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Reviews | Merrick Garland: Attacks on the Justice Department must stop

Merrick Garland is Attorney General of the United States.

Last week, a California man was convicted of threatening to bomb an FBI field office where hundreds of agents and other employees work. In one of his threats to the FBI, the man wrote: “I may go on a mass murder spree. In fact, it would be entirely explainable by your actions.

These heinous threats of violence have become commonplace in an environment in which the Department of Justice is under attack like never before.

In recent weeks, we have seen an escalation of attacks that go well beyond legitimate and necessary public scrutiny, criticism, and oversight of our work. They are baseless, personal and dangerous.

These attacks take the form of threats to defund investigations of particular departments, most recently the special prosecutor’s prosecution of the former president.

They take the form of conspiracy theories developed and disseminated with the aim of undermining public confidence in the judicial process itself. These include false claims that a case brought by a local prosecutor and resolved by a jury verdict in a state trial was somehow controlled by the Justice Department.

They come in the form of dangerous lies about FBI law enforcement operations that increase the risks to our agents.

They take the form of efforts to intimidate our career civil servants by repeatedly and publicly pointing the finger at them.

They take the form of false claims that the ministry is politicizing its work to somehow influence the outcome of an election. Such claims are often made by those who themselves attempt to politicize the work of the ministry in order to influence the outcome of an election.

And media reports indicate efforts are being made to intensify these attacks on the Justice Department, its work and its employees.

We will not be intimidated by these attacks. But it is absurd and dangerous that public officials, many of whom risk their lives every day, are threatened simply because they are doing their jobs and adhering to the principles that have long guided the work of the Justice Department.

In my first job at the Department of Justice, about 45 years ago, I worked on what would become the first edition of the department’s Principles of Federal Prosecution. This set of rules for prosecutors enshrines what every employee of the department experiences every day: an unwavering commitment to the fair and impartial application of our laws. This commitment has been supported by dedicated career professionals who serve in administrations of both political parties.

The Department of Justice makes decisions regarding criminal investigations based solely on the facts and the law. We do not investigate people based on their last name, political affiliation, bank account size, race, or appearance. We investigate and prosecute violations of federal law – no more, no less.

We do this not only because of the principles that have long guided our work, but also because we know that our democracy cannot survive without a justice system that provides equal protection of the law to all its citizens.

The Department of Justice will continue to uphold its obligation under the Constitution to fiercely defend the right of all Americans to peacefully express their opinions, beliefs, and ideas. Disagreements over policy are good for our democracy. They are normal.

But using conspiracy theories, lies, violence and threats of violence to influence political outcomes is not normal. The short-term political benefits of these tactics will never outweigh the long-term cost to our country.

The continuation of unfounded attacks against employees of the Department of Justice is dangerous for personal safety. They are dangerous for our democracy. This must stop.