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Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Opening Statement Before the House Judiciary Committee

Remarks as Delivered

Thank you, Chairman Jordan, Ranking Member Nadler, and distinguished members of this Committee.

Since I last appeared before you, the more than 115,000 employees of the Department of Justice have continued to work to fulfill our mission on behalf of the American people: to keep our country safe, to protect civil rights, and to uphold the rule of law.

Just 10 days ago, we secured the extradition of one of the lead sicarios, or assassins, of the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the most dangerous drug trafficking organizations in the world.

Just last month, we secured a 27-year prison sentence for a man who attempted to kill three NYPD officers in a terrorist attack in Times Square in 2022.

In just the first three months of this year:

We charged seven members of a hacking group backed by the Chinese government.

We disrupted a botnet controlled by Russian intelligence services.

And we seized over $108 million and 500,000 barrels of fuel that would otherwise have enabled the Government of Iran to further support Hamas, Hizballah, and other terrorist groups.

We have continued our work to drive down violent crime — work that we know is paying off. Last year’s historic decline in homicides — the largest one-year decline in 50 years — is continuing. In the first quarter of this year, we have already seen an 18% drop in murders.

We know we have much more work to do.

We have also remained steadfast in our commitment to the Justice Department’s founding purpose to protect civil rights.

We have aggressively investigated and prosecuted hate crimes that victimize individuals and terrorize entire communities. And we have brought to justice the perpetrators of those crimes —

Like the defendant in Florida who attacked two Black women because of the color of their skin;

The defendant in Michigan who defaced a synagogue with swastikas;

The defendant in Missouri who set fire to a community Islamic Center; and

The defendant in Tennessee who committed a series of arsons targeting Catholic, Methodist, and Baptist churches.

We have worked to protect the reproductive freedoms that are protected by federal law. In Idaho, we sued to ensure that women in the state would have access to the emergency care guaranteed to them under federal law.

We have continued to protect the right to vote, and to have that vote counted. We successfully challenged a redistricting plan in Galveston County, Texas. The district court recognized that the plan violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by depriving the county’s Black and Latino voters of an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect a candidate of their choice.

We have continued to prosecute fraud and challenge illegal monopolies that drive up prices for consumers. This year, we sued to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster for its monopoly of the live concert industry. And we sued Apple for monopolizing smart phone markets.

We have also continued to fulfill the responsibility that underlies all of our work — to uphold the rule of law.

That is why we have worked to combat a worrying spike in threats of violence against those who serve the public. Those threats including targeting members of Congress, police officers, judges, jurors, election workers, and the Justice Department’s own employees.

Let me be clear: if anyone threatens public servants with violence, we will hold them accountable.

And we will continue to protect our democratic institutions, like this one, and to bring to justice all those criminally responsible for the January [6th] attack on our democracy.

As Attorney General, I will continue to forcefully defend the independence of the Justice Department from improper influence or interference of any kind.

And I will continue to fiercely protect the integrity of our criminal investigations.

Nothing will deter me from fulfilling my obligation to uphold the rule of law.

Fulfilling that obligation includes ensuring that the Justice Department respects Congress’ important role in our democracy.

That is why we have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that this Committee gets responses to legitimate requests for information.

That is why I have provided the Committee with Special Counsel Hur’s report; why the Special Counsel testified for more than five hours; and why we have gone beyond precedent to provide the Committee with the transcripts of the Special Counsel’s interview with the President.

But we have made clear that we will not provide audio recordings — from which the transcripts that you already have were created. Releasing the audio would chill cooperation with the Department in future investigations. And it could influence witnesses’ answers if they thought the audio of their law enforcement interviews could be broadcast to Congress and the public.

In response, certain members of this Committee and the Oversight Committee are seeking contempt as a means of obtaining — for no legitimate purpose — sensitive law enforcement information that could harm the integrity of future investigations.

This effort is only the most recent in a long line of attacks on the Justice Department’s work.

It comes alongside threats to defund particular Department investigations, most recently the Special Counsel’s prosecution of the former President.

It comes alongside false claims that a jury verdict in a state trial, brought by a local district attorney, was somehow controlled by the Justice Department. That conspiracy theory is an attack on the judicial process itself.

It comes as individual career agents and prosecutors have been singled out just for doing their jobs.

It comes as baseless and extremely dangerous falsehoods are being spread about the FBI’s law enforcement operations.

And it comes at a time when we are seeing heinous threats of violence being directed at the Justice Department’s career civil servants.

These repeated attacks on the Justice Department are unprecedented, and they are unfounded.

These attacks have not, and they will not, influence our decision making.

I view contempt as a serious matter. But I will not jeopardize the ability of our prosecutors and agents to do their jobs effectively in future investigations.

I will not be intimidated. 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.

I look forward to your questions.

 

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