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When the Republican Daddy is a Democrat

WILMINGTON, DELAWARE – JANUARY 07: Federal Judge Merrick Garland (L) delivers remarks after being nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President-elect Joe Biden (R) at The Queen theater January 07, 2021 in Wilmington, Delaware. Garland, who serves as a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Barack Obama in 2016 but Senate Republicans refused him a hearing or confirmation vote. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Biden is certainly right to be frustrated but..yesterday’s politically damaging smear job by Garland’s hand-picked special counsel (with Garland refusing to enforce DOJ guidelines) is where this was always headed:

Joe Biden has told aides and outside advisers that Attorney General Merrick Garland did not do enough to rein in a special counsel report stating that the president had diminished mental faculties, according to two people close to the president, as White House frustration with the head of the Justice Department grows.

The report from special counsel Robert Hur ultimately cleared Biden of any charges stemming from his handling of classified documents that were found at Biden’s think tank and his home. But Hur’s explanation for not bringing charges — that Biden would have persuaded the jury that he was a forgetful old man — upended the presidential campaign and infuriated the White House.

Biden and his closest advisers believe Hur went well beyond his purview and was gratuitous and misleading in his descriptions, according to those two people, who were granted anonymity to speak freely. And they put part of the blame on Garland, who they say should have demanded edits to Hur’s report, including around the descriptions of Biden’s faltering memory.

In White House meetings, aides have questioned why Garland felt the need to appoint a special counsel in the first place, though Biden has publicly said he supported the decision.

While Biden himself has not weighed in on Garland’s future, most of the president’s senior advisers do not believe that the attorney general would remain in his post for a possible second term, according to the two people.

“This has been building for a while,” said one of those people. “No one is happy”

Admittedly, once Hur submitted his report if Garland had told him to edit out the partisan speculation it almost certainly would have leaked and made the situation as bad or worse. The fundamental error was choosing Hur in the first place.

Anyway, the saga of Merrick Garland since 2006 is a classic case of Elite Lawyer Brain as a coda to the instance that put Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court. First Obama nominates Garland to fill the vacancy left by Antonin Scalia, needless to say attracting no Republican support but also failing to mobilize progressive voters around the Supreme Court vacancy. (I’m not sure if Obama actually thought there was a chance Garland could get confirmed, or if he thought “we picked the worst possible Democratic nominee from a liberal perspective and Republicans still wouldn’t support him” would mobilize Democratic voters because Republicans were being unreasonable or something, but either way woof.) And then Biden nominates Garland as Attorney General based on similar premises about how bending over backward to accommodate Republicans will defuse opposition, and…I dunno, maybe it’s time to try a new strategy.

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