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GOP Attacks on DOJ Are About Ensuring the Rule of Republicans, Not Rule of Law

The Republicans’ attacks on the DOJ are cynical attempts to defend Trump from accountability.

Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene talks to reporters following a Republican caucus meeting in the U.S. Capitol on September 14, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

For months now, Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (MTG) has been denouncing what she sees as the weaponization of the Department of Justice because of its prosecutions of leaders of the January 6 insurrection and the multiple indictments of Donald Trump. She has labeled Special Counsel Jack Smith’s letter to Trump “absolute bullshit,” and described Smith as a “weak little bitch for the Democrats” — a crude insult similar to that which she recently hurled at her fellow far right provocateur, Lauren Boebert, whom Greene labeled a “nasty little bitch.”

Greene and fellow far rightists such as Matt Gaetz have urged the defunding of the special counsel’s office. Gaetz has mused aloud about abolishing the Department of Justice, along with the FBI and various other agencies (the CDC, the EPA, and so on) that have aroused the far right’s wrath in recent years.

These lawmakers’ extraordinary war against the Justice Department has — because of House Speaker McCarthy’s precarious hold on power and the ability of the far right, given the tiny size of the GOP majority, to hold his speakership hostage to their every whim — now become something of official House GOP policy.

Taking his cues directly from Donald Trump, who has been using his public platform to repeatedly insult and slander Jack Smith, Merrick Garland, and much of the DOJ apparatus, intimidating potential witnesses and tainting the jury pool, Kevin McCarthy has also repeatedly piled onto the DOJ. The House speaker has said that Trump is only being prosecuted because he is riding high in the polls — an absurd canard given that the investigations into the ousted president began shortly after the events of January 6, at which time, with the insurrection fresh in voters’ minds, Trump’s polling numbers were in the toilet, and given that four grand juries, two federal and two local, have decided that there is enough evidence against Trump to proceed to trial.

Not to be outdone, House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan has launched multiple investigations against the DOJ, as well as the Manhattan and Fulton County DAs who have indicted Trump. Jordan has claimed Jack Smith’s office is involved in “prosecutorial abuse.”

Meanwhile, far right Arizona Congressman Andy Biggs has suggested that the DOJ’s prosecution of Trump is an act of war, and that it merits “an eye for an eye” response. Neither Greene’s profane comments nor Biggs’s call for violence have been met with any sort of censure from the GOP’s leadership.

That authoritarians such as Biggs, Greene and Jordan occupy such an outsized political space speaks volumes about where the GOP is heading under Trump and McCarthy. Trump has turned Republican members of Congress into a political praetorian guard, its main purpose now being to throw itself in front of every judicial bullet the courts send Trump’s way. McCarthy, a made-man to the GOP’s Don, has acquiesced in this, throwing one dagger after another at the body of American democracy, not in order to pursue some grand political vision but simply to protect his all-too-exposed political rear end from the likes of the noxious MTG.

Three years ago, when Greene was first elected to Congress, she was widely denounced both for her extremist views and for spreading conspiracist theories and downright lies. She leaned into QAnon theories, some bizarre (a global pedophilic elite controlling political processes), others downright dangerous (fueling antisemitic sentiments by accusing the operators of “Jewish space lasers” of deliberately causing California’s epic wildfires). These days, Greene’s views are still just as virulent, and downright ignorant, yet instead of being broadly condemned she has become one of the most important powerbrokers in Congress, her every utterance keenly perused by a GOP leadership that knows she and her fellow extremists can bring them to their knees in the lead-up to every vote they cast.

That the self-proclaimed party of law and order can, with a straight face, embrace a leader facing nearly 100 felony indictments and possibly lengthy prison sentences for attempting to overturn an election — as well as baselessly accuse the entire top leadership of the Department of Justice of illegally conspiring to bring Trump down, seek to defund large parts of the DOJ’s operations, all so as to simply muddy the waters around the prosecutions of Donald J. Trump, and be steered by a political clown such as MTG — is an ugly indicator of just how far the hypocrisy of the modern Republican Party can go.

Of course, it’s legitimate to critique individual decisions of DOJ officials. And God knows, progressives have, over the years, critiqued many prosecutions, sentencing guidelines and the methods of agencies such as the FBI. Of course, it’s legitimate to question prosecutorial priorities at the department. Of course, it’s legitimate to believe that, when all the evidence is presented and the jury gets an opportunity to weigh in on guilt versus innocence, one’s political leader will be acquitted at trial. But that legitimate questioning isn’t really what the Grand Old Party is doing. They aren’t saying “let the evidence be presented” — instead they are seeking to shut down the judicial process rather than let the jury trials play themselves out, while engaged in a stunningly dangerous rewriting of history around the violent breach of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

For partisan political reasons, leading Republican politicians are throwing up smokescreens designed to hide, rather than bring to the light of day, the truth around Trump’s actions, and they seem willing to entirely destroy the public’s confidence in the justice system in order to succeed in these aims. In other words, they’re not looking to let the institutions of liberal democracy decide; at this point, they seem to want to blow the whole damn thing up.

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