Attorney General Merrick Garland was questioned on Wednesday about the Department of Justice's decision to defend former President Donald Trump in a defamation case brought by E. Jean Carroll, who has alleged that she was raped.
At a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) noted that the DOJ has faced criticism for arguing that Trump cannot be sued for defamation because he was president at the time that Carroll was allegedly defamed.
"In the past few weeks, your department had endorsed some highly controversial positions taken by the former president's justice department," Leahy noted. "Many expressed concerns about that. For example, the Trump DOJ moved from state court to federal court a defamation charge involving an assault allegation against Donald Trump by a woman."
"How is this coming about?" he asked. "Are these criticisms valid or what do you say?"
For his part, Garland acknowledged the criticism.
"Look, the job of the Justice Department in making decisions of law is not to back any administration, previous or present," the attorney general said. "Our job is to represent the American people. And our job in doing so is to ensure adherence to the rule of law, which is the fundamental requirement of a democracy or a republic or a representative democracy."
Garland said that department policy required "like cases to be treated like, that there not be one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans, that there not be one rule for friends and another for foes."
"It is not always easy to apply that rule," he remarked. "Sometimes it means that we have to make a decision about the law that we would never have made and that we strongly disagree with as a matter of policy."