Garland defends handling of special counsel probes for Trump and Biden

Susan Walsh

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday defended the Justice Department's handling of separate special counsel investigations into classified documents linked to former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden, saying it does not have different rules for Republicans and Democrats.

In his first public remarks on the topic after even more classified documents were found at Biden's home in Delaware, Garland was asked whether he believed the Justice Department was handling the two probes fairly.

“The department has a set of norms and practices," he said. "These are essential for us to continue. They ensure that we adhere to the rule of law. These mean, among other things, that we do not have different rules for Democrats or Republicans, different rules for the powerful and the powerless, different rules for the rich or for the poor. We apply the facts and the law in each case in a neutral, nonpartisan manner. That is what we always do, and that is what we do in the matters that you’re referring to.”

Garland spoke at a roundtable discussion with members of the Justice Department Reproductive Task Force as Republicans have accused the Justice Department of treating Trump and Biden differently after classified documents from Trump's administration were found at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida and classified documents from the Obama administration were discovered at Biden's Wilmington home and a Washington office he had used.

“The role of the Justice Department is to apply the facts and the law in each case and reach appropriate decisions in a nonpartisan and neutral way without regard to who the subjects are,” added Garland, who was nominated by Biden. “That is what we’ve done in each of these cases. And that is what we’ll continue to do.”

Garland in November appointed former federal prosecutor Jack Smith as special counsel in a pair of Trump investigations: the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago and Trump's role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Garland announced this month that Robert Hur, who was a Trump-appointed federal prosecutor, would serve as a special counsel in the Biden probe.

Congressional Republicans have opened their own investigations into the Biden documents. Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the chair of the Oversight and Accountability Committee, and House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan of Ohio are each leading investigations.

Biden and Trump have had contrasting responses to the discovery of classified documents, which are supposed to be handed over to National Archives when presidents or vice presidents leave office.

The National Archives had several months of correspondence with Trump officials after requesting that missing records be returned before it received some of those records in a collection of boxes from Mar-a-Lago last January. Trump later failed to comply with a subpoena for the remaining records, leading to an eventual search of his Florida home.

In Biden's case, the National Archives was unaware of any missing records until the White House counsel’s office notified it shortly after records were found by Biden's lawyers, according to Richard Sauber, the special counsel to the president.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com