Judge Merrick Garland tells Senate that attacks on courthouses not necessarily “domestic terrorism”

Judge Merrick Garland told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that attacks on the U.S. courthouse in Portland last year may not have been “domestic terrorism,” because they occurred at night when the court wasn’t “in operation.”

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) asked Garland, “Let me ask you about assaults on federal property in places other than Washington, D.C., Portland for instance, Seattle, do you regard assaults on federal courthouses or other federal property as acts of domestic extremism, domestic terrorism?” Garland then responded, saying, “Well senator, my own definition, which is about the same as the statutory definition, is the use of violence or threats of violence in an attempt to disrupt the democratic processes. So an attack on a courthouse while in operation, trying to prevent judges from actually deciding cases, that plainly is domestic extremism, domestic terrorism. An attack simply on a government property at night or any other circumstances is a clear crime and a serious one and should be punished. I don’t know enough about the facts of the example you’re talking about, but that’s where I draw the line. One is — both are criminal, one is a core attack on our democratic institutions.”

During the hearing, Garland called attention to the Department of Justice’s responsibility to “battle extremist attacks on our democatic institutions’ ‘ and called the january 6th riot “the most heinous attack on the democratic process” but he also specifically drew a distinction between the Antifa and January 6th riots. According to USA Today, that specific Portland riot resulted in the front of the courthouse being boarded up; the destruction of security equipment protecting the courthouse; and the breaking of windows in the offices of federal prosecutors.

Last August, then-Attorney General William Barr described the attacks on the courthouse as follows: “Behind the veil of ‘protests,’ highly organized violent operators have carried out direct attacks on federal personnel and property, particularly the federal courthouse in Portland. Shielded by the crowds, which make it difficult for law enforcement to detect or reach them, violent opportunists in Portland have attacked the courthouse and federal officers with explosives, lasers, projectiles, and other dangerous devices. In some cases, purported ‘journalists’ or ‘legal observers’ have provided cover for the violent offenders; in others, individuals wearing supposed press badges have themselves attacked law enforcement or trespassed on federal property. More than 200 federal officers have been injured in Portland alone.”

The definition of domestic terrorism that Garland notes, means activities that: (A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; (B) appear to be intended– (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.




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