Last week, Jen Psaki, the president’s MSNBC-linked press secretary, issued an administration diktat, backed by grim graphics, that issued a warning to Republican lawmakers in the state of Alabama who have passed legislation to prevent chemicals such as puberty blockers or surgeries such as castration. and hysterectomy to be administered to prepubertal children. If signed by Gov. Kay Ivey, the law would also prohibit schools from keeping parents in the dark when their children are being “counseled” on such matters by other adults. These Republicans, threatened Psaki, have been “submitted” by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for possible violations of the Constitution and federal law.
You may not have known that the DOJ has this threatening power to put lawmakers on notice. This is not the case. It’s a DOJ swim lane simply made up by the White House; it does not exist.
The Department of Justice bears his name for a specific and narrow reason. It investigates and prosecutes those who have violated existing federal laws to ensure justice on behalf of the American people. This is not the “Department of Luca Brasi”, dispatched by a godfather-like President of the United States to intimidate opponents who do not see things as he does: “Hey, nice political position you have there; it would be a shame if someone had to shut you up.
Last Thursday’s bizarre announcement sadly continues a pattern of the Biden administration’s misuse of the DOJ over the past year. Equally troubling is the lack of proper hindsight on the part of Attorney General Merrick Garland. Instead, there was a sort of apathetic acquiescence to political directives.
It’s not supposed to be like this. The Attorney General is a Cabinet member like no other. While the DOJ may support certain policy goals of a president, such as a focus on violent crime or cybercrime, it must maintain a healthy, independent distance from the White House. In theory, that’s because no one is above the law – even the president and his staff are under investigation, if warranted.
But there is another important rationale. No reasonable person wants a ministry with sweeping powers to surveil, wiretap and arrest people to be used simply to advance one side’s political goals over the other’s. Neither the president nor the attorney general legitimately possesses such authority.
And yet President Biden, more than once, inappropriately used the DOJ as “muscle” for political motives that were important to the President or his handlers. The threat against Alabama Republicans is the latest example. There were others that deserve to be remembered.
Last October, Biden unleashed the DOJ to intimidate parents across the country who had begun protesting school board policies that aligned with Democratic Party agendas. Garland dutifully released an obsequious memo directing the FBI and US attorneys to focus their resources on potential acts of violence against school boards.
Since there had been no actual acts of violence associated with the parents’ protests, the memo was taken for what it was: an intimidating message by a powerful department to chill rhetoric that the president’s party n did not like. This was a gross abuse of the authority of the DOJ. The FBI rightly put it in a bottom drawer.
And then, in early November, the DOJ’s Southern District of New York asked the FBI to execute pre-dawn search warrants at two homes of journalists suspected of being in possession of a newspaper belonging to the adult daughter of Biden. What isn’t clear, based on publicly known facts, is why the President’s daughter’s diary would be a matter of interest for the federal investigation, particularly in light of journalists’ alleged efforts to return the diary to Ashley Biden and law enforcement prior to the search.
What is clear is that the search appears to be an effort to ensure that all copies of the diary have been located, reducing the risk of information potentially embarrassing to the president or his daughter being revealed. To conduct an intrusive and intimidating search by law enforcement of a private home to protect a US President from embarrassment would be a corrupt abuse of power.
Had the newspaper been owned by an Ashley Smith instead of Ashley Biden, it’s doubtful even the NYPD would have investigated, let alone the DOJ and FBI. As things stand, it appears the President has ordered the Justice Department to act inappropriately just to protect themselves politically.
By now, Biden must be pretty confident that the DOJ is his personal police force. Outrage over his tactics has been suppressed and the attorney general is not backing down. It’s no surprise, then, that the administration invented DOJ superpowers last week to intimidate politicians who hold different views.
The absurd threat against Alabama state legislators was made by a presidential administration that has built a record of abusive and fabricated authorities. The Justice Department does not — and cannot — warn state lawmakers. Imagine if another president implied the consequences of the DOJ for, say, New York state lawmakers considering gun control legislation that the administration says violates the Second Amendment.
It is quite disturbing that we have a president who believes that there are provisions set forth in the Constitution or federal law that give teachers and doctors or other third party adults the right to refer prepubescent children to medication and/or life-changing surgeries and, if deemed necessary, do not tell their parents. But that we also have a president who would abuse the levers of law enforcement to intimidate any opposition to his administration’s extremist views is perhaps even more dangerous.
We need cadres within the DOJ to fight for proper independence and resist the manipulations of power-hungry politicians. The Justice Department should not be the President’s Luca Brasi.
Kevin R. Brock is a former Deputy Director of Intelligence for the FBI and Senior Deputy Director of the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC). He independently consults with private companies and public safety agencies on mission-critical technologies.