Justice Dept. Backs Away From Trump Era but Is Still Expected to Test Garland


Justice Department employees expressed hope that Judge Garland’s reputation for fairness and integrity would help mitigate some of those accusations. He is also a departure in temperament and leadership from Mr. Barr’s sometimes combative bluntness, which current and former employees predicted could help dampen controversy.

“He has the reputation we need in an attorney general right now,” Kenneth L. Wainstein, a former Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, said of Judge Garland. “He’s recognized as being a thoughtful person, not as an ideologue or as a political partisan. And he understands what it means to be the attorney general for the country, and not for the president. There will never be a morning when you open the paper and see that he’s misused his authority to protect the president.”

Mr. Barr’s approach to politically charged prosecutorial matters was also a model to be avoided, current and former employees said. He contravened norms to let prosecutors investigate fraud before the election was certified, fueling fears that the results could not be trusted. He ordered them to lower a sentencing recommendation for Mr. Stone, who was convicted of seven felonies but later pardoned by Mr. Trump. And he sought to drop a case against Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying to investigators. Mr. Barr also used a manuscript review process intended to keep classified information private to sue Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, the author of a gossipy tell-all about working for the former first lady Melania Trump.

Under Mr. Wilkinson, the department withdrew the legal action against Ms. Wolkoff and returned to working through established chains of command.

Judge Garland is also expected to try to revive the Justice Department’s civil rights division, which under Mr. Trump saw its priorities drastically shift. Religious freedoms were prioritized over work to protect rights for L.G.B.T.Q. people. The department all but stopped using consent decrees as a tool to overhaul police departments with records of racial discrimination and other abuses. Mr. Barr sought to more narrowly enforce Civil Rights Act prohibitions on racial discrimination, and he accused the Black Lives Matter movement of using Black people as props for a radical political agenda.

Late last year, the department banned any diversity and inclusion training or programming to comply with Mr. Trump’s executive order that banned such training and said that implicit bias did not exist. That guidance was rescinded.

Judge Garland’s positions so far demonstrate a contrast, and his commitment to diversity and inclusion appeared heartfelt, said a Justice Department employee who belonged to the D.O.J. Gender Equality Network, an employee-run advocacy organization that promotes equitable treatment for workers in the department.


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