August 15, 2022

Grassley to Garland: Prioritize Combatting Violent Crime over Pursuing a Political Agenda

As crime rates soar, DOJ focuses on political investigations and misguided partisan objectives

WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to correct course and prioritize protecting the American people from violent crime instead of pursuing opportunities to disparage political enemies and reward allies. In a letter to Garland, Grassley reminds the nation’s top law enforcement officer that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has a responsibility to address soaring crime rates. From 2019 to 2021, 27 major U.S. cities experienced a 44 percent increase in homicides.
 
“Unfortunately, DOJ has not made combatting violent crime its top priority. Instead, the Department has prioritized issues which provide the opportunity to disparage political enemies and reward allies, a concern that is only amplified by the Department’s unprecedented move to search the home of a former president,” Grassley wrote.
 
Grassley highlights several instances where DOJ’s focus has been misguided under Garland’s leadership. For example, DOJ began an initiative targeting parents who express disagreement with school board members, and the department has created a task force to address threats against election workers – which has only produced four cases in a year.
 
“While I do not question the propriety of prosecuting serious threats of violence in the few instances in which they occur, I do question the Department’s prioritization of these issues over violent crime,” Grassley continued.
 
Meanwhile, Garland previously stated that he created a task force focused on protecting judges and law enforcement officers. Yet, after looking into this alleged task force further, Grassley states that no documentation or evidence of the task force’s existence has been found.
 
Additionally, Grassley pressed Garland on his decisions to soften critical crime-fighting tools – including Project Safe Neighborhoods, which has been successfully utilized since the George W. Bush administration to stop persistent offenders by using tough federal charges. However, DOJ has expressed skepticism of this program under Garland.
 
“At our August 3 Judiciary Committee hearing, Assistant Attorney General Polite testified that violent crime is at the ‘very top’ of the Department’s prosecutorial priorities. While I certainly appreciate that statement, I worry that its sentiment is not being realized in practice,” Grassley wrote. “I urge you to alter this course immediately. I urge DOJ to implement a more explicit and comprehensive approach to combat rising crime. Using past responses to violent crime as a guide, DOJ should create a specific task force to combat violent crime, reinvigorate Project Safe Neighborhoods as a powerful violent crime-fighting tool, fill the gaps left by progressive prosecution, and leverage DOJ grant authorities to incentivize state and local authorities to prosecute crime in our most violent cities.”
 
Full text of the letter is available HERE.
 
Recently, Grassley led 24 of his colleagues in introducing a broad package to clarify and strengthen violent crime laws without establishing sweeping new offense categories. Additionally, at Grassley’s request, the Judiciary Committee held a hearing last month on the rise in violence targeting law enforcement officers. Several bills Grassley led to support local police departments passed the Senate earlier this month.
 

-30-