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AG Garland fumes when asked if Catholics are violent extremists

By Jake Beardslee · September 21, 2023

In brief…

  • AG Merrick Garland grew visibly angry at Wednesday's House hearing when asked if "traditional Catholics are violent extremists."
  • The question referred to an FBI memo suggesting infiltrating traditionalist Catholic groups.
  • Republicans accused DOJ and Garland of a double standard when it comes to investigating Trump versus Hunter Biden.
  • Garland, whose family suffered religious persecution, claimed a staunch commitment to equal justice regardless of religious beliefs.
Attorney General Merrick Garland responded with uncharacteristic anger when accused of bias against traditionalist Catholics during a tense House hearing.  U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Wikimedia

Attorney General Merrick Garland became visibly angry during a contentious House Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday when Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) asked if he agreed that “traditional Catholics are violent extremists.”

Van Drew was referencing an FBI memo from earlier this year that suggested some traditionalist Catholic groups could be infiltrated by domestic extremists opposed to abortion rights and other liberal policies.

“I have no idea what ‘traditional’ means here,” Garland replied. When Van Drew clarified he meant Catholics who attend church regularly, Garland fumed: “The idea that someone with my family background would discriminate against any religion is so outrageous, so absurd.”

Garland noted that his Jewish family fled religious persecution in Eastern Europe in the early 1900s, with some relatives murdered during the Holocaust. Garland said repaying America for welcoming his family motivated his career in public service.

Both Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray previously denounced the memo, with Garland stating, “Everything in that memo is appalling.”

Garland did not confirm if anyone has been disciplined for the memo, which originated from the FBI’s Richmond field office.

During the contentious hearing, Republicans accused Garland and the Justice Department of employing a double standard of justice, making generous allowances for President Biden’s son Hunter, while aggressively pursuing former President Donald Trump.

Garland insisted Special Counsel David Weiss, appointed to investigate Hunter Biden, had full authority to prosecute as he saw fit. Garland declined, however, to answer specific questions about the Hunter Biden probe, invoking the necessity to avoid interfering with an ongoing investigation.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) plans to subpoena Weiss to testify publicly before the committee next month regarding the Hunter Biden investigation.

The heated back-and-forth was a departure from Garland’s typically measured public demeanor, as he strongly denied GOP accusations of politicizing the Justice Department.

The hearing reflected ongoing partisan tensions over high-profile federal investigations involving the Biden family, Trump, schools, and abortion.