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Opinion: The three biggest decisions facing Merrick Garland

February 21, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 16.8%. 1 min read.

<<enter caption here>> on May 10, 2016 in Washington, DC.

If all goes as planned at this week's Senate confirmation hearing and Judge Merrick Garland takes the reins as attorney general at the US Justice Department, he will face a daunting thicket of quandaries that present thorny issues of law, accountability and politics, writes Elie Honig.

Unlike the former Attorney General William Barr, Garland earned his stripes as a trial prosecutor for the Justice Department.

He could also face legal trouble when it comes to (3) obstruction of justice of former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and (4) campaign finance violations based on hush money payments to two women with whom Trump allegedly had affairs, (Trump denies wrongdoing on all of these potential charges. )

Will Garland authorize the Justice Department to open and pursue criminal investigations on some or all of these matters?

Trump benefited while in office from the Justice Department's policy against indicting a sitting president, and there is no question, legally or constitutionally, that a former president can be charged criminally.

I understand why it might be easier for Garland and the Justice Department, and perhaps preferable for Biden politically, to just let the past be the past and to "move on. " But that's not what prosecutors do, or ought to do.

At a minimum, Garland must ensure that the Justice Department conducts full investigations of Trump's conduct.

Despite pressure from Trump, neither Barr nor his successor appointed a special counsel to handle the investigations of Biden's son.

Again, Garland's best, and perhaps only (given the special counsel assignment) option is to let the Durham investigation play out, without interference.

More broadly than any particular case, Garland must rehabilitate the Justice Department after nearly two years of unprecedented politicization and dishonesty by Trump and Barr.

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