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GOP’s Biden-Manhattan conspiracy theory suffers double whammy

Attorney General Merrick Garland appears to be losing patience with the many thinly constructed Republican conspiracy theories about the alleged “weaponization” of the justice system against the Republican Party. Two weeks ago, Garland issued what was by his standards a quick and strong rebuke of a ridiculous theory put forward by Donald Trump that the FBI had targeted Trump for assassination.

Garland continued in this vein during his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, while addressing a second pervasive conspiracy theory linked to Trump.

The scene — combined with recent comments from a former Trump lawyer — helped reinforce just how half-baked the theory is.

Garland made clear in his opening statement why he was there, ticking off a series of conspiracy theories that he presented as not only false but, like the assassination theory, dangerous to the officials he directed. Among them: the idea that President Biden’s Justice Department was involved in the successful criminal prosecution of Trump in Manhattan. (Trump was convicted on 34 counts last week.) Trump has long blamed Biden for these prosecutions, without any evidence.

While listing the theories, Garland cited “false claims that a jury verdict in a state lawsuit brought by a local prosecutor was somehow controlled by the Justice Department.”

“I will not be intimidated, and the Department of Justice will not be intimidated,” Garland said.

The theory centers on Matthew Colangelo, who, before joining the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, was a high-ranking Justice Department official. Republicans have long suggested that this is too much of a coincidence. But that ignores the fact that Colangelo had previously worked alongside Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) in the New York attorney general’s office, and had plenty of experience dealing with Trump-related matters. In other words: he made perfect sense for such a position.

Republicans got it right, with Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) giving Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) the first shot at Garland. Gaetz posited that Garland “had no problem sending Matthew Colangelo” to Manhattan.

There is no real reason to believe Garland did this, and he has strongly denied it – under oath.

“It’s wrong. I didn’t send Matthew Colangelo,” Garland said, repeating, “That’s not true.”

When asked how Colangelo ended up working for the Manhattan district attorney, Garland responded, “I guess he…applied for a job there and got the job.” »

“I had nothing to do with it,” Garland said.

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) quickly posited that it was “pretty strange” that Colangelo found his way to Manhattan. And Garland was arguably even stronger in his denial, extending his denials to the entire Justice Department.

“The Department of Justice had nothing to do with this person’s departure,” Garland said.

He later said, “I have had no communication with Mr. Colangelo” since Colangelo joined the Manhattan office.

Rejections come in different shapes and sizes and are often worded carefully. But this goes to the heart of GOP theory.

Gaetz, like McClintock, called Colangelo’s professional history strange, calling it “a remarkable career path down from the DOJ to Washington, D.C. — and then showing up in Alvin Bragg’s office to get Trump.” Again, this ignores much of Colangelo’s professional history.

And that was about all they could offer. Both Gaetz and McClintock challenged Garland to turn over any potential Justice Department correspondence with state and local prosecutors who have indicted Trump. Garland said such requests would be considered through the normal process. And Republicans talked about it sparingly from then on.

The scene unfolded just days after the unsubstantiated theory suffered a major blow. This blow came from no less than Trump’s former lawyer, Joe Tacopina, who until January was part of Trump’s defense team in the Manhattan case.

Tacopina called theories linking Biden to the Manhattan affair “ridiculous” and “stupid.”

“Joe Biden or anyone in his Justice Department has absolutely nothing to do with the Manhattan district attorney’s office,” Tacopina said on MSNBC. “They have no jurisdiction over him. They have no contact with him. They certainly have no control over him. So to say that Joe Biden brought this case is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard. We know that’s not the case, and even Trump’s lawyers know that too.”

Tacopina added: “The people who say that – it’s scary that they really don’t know the law or what they’re talking about. It is absurd to suggest that Joe Biden is behind the prosecution of the Manhattan district attorney.”

This is someone who was intimately involved in Trump’s defense for months after his indictment.

But despite this, every conspiracy theory must occasionally be fertilized. So Republicans set about doing it on Tuesday – even if they were a little half-hearted. Their reward: the firmest denial.

At the end of the hearing, Rep. Russell Fry (R-S.C.) admitted that Garland “may have had nothing to do with” Colangelo’s departure to Manhattan. But he argued that there was still a “perception” that “the Justice Department is intimately involved in this matter.”

There is certainly a reason for this “perception,” to the extent that it exists: Republicans who support Trump have made sure to create one. It’s simply not supported by real evidence, as Tuesday’s hearing confirmed.

washingtonpost

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