Matt Gaetz Sends Scathing Letter to Merrick Garland with List of 3 Demands - AG Has Only Weeks to Comply


Of all the people Attorney General Merrick Garland could have found to be the special counsel in the investigation into former President Donald J. Trump that resulted in 37 federal charges, why Jack Smith?

Why pick someone who, for instance, is married to a woman who donated to Joe Biden and produced a hagiographical film about Michelle Obama for Netflix? Why pick someone who was the prosecutor in a corruption case against a GOP governor that was unanimously overturned by the Supreme Court because of Smith’s capricious definition of what constituted corruption? And, when he did take the helm of the Trump investigation, why did Smith keep his staff roster private?

That’s what Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz wants to know — and he’s given Garland until July 7 to cough up the details.

In a letter to the attorney general first obtained by Fox News, Gaetz asked, in writing, for “all staff rosters, phone lists, or similar records, within the custody or control of the Department of Justice, depicting all employees hired by or detailed to the office of Special Counsel Jack Smith; [a]ll communications of the Office of Special Counsel, whether electronic or otherwise, relating to overcoming or piercing any legal claim of privilege, whether executive privilege, attorney-client privilege (including crime-fraud exception), work product, or any other privilege, including but not limited to policy documents; and [a]ll communications between the Office of Special Counsel and: (1) any state bar association; or (2) the 65 Project.”

While that’s a lot to unpack, it has to do with what Gaetz called the “highly irregular” past work of Smith, who formerly headed the Department of Justice’s public integrity unit between 2010 and 2015. Thus, the Florida lawmaker said in the Tuesday letter, it’s of “extraordinary public concern … how his office is structured.”

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The letter also revealed that one of Smith’s deputies was Karen Gilbert, a woman who resigned from a position with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida after reported misconduct. Gilbert was a donor to the campaigns of both President Joe Biden and Barack Obama; Gaetz noted in the letter that Gilbert’s alleged “misconduct was both referred to the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility and the Florida Bar.”

“My office alone fields numerous calls of constituents asking about the Special Counsel, his authorities, and how his office is structured. It is beyond debate that this simple staff list cannot be withheld from Congress or the public on the basis of attenuated and entirely fantastic privacy concerns,” Gaetz said in the letter.

“While there are innumerable valid legislative purposes for this request, it should be obvious that doing due diligence in vetting an office that has apparently done no vetting of its own personnel, or worse, might affirmatively be seeking to staff with sanctioned lawyers and partisan hatchet-men (and women), is an entirely appropriate purpose and one small reason I am requesting this information,” he added.

The first request, at the very least, would help the public ascertain how politically skewed the special counsel’s office is — something that was a significant concern when Robert Mueller was investigating the Russiagate hoax and the firing of former FBI Director James Comey with a team of lawyers that couldn’t have been more more ideologically aligned with Trump’s opponents if the Democratic National Committee had picked the team themselves.

The second request regarding the special counsel’s office trying to find an end-around to attorney-client privilege is likely related to one of the government’s star witnesses against the former president: former Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran, who, according to Axios, “gave prosecutors a detailed roadmap to indict the former president in the classified documents investigations.”

Privileged documents were also among those seized by the FBI in the August 2022 raid at Mar-a-Lago, which yielded the evidence that prosecutors used to indict Trump on charges that include willful retention of national defense information, conspiracy to obstruct justice and false statements, according to Fox News.

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The third request could be related to Gilbert’s misconduct. Gaetz also mentions the 65 Project — an organization that says on its website that it’s dedicated to “a bipartisan effort to protect democracy” from what it describes as “an army of Big Lie Lawyers filed 65 lawsuits based on bogus assertions to overturn the election and give Trump a second term.” If these were the people making staffing suggestions — or, really, any suggestions — to the special counsel’s office, the partisanship is both obvious and rank.

Gaetz also noted that, since “it is a matter of public record now that at least 27 devices used in the Mueller probe were unlawfully wiped clean of records, often by senior prosecutors on that probe,” he was asking Garland “take care to comply with all applicable record-keeping laws” and to “provide my office with copies of all applicable notices and training provided to staff within the Office of Special Counsel Jack Smith, giving staff notice of their obligations under federal law and Department of Justice policy.”

If the conditions are not met, Gaetz threatened to defund the special counsel’s office via “procedural tools” available to the House of Representatives. Indeed, he’s already backed a proposal by Georgia GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to yank funds from the special counsel via an appropriations rider.

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This is unlikely to happen; aside from probably not having the votes for such a procedural defunding, the process would likely take place under what’s known as the Holman Rule, which allows the House to zero out the salary of any government employee via an appropriations rider. However, the Supreme Court takes a very dim view of this being used for federal employees whose actions are merely undesirable as opposed to illegal or corrupt.

In a 1946 Supreme Court ruling generally considered precedent on the matter, U.S. v. Lovett, the court voted unanimously that the House did not have the authority to invoke the Holman Rule against 39 government employees alleged to be communist sympathizers, saying the move constituted a bill of attainder forbidden under Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution.

That being said, the move could create enough trouble that the DOJ decides it’s not worth the risk or the legal fight — and, more importantly, Gaetz’s demands are things Americans need to know as the Trump case unfolds.

Is this yet another political witch hunt in the vein of the Mueller investigation, in which a revolving door cast of lawyers and investigators migrated from Democrat-linked Beltway firms and causes to the special counsel’s office, where they were expected to be fair and impartial? Garland’s hiring of Smith in the first place certainly made it look that way, given his background. Smith’s hiring of Gilbert makes things look worse.

If things look that partisan on the surface, then, imagine what Gaetz could find by digging a bit deeper.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture