If you find it surprising that I’d defend Attorney General Merrick Garland I can understand. If you read my stuff you’ve seen me rip him to shreds almost every time. Even I’M surprised to find myself writing this. Still, for all the ugly and inappropriate statements Special Counsel Robert Hur included AG Garland had not choice but to release what Hur handed in. Yes, it was in my opinion (and lots of others) a political hit job geared at trashing the President and providing ammunition for his fellow GOPers in the 2024 campaign. Yes, it ignored longstanding DOJ policy (I’ll get to that) in “style” and Hur damn well knew it. But despite all that Garland had no choice but to release it as written.
WHY? That’s what your mind might well be screaming. It’s really not hard to explain. It’s one thing for the WH Counsel or Garland’s staff to suggest cleaning up typos or factual errors like dates or technicalities of law. It’s quite another to say something like Hey, THAT (and in this case more than once) is editorializing beyond the facts, and DOJ policy says that’s a no-no. Anyone who thinks Hur would have said yeah, you’re right and I should edit that out and pretend like he’d never written it, to never say anything to anyone either doesn’t know the law and system or is kidding themselves. Or both.
Hur made a number of politically damning statements about President Biden, some of which is discussed here by Reuters. I don’t know if he intended to do so from the start but at some point he decided pretty much If I can’t get Biden legally via criminal prosecution I’ll get him by offering up political red meat so the GOP can trash him. That much is obvious. Maybe he was scared. Both for his career and personal safety because if he’d played it straight Trump/MAGA would be after his ass this very second. Whatever. What matters is that Hur at some point made a choice that he’d inject politics into his final report. When doesn’t matter so much as the fact he did.
The thing is, once Hur started circulating memo and eventual drafts of what would become his final report he couldn’t destroy any of it! Even if he wanted to. (Which of course he didn’t) Once he shared any of his thoughts about what should or should not be in the report, whether they wound up in notes taken by others in meetings, memos, draft language for parts of the report or drafts of a full final report every bit of it was a government record that had to be preserved.
That’s not just DOJ policy it’s the law. And Hur damned well knew it. He also is well-versed in DC and its politics and knew even if not “leaked” to GOPers at some point one or more Congressional Committees could obtain the draft. They could haul in Hur (and others) for testimony under oath about how he’d originally intended to say such-and-such in his final report but was “forced” “under pressure” to remove it. And of course every single change between the the final report and what he’d written in the final draft that became the final report that’s been release would be displayed on a big flat-screen in the hearing room(s)!
Here’s something else to keep in mind. Even if he’d wanted to had Hur tried to destroy anything he’d have risked firing and/or being blackballed from DOJ for the rest of his career. He’s only 50. However, he’d also have risked other consequences such as sanctions by any state Bar where he’s licensed, or even prosecution! Not that I think Hur, once he’d decided to go down the road he chose ever had any second thoughts. He made his choice to shoot Biden full of political holes and that he could “piously” make some weak claim of “I realized I was out of line and rewrote the report to conform to policy/guidelines” and be off the hook. Oh he knew what he was doing was wrong, but it would please GOPers including and especially Trump.
Anyway, he handed in what he handed in. You think GOPers are howling with delight? Just imagine how they’d be howling in OUTRAGE if Garland had told Hur:
Look, you know damn well what DOJ policy is. You take a couple of hundred pages to get to it but eventually you say there’s no evidence President Biden willfully committed acts that are indictable. You literally say the evidence isn’t there to support a prosecution. That is ALL you have to say to justify why there won’t be any prosecution recommended. So, first take out this willfully retained classified information allegation you make early on. Yes you know damn well most folks who want to try actually start reading the report will stop long before you admit you don’t have evidence. That they’ll get tired of reading government legalese and figure they know all they need to know.
Then, move that part you BURIED deep in the report up front where it should be. Again, that part about not having evidence to support prosecution is ALL you need to say to justify why no charges will be brought. And, while were sitting here read aloud to me this passage from DOJ guidelines about NOT including editorial opinions and personal judgements. Comey embarrassed the DOJ with that kind of shit and affected an election. YOU are a goddamned Special Counsel and as such should be especially mindful that kind of crap crosses the line. Now go back to your office and rewrite this and do it right as in stick to the facts and the law. And leave the personal shit out of it.
You know, you KNOW a butt-hurt Hur would have told pals on Capitol Hill and we’d be off to the races already. The cries of DEEP STATE, COVER UP and too many others (feel free to imagine though) would be so loud as to wake the dead. Hur knew this, and so did Garland. And Hur knew that Garland knew. The evil little son-of-a-bitch didn’t “sneak” that crap into his report – he brazenly included it with a DARE to Garland: There. I said it. I know I should have and you know I shouldn’t have said that stuff. But it’s done, official and there’s NOTHING you can do about it and you know it. For good measure he could have even added And remember, even if you hadn’t promised to release any Special Counsel reports that might be written during your tenure you know full well if you try to keep THIS one under wraps you won’t be able to. And you and the President will look that much worse for trying.
Much as I hate to say it Garland’s hands were tied. Hell, being an old-school sort who wanted so badly to return things to the old days he’s probably “fit to be tied” to use an old expression. But Garland had no choice. Angry as the report made him, even President Biden knows Garland had no choice.
So have at Garland on any number of things because he sure as hell is worthy of scathing criticism. Just not this time.