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Merrick Garland is who we thought he was. And that’s a problem for Dems.

Attorney General Merrick Garland’s announcement of a special counsel to investigate Biden — like with Trump — has Dems rolling their eyes for good reason.


That sound you heard Thursday was a collective groan from liberals whose worst fears about Attorney General Merrick Garland were confirmed. 

The attorney general’s announcement of a special counsel to investigate classified documents found at President Joe Biden’s Delaware home and a Washington office he used is giving a lot of liberals 2016 vibes. By which I mean, it feels like the Justice Department’s perception of fairness is incredibly deferential to conservatives. The fact that the special counsel previously worked as a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney doesn’t inspire faith that Garland is up to the task of meting out justice unless he pays extreme deference to the conservative movement.

Republicans have tried to make Biden’s willful return of documents equivalent to Trump’s situation. The appointment of a special counsel is helping feed GOP talking points, but in reality, the differences in the two cases are glaring.

It’s possible, though, that the new special counsel will prevent House Republicans from accessing some of the documents they’d likely seek as part of some conspiratorial investigation. My colleague Steve Benen over at MaddowBlog wrote a great explainer on this — how the GOP’s hopes of drawing out a Biden conspiracy theory might have gone up in flames with Thursday’s announcement. 

Still, it’s hard for many people to countenance Garland’s painstaking slowness in appointing a special counsel to investigate Trump’s possession of classified documents. Especially when compared with the speedy decision Garland made in Biden’s case. On Thursday night’s episode of “The ReidOut,” Joy shared this timeline to give a sense of how long Garland waited with Trump.

Joy invited former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to Thursday’s show to defend Garland’s latest appointment. The Republican, who was accused of politicizing his office while AG for George W. Bush, downplayed claims that Garland’s DOJ is treating Trump more gingerly than Biden, as well as claims that Garland has been meek in investigating Republicans. 

“There’s quite a difference in looking at a criminal prosecution for a former president as opposed to a sitting president,” he said. 

“I think without question, when you have a situation of a possible investigation of a sitting president, that is the prime example — the reason why the special counsel statutes exist, because this is an individual who actually nominated Merrick Garland to the position that he currently holds.” 

Point taken. And were we living in a vacuum, I imagine that point would be much more palatable to liberals. The problem is that Garland’s legitimacy as a fair-minded prosecutor has already come under question — and not solely by Democratic lawmakers angry over the speed of his Trump probes. You may remember that, back in 2021, a federal judge slammed Garland’s Justice Department for what she believed were light sentences doled out to participants in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Garland’s investigatory impotence when it comes to conservatives appears to be Washington’s worst-kept secret.

Garland’s investigatory impotence when it comes to conservatives appears to be Washington’s worst-kept secret.

Nonetheless, Gonzalez said Thursday that he doesn’t think the rioters’ sentences are proof that Garland has been “cowed” by fears of a MAGA backlash. And he said that prosecutorial decisions by the AG are simple matters of “discretion,” not bias.

“That’s just the way that our system works,” Gonzalez said, “because we allow our prosecutors to exercise their good judgment and exercise discretion depending on the facts and circumstances.” 

I don’t think anyone is arguing about Garland’s legal right to use discretion in making any number of prosecutorial decisions. It’s the good judgment part many liberals are hung up on — the merits of his discretion. Garland doesn’t have enough credibility among liberals for any of them to assume he’s earnest in investigating Republicans post-Jan. 6, or that he’s interested in prosecuting conservatives to the fullest extent of the law.

And as for this being “just the way that our system works,” I think a lot of liberals would agree with that, too.

They’re just tired of the system “working” in ways seen as beneficial to right-wing extremists.