News Update

Attorney General Merrick Garland testifies in Congress

 Bill O’Leary/Pool/Getty Images)
 Bill O’Leary/Pool/Getty Images)

While Attorney General Merrick Garland is expected to testify Wednesday before a subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee to defend the Justice Department’s $35.3 billion budget proposal, it’s possible some members of the committee may divert to off-topic questions about recent decisions that have come out of the Justice Department. 

In recent weeks, the Justice Department has been criticized about a series of items including their reasons to continue to defend former President Donald Trump in a defamation lawsuit and standing by not releasing the unredacted version of former Attorney General Bill Barr’s 2019 decision not to bring obstruction charges against Trump’s involvement with the Russia investigation. 

Nonetheless, this is Garland’s third time testifying before a Senate subcommittee since he was confirmed as the attorney general nearly three months ago and his prepared remarks are all about the proposed historic budget increase across the entire department. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. ET.

Garland emphasized the need to increase the budget in the Justice Department’s cybersecurity strategies in the wake of an increase of foreign and domestic cyberhackers. In the budget, Garland says he has proposed “the largest increase in cyber resources for the Department in more than 10 years” with a request of $1.1 billion that includes $150.7 million in cyber program enhancements. 

“Protecting our national security also requires countering cyber threats from foreign and domestic actors – whether nation states, terrorists, or criminals – who seek to conduct espionage, invade our privacy, attack our elections, steal our intellectual property, damage our critical financial and physical infrastructure, or extort ransom payments,” Garland says. “A complete review of the Department’s cybersecurity strategy is currently underway.”

One of the most high-profile ransomware attacks this year was against the Colonial Pipeline that cause a shortage of gas across the East Coast of the country. The company paid the multi-million dollar ransom to DarkSide, a hacking group linked to Russia. The Justice Department announced on Monday that they were able to seize $2.3 million in Bitcoins that was paid to the group.  

The budget contains a $486.5 million increase–nearly twice the previous fiscal year’s investment–for the Office on Violence Against Women to address gender-based violence. 

The Justice Department also aims to invest $1.3 billion in community policing that includes $13.6 million in funds for Task Force Officer Body Worn Camera Support. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco issued a memo on Monday that rescinded a previous administration’s policy that federal agents did not have to wear and activate body worn cameras when interacting with the public–now they are mandated to do so.  

To combat against violent crime and gun violence, the Justice Department is seeking $22.4 million increase funds for the ATF and $421 million for state and local grant programs that includes efforts of states to craft gun licensing laws. To counter international and domestic terrorism a proposed $1.6 billion budget would be aimed to include $4 million for the National Institute of Justice research to find root causes for domestic terrorism threats.

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