Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) on Monday made his first appearance in the Senate since his return from a Cancún vacation that came under fire over his decision to leave his state and constituents in crisis, using his time to criticize the Obama administration.
Cruz complained that the Justice Department under President Barack Obama had been “politicized and weaponized,” though the senator had never complained when those same charges were leveled against the Trump Justice Department.
“I do not regard myself as anything other than the lawyer for the people of the United States, and I am not the president’s lawyer. I am the United States’ lawyer,” Garland said. “And I will do everything in my power, which I believe is considerable, to fend off any effort by anyone to make prosecutions or investigations partisan or political in any way.”
During his term, President Donald Trump had openly regarded the attorney general as someone who should be loyal to him.
Cruz’s appearance in the Senate comes days after his return from Cancún. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, individuals who travel internationally should get tested for the novel coronavirus three to five days after travel and stay home and self-quarantine for seven days after travel.
Jessica Skaggs, a spokeswoman for Cruz, said the senator tested negative before his flight to Houston last week and again Sunday before returning to Washington “to fulfill his Senate responsibilities.”
Asked why Cruz was not quarantining at home after traveling to Mexico, Skaggs replied that Cruz was doing so for “the same reason that senators and members of Congress don’t quarantine when they fly to D.C. each week even though CDC recommends they do. He has a job to do, he’s been tested and wears a mask.”
During Monday’s hearing, Cruz brought up the Fast and Furious scandal, a sting operation using firearms sales to track drug traffickers. Obama’s attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., was held in contempt of Congress by the GOP majority for refusing to hand over documents related to the operation.
Cruz pressed Garland several times on the issue of partisanship and the politicization of the Justice Department, citing examples only from the Obama years, including the surveillance of some Trump aides over possible collusion with Russia.
“The only basis for targeting has to be evidence of the risk of a foreign intelligence problem or of a criminal problem. And that is a nonpartisan issue,” Garland said. “That is a question of objective facts and law. And it can never be an effort to help one party or another party in politics, in investigations and prosecutions. There is no party. The department is an independent, nonpartisan actor, and that’s my job to ensure that that’s the case.”