scorecardMerrick Garland's stonewalling about multiple investigations is annoying lawmakers on both sides of aisle ahead of his Capitol Hill visit
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Merrick Garland's stonewalling about multiple investigations is annoying lawmakers on both sides of aisle ahead of his Capitol Hill visit

Warren Rojas,Mattathias Schwartz   

Merrick Garland's stonewalling about multiple investigations is annoying lawmakers on both sides of aisle ahead of his Capitol Hill visit
PoliticsPolitics2 min read
  • Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want Merrick Garland to debrief them about DOJ investigations.
  • Hot topics include classified presidential document hunts, a rogue FBI boss, and the Capitol siege.

A recent flurry of letters from congressional leaders demanding answers about Charles McGonigal, the FBI spy boss who allegedly went rogue, is just the latest political pressure point for investigation-juggling Attorney General Merrick Garland.

Garland is scheduled to join the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 1 for a general oversight hearing — his first of the 118th Congress.

Politicians are eager for answers about classified documents found at various locations associated with President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump, and former Vice President Mike Pence, as well as the corresponding special counsels poring over potential crimes relating to the documents.

Across the Capitol, House Republicans are gearing up to keep Garland on the defensive for the next two years. House Judiciary chair Jim Jordan and House Oversight chair James Comer are orchestrating investigations into Biden, his son Hunter, the findings of the January 6 select committee, the southern border, and the Justice Department's efforts to address an uptick in violence and threats directed at schools.

Democrats, meanwhile, have raised questions about gun control, criminal justice reform, and solitary confinement in federal prisons.

Congress wants answers on "extremely disturbing" McGonigal threat

Capitol Hill has already asked Garland for answers regarding the case of former FBI agent Charles McGonigal, who ran counterintelligence in the bureau's New York field office.

McGonigal is accused of violating US sanctions by taking money from Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch at the center of the Trump-Russia collusion allegations. The possibility that a senior US spyhunter was using his FBI clout to build a lucrative relationship has prompted lawmakers to question whether the bureau is up to investigating itself.

In early February, both Durbin and his Republican counterparts leading the House Judiciary Committee requested briefings about McGonigal.

Durbin's letter to Garland revealed his concerns about the "extremely disturbing" threats to wide-ranging national security issues. The Senate letter requested information from Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray; the House letter was addressed to Wray but not Garland.

Both letters included mid-February deadlines which have since passed.

"This appearance is not in response to our letter" about McGonigal, an aide to Judiciary chair Dick Durbin told Insider.

It's unclear whether either committee will use their subpoena power to compel DOJ officials to testify.

"Everything is on the table," a staff member from House Judiciary told Insider.

A separate letter to Garland from Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island alleged that McGonigal could have knowledge of efforts to undermine the candidacy of former Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton during the days leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

Whitehouse requested Garland's assurance that "someone independent of FBI will be involved" in investigating McGonigal. That letter was sent on February 7.

"We haven't received a response other than acknowledgement of receipt," said Meaghan McCabe, a spokesperson for Whitehouse, on Wednesday. Whitehouse will be among the committee members posing questions to Garland at the Judiciary hearing next week.

The Justice Department confirmed receiving the letter from Senate Judiciary; the FBI confirmed receiving multiple letters.

Unlike these other inquiries, the McGonigal controversy is a problem that Garland and Wray inherited from their predecessors. It was former FBI Director James Comey who promoted McGonigal to lead the counterintelligence division in the FBI's New York Field Office.




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