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Press Release | February 24, 2021

Revolving Door Project Sees Cause for Concern at Biden's Justice Department

2020 Election/TransitionDepartment of Justice
Revolving Door Project Sees Cause for Concern at Biden's Justice Department

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jeff Hauser, hauser@therevolvingdoorproject.org, (202) 957-9719

At his confirmation hearings this week, Merrick Garland made admirable commitments to reinvigorate a beleaguered Justice Department and redirect its energies towards domestic terrorism, civil rights, and antitrust enforcement. His ability to deliver on those promises and more will depend on his resolve to break with tired norms where necessary and populate the Department’s highest ranks with unabashed champions for the public interest, not corporate apologists. 

Unfortunately, in those same hearings and in his proxies’ leadership of the Department thus far, Garland has called that resolve into doubt. We at the Revolving Door Project (RDP) specialize in both identifying obscure but powerful jobs in government, as well as understanding the background of the people handed the keys of the people’s government. Now that Garland is set to officially take over the department, here’s some of what RDP will be watching closely. 

We cannot afford to have any corner of the department idle or working against the Biden administration’s ambitious agenda.

  1. Neglected US Parole Commission a Crucial Component of Criminal Justice Reform 

The U.S Parole Commission, which is tasked with evaluating parole requests from incarcerated citizens under its jurisdiction, sits nearly empty. The two sitting commissioners, whose terms have both long since expired, consist of a Bush appointee and a former Fraternal Order of Police President. Any attempts at criminal justice reform necessitate a full parole board that will fairly consider the cases of incarcerated citizens in need of clemency and early release.

  1. Biden Must Replace the Director of the Executive Office for U.S Trustees 

The little-known Executive Office for U.S. Trustees is in charge of the U.S. Trustees Program, which has primary oversight responsibility over bankruptcy filings. But the current Director, Bush appointee Clifford J. White, is no friend to consumers, supporting legislation and rules that arbitrarily punish consumer debtors while giving corporate debtors a free pass. 

In the midst of numerous overlapping disasters, hundreds of thousands of people are facing ever more precarious financial conditions that may force them into bankruptcy. The chief bankruptcy oversight agent must be one who recognizes the importance of bankruptcy in protecting low-income Americans and is willing to hold to account the corporations who abuse the system for their executives’ enrichment.

  1. Trump Appointees Still Setting Agenda At Biden’s Antitrust Division 

Trump’s corrosive use of the presidential office for personal enrichment and that of his corporate friend’s has created infrastructural rot that now requires repair. The antitrust division (ATR) at the DOJ is a primary example of where Trump appointees are still at the helm of the agency. The Antitrust Division needs acting Democratic leadership to point antitrust enforcement in the direction President Biden promised—taking on monopolies and economic concentration

  1. Acting Officials Can Govern for Years. They Deserve Scrutiny.

While they usually garner little public attention, acting officials, who hold jobs temporarily while permanent appointees go through lengthy confirmation processes, can play a significant role in presidential administrations, serving for up to two years. Moreover, these acting officials can be holdovers from the previous administration, extending their policies into the present: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s choice for acting Comptroller of the Currency is still leading that office, while acting Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar has chosen to defend Trump administration arguments submitted to the Supreme Court. 

We must ruthlessly scrutinize every acting official, especially considering the total discretion Biden has to appoint and replace them. This means no Trump holdovers, no high-level BigLaw alums, no lobbyists or representatives of corporate America. If we wouldn’t be happy with them permanently in the job, we shouldn’t accept them indefinitely.

  1. Biden need not be deferential to baseless legal positions held by the Trump administration

Under normal circumstances it is routine for the Department of Justice to maintain the legal position held by the previous administration. But the Trump administration was defined by its lawlessness and indefensible policy positions. 

We are deeply concerned about the three instances in which the department of justice has opted to maintain the Trump Administration’s position. We urge the Biden administration to change course and move quickly to drop, reverse, or settle the cases that Trump left behind.

  1. The Future of the DOJ cannot be stewarded by corporate lawyers 

The Revolving Door Project spearheaded a sign-on letter that garnered the support of 37 racial, worker, environmental, and social justice organizations demanding that President Biden’s attorney general nominee Merrick Garland keep BigLaw attorneys out of the leadership of his Department of Justice. Instead, the groups urged Garland to appoint attorneys with a longstanding and consistent commitment to carrying out the missions of the divisions they will run. Defenders of big business stand in the way of justice for everyday people. And the over-representation of BigLaw attorneys at the department puts major corporations in the driver’s seat of our government’s top law enforcement agency. 

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Header image: “US Department of Justice” by Bjoertvedt is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

2020 Election/TransitionDepartment of Justice

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