client? For now, Garland seems to be making an institutional point. But that will be an interesting suit to watch.

As for the Lafayette Square photo op, I’m guessing the case is not strong enough to be worth the prosecutors’ time.

Of course, none of this is clear, and the opacity of DOJ pronouncements is very much a part of what Garland wants to preserve. He and his department prefer to speak through their official actions — indictments, orders, opinions, subpoenas, etc. — period. Their public statements are rare, as they should be.

But lately they've created quite a stir. They just ordered Trump’s tax returns turned over to Congress, where forensic accountants have been waiting years to dissect them. They declined to defend Congressman Mo Brooks against any criminal charges he may face, as they seem unconvinced that inciting an insurrection is part of his — or any federal employee’s — job description.

But it’s the arrest of Tom Barrack that will get the most traction. He is one of Trump’s oldest business buddies. He knows where bodies are buried. And given the nature of friendship and loyalty in the Trump circle, it’s hard to imagine Barrack not cutting a plea deal. Which would be a staggering blow to Trump.

Because Barrack was knee-deep in two of the seedier scandals we’ve long known about. He was the guy running the 2017 inauguration, that thinly-veiled pay-to-play scam that could yet land Ivanka Trump in jail. But that’s not even what he was indicted for.

His big crimes involve his long and slimy business relationships in the Middle East. And when we finally find out what he and Jared Kushner were up to over there, our heads will surely spin. We can expect him to sing, and it won’t be a song Trump will like.

But the real center of Garland’s world — at least for now — is the 1/6 insurrection. It’s already generating the biggest caseload in the history of DOJ, with some 400 arrests and counting. This will keep dozens of prosecutors hopping for years.

It’s not just that each of these cases needs to be individually disposed of. It’s that many of the characters indicted are potential witnesses against somebody higher up the food chain. Wouldn’t we love the Oath Keepers to flip on Roger Stone? Wouldn’t we love first-person testimony against Mo Brooks, Rudy Giuliani, Alex Jones, Jim Jordan, and other swine? Wouldn’t we love to know which congressmen gave the guided tour of the Capitol the day before the riot?

But the insurrection barely scratches the surface of what Garland faces. The four years leading up to that event were an absolute orgy of criminality. Russian election meddling. Ukraine quid pro quos. Crooked cabinet secretaries. Corrupt congressmen. Election tampering. Emoluments of every shape and kind.

Garland’s prosecutors will have to perform a sort of triage, just to determine which of these cases gets the most bang for the buck.

And we hope they’ll keep their eyes on the real prize: Trump himself. Everyone they flip contributes to that case of all cases, the one that puts him away for good.

This will take time. There will be millions of documents and terabytes of data to seize and sift through. There will be many hundreds of witnesses to depose. The prosecutors will be working eighty-hour weeks, and it still won’t be enough. Most of the cases will plead out. A few will go to trial. Each of those trials will involve even more work to prepare and argue.

Yes, it’s frustratingly slow. Yes, the 2022 election is barreling toward us. Yes, we all feel a visceral dread of Trump and his toadies somehow wriggling free of accountability.

Which is why we want DOJ to be thorough. The last thing we want is to see any of these jerks go free on a technicality. It has certainly happened before.

Merrick Garland knows far more than we do about the rule of law. He needs time to properly restore it, and he’ll take all the time he needs.

I’m sure he understands our impatience. But I’m also sure he won’t be hurried.

 

Comments

  1. Thanks for the perspective. Must admit, I'm a little impatient to get the old guillotine oiled up for some justice, but we do have to do it right. Of course, the Republiklans will never accept any verdict, but since we aren't like them, we will do it right.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Meanwhile, Just Over the Northern Border

The jerk was making a stink over being forced to wear a mask. No, this was not Alabama or Texas, or even Michigan. It was St. Joseph Island, Ontario — a place I’ve come to most summers of my life. The summer of 2020 most emphatically broke that streak. I didn’t know until three weeks ago if I’d be allowed into Canada even this summer. The jerk was just ahead of us in a short line, waiting to get into one of the few restaurants on the island to survive the pandemic. The restaurant business isn’t brilliant there, even in the best of times. But we were used to having three or four decent choices on the island. The jerk was loudly lamenting that lack of choice. He appeared to be in his late thirties, with a wife, two kids, and a bad attitude he was happy to share. In answer to a question I didn’t ask, he assured me that the failure of restaurants on the island was a failure of the government and its anti-business policies. Which was why we were all forced to wait in line. I conside

Texas, Stalinism, and The Informer Society

Rage over the new Texas abortion laws comes naturally to anyone with either a heart or a brain, let alone both. But beyond the unspeakably cruel restrictions on reproductive rights, beyond the wanton misogyny and toxic masculinity, beyond the predictable media firestorm that turns outrage into clickbait, there is a larger issue on the table. And it’s one we can only hope is not a trend: Texas Republicans are now openly embracing a culture of citizen-on-citizen informing. Anyone in Texas can now inform on anyone having, or even contemplating, an abortion. Informers have been a cornerstone of totalitarian rule throughout recorded history. Dire warnings about the political use of rumor, innuendo, and slander go back at least to Aristotle. But we need look back no further than the Soviet Union under Stalin to see it raised to an art form, an apotheosis of mass cruelty. By the mid-1930s, Stalin had consolidated all the power of the new Communist state, and vested that power in him

A Gift For Lying That Can’t be Re-Gifted

It’s a shame we have to keep dwelling on Donald Trump, so long after trouncing him in the election. But his legacy continues to evolve, even in his supposed absence. It’s a legacy not just of lies, but of lying itself. The entire Republican party — everyone with a public profile — seems to have actively embraced lying as a viable political strategy. They all want to be Trump. Which doesn’t mean they can be. Trump has always been the perfect liar, and he takes con artistry to a new level. He’s a virtuoso, not just at telling outrageous whoppers, but at convincing his marks that those whoppers are gospel truth. He gets a lie in his head and through sheer force of will he makes it true.   Whether he believes it himself is still a mystery. Most people can’t sustain a lie for any length of time. Even if their moral qualms don’t kick in — and Trump’s never do — it’s hard to maintain a fiction once actual facts come into play, as they tend to do. But Trump lies as effortlessly as he b