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Merrick Garland rapidly erasing Trump effect at Justice Department

Attorney General Merrick Garland is quickly negating the Trump administration’s law enforcement legacy, dismaying conservatives with a burst of aggressive reversals and new policies.

Why it matters: As a former prosecutor and respected federal judge, Garland's devotion to the rule of law has always been core to his identity. That reputation has taken on new importance in his first 50 days on the job, after four years of allegations that Trump's DOJ was improperly politicized.


  • Attorney General Bill Barr played a central role in the Trump administration's most high-profile controversies, from undermining the Russia investigation to intervening in the cases of indicted Trump associates to ordering the forcible clearing of protesters in Lafayette Square Park.
  • DOJ's broad authority also overlaps with many of the issues at the top of President Biden's agenda, including restoring faith in government, promoting racial justice and police reform, and curbing gun violence.

Driving the news: Liberal fears that the soft-spoken Garland might resist prosecuting Trump and his allies for the sake of unity were partially eased on Wednesday, when news broke that federal agents had raided the Manhattan home of Rudy Giuliani.

  • The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, which Giuliani once led, is known to be highly independent.
  • But under Attorney General Bill Barr, the department repeatedly blocked SDNY prosecutors from executing a search warrant for Giuliani's electronic records in the final months of 2020, according to the New York Times.

The Justice Department also announced on Wednesday that three Georgia men were charged with federal hate crimes in the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, whose death was a rallying cry during last year's racial-justice protests.

  • In Michigan, a superseding indictment was filed against five men accused of plotting last year to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, with prosecutors referring to the alleged crimes as "domestic terrorism" for the first time.
  • That shift comes amid new developments in the investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which has been described as the most complex probe in DOJ history. Garland, who played a leading role in the prosecution of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, has vowed to make prosecuting the Capitol rioters his "first priority."

Other major steps taken in Garland's first 50 days include:

  • "Pattern or practice" investigations into the Minneapolis and Louisville police departments, following the deaths last year of George Floyd and Brianna Taylor.
  • A 30-day "expedited review" into how DOJ can better prosecute and track hate crimes amid a surge in violence against Asian Americans.
  • The revocation of a Trump-era policy that restricted federal funding for "sanctuary cities."
  • Responsibility for five of the six executive actions on gun control ordered by Biden.

What to watch: Garland's commitment to depoliticizing DOJ will undergo a key test when a charging decision is made in the case of Hunter Biden, whose finances are under investigation.

  • Special counsel John Durham is also expected to submit a report concerning alleged abuses by Obama-era intelligence officials during the Russia investigation.

In photos: Tokyo Olympics day 11 highlights

Day 11 of the Tokyo Olympic Games Norway's Karsten Warholm smash the world record in the 400-meter hurdles — and so did the second-placed American Rai Benjamin on Tuesday.

The big picture: Meanwhile, in men's basketball Team USA overcame a tough challenge from Spain to win 95-81 and advance to the semifinals, with Kevin Durant scoring 29 points for the Americans.

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Raven Saunders says U.S. athletes planned "X" protests "for weeks"

Raven Saunders, the American Olympian facing a possible investigation for making a protest gesture on the podium over the weekend, told the New York Times Monday that U.S. athletes had planned "for weeks" to demonstrate against oppression.

Why it matters: Protests are banned at the Tokyo Games. Saunders told the NYT a group of American Olympians had settled on the "X" symbol, which she gestured on the podium after winning silver in the shot put Sunday, to represent "unity with oppressed people."

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Study: Social media giants failed to remove 84% of antisemitic posts

Five social media giants failed to remove 84% of antisemitic posts in May and June — and Facebook performed the worst despite announcing new rules to tackle the problem, a new report finds.

Driving the news: The Center for Countering Digital Hatred (CCDH) notes in its study that it reported 714 posts containing "anti-Jewish hatred" to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and TikTok — which were collectively viewed 7.3 million times. These "clearly violated" company policies, according to the CCDH.

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Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard: "It gets better"

Speaking to reporters after becoming the first openly transgender woman to compete in the Olympics, Laurel Hubbard on Tuesday expressed gratitude for the opportunity to compete as an athlete and the hope that her story will help convince

What she's saying: "All I have ever really wanted as an athlete is just to be regarded as an athlete," Hubbard, said in response to a question from Axios. "I suppose the thing I have been so grateful here in Tokyo is just being given those opportunities to just go through life as any other athlete."

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Amazon may have violated law in Alabama warehouse vote, NLRB says

Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Ala., should hold a new election to determine whether to unionize with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, the National Labor Relations Board said in a preliminary finding Monday.

Driving the news: The e-commerce giant may have illegally interfered in a mail-in election tallied in April on whether workers at the plant should unionize, according to a statement from an NLRB hearing officer assigned to the case.

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Evictions lead to rare clash between the White House and Dems

The White House and Democratic leaders have been dueling— publicly and privately — over who should take responsibility for extending an eviction moratorium that could protect millions of people on the verge of homelessness.

Why it matters: It's a rare moment of dysfunction between the usually-in-lockstep Biden team and congressional leadership.

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Lindsey Graham tests positive for COVID-19

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Monday that he has tested positive for COVID-19, despite being vaccinated.

Why it matters: Graham emphasized that the mildness of his symptoms is due to being vaccinated. If he had been unvaccinated his symptoms would be "far worse," he said.

U.S. consulting with U.K., Romania and Israel on response to alleged Iran attack

The British and Romanian governments summoned the Iranian ambassadors to London and Bucharest on Monday to protest last week's drone strike on an oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman, which both countries have attributed to Iran.

The latest: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a briefing Monday that the U.S. is consulting with the U.K., Romania and Israel to prepare a collective response to the alleged Iranian attack.

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