We all got a good laugh out of the wingnuts charging Merrick Garland with abusing his office to stifle free speech in an elaborate plot to get rich off of critical race theory. As modern conspiracy theories go, the tale gave us everything: fervent anti-vaxxer support, recasting “anti-discrimination laws” as “critical race theory,” FBI black helicopter fears, aggressive whataboutism, wonton cherry-picking, a tenuous motive, and a basic misunderstanding of the First Amendment. Truly the Foucault’s Pendulum of the Newsmax generation.
But while that story is a laughable farce, there are serious problems with this Department of Justice. In fact, CRTgate — or whatever we’re calling this thing — did amount to minor mismanagement. As noted on this week’s show, looking into actual threats against school officials is entirely above-board, but announcing it opened the door to these allegations that Garland was chilling speech and ultimately invited this whole sideshow.
And that’s not all! For example, there’s the bizarre shadow DOJ that Garland’s running concealed behind a FOIA runaround. Because former Kirkland partner Susan Davies doesn’t look like she works at the Justice Department… and yet she appears to have been running the Office of Legal Policy since at least September 3, though rumors suggest she’s been running things behind the scenes at DOJ far longer. She left Kirkland in February.
Andrea Beaty and Eleanor Eagan of the Revolving Door Project have an in-depth and writeup over at The American Prospect detailing their efforts to get an answer to the world’s simplest question: does Susan Davies work there?
On July 26, we sent a simple query to the Office of Public Affairs: “Does Susan Davies work at the DOJ? If so, where?” Two days later, someone responded and asked, “Can you give me a little more info on what you’re looking for?” Our request had seemed straightforward to us, but we hopped on the phone to explain that we were working on a piece for The American Prospect and were looking to learn if Davies was in the building. After that phone call, radio silence. We followed up three more times over the course of two weeks, but never got an answer.
This isn’t the CIA! The Office of Legal Policy chief isn’t wearing a wire undercover in Bogota or something.
After a FOIA request that withheld documents from OLP and repeated attempts over the following months, the DOJ responded less than two weeks ago with the statement: “Susan Davies is Senior Official and Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Policy.”
Was Davies nominated to this position? Nope! Biden’s nominee, Hampton Dellinger, still awaits confirmation.
Why all the subterfuge? Is it because Garland expected pushback from his own party — maybe even his own boss — for installing a lawyer with a hefty book of bigtime corporate clients in a post where she could run interference on Biden’s regulatory agenda? It’s a real struggle to formulate any alternative theory for bending over backward to conceal a Democrat running a key office during a Democratic administration.
If Garland’s idea of restoring public trust in the Justice Department consists of hiding conflicted officials from view, we are in trouble. We know Garland will not bar corporate attorneys from his department, but it does not seem too much to ask that the DOJ disclose to the public in a timely manner who is, well, running the DOJ.
When the DOJ can’t handle simple stuff like this, how can you expect them to do the hard parts?
And, not for nothing, how stupid do you have to be to think an organization that can’t handle its own org chart could pull off a vast forced vaccination, critical race theory, anti-freedom conspiracy?
Who’s Really Running Justice? [American Prospect]
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.