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Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

Attorney General Merrick Garland is quickly negating the Trump administration’s law enforcement legacy, dismaying conservatives with a burst of aggressive reversals and new policies.

Why it matters: As a former prosecutor and respected federal judge, Garland's devotion to the rule of law has always been core to his identity. That reputation has taken on new importance in his first 50 days on the job, after four years of allegations that Trump's DOJ was improperly politicized.

  • Attorney General Bill Barr played a central role in the Trump administration's most high-profile controversies, from undermining the Russia investigation to intervening in the cases of indicted Trump associates to ordering the forcible clearing of protesters in Lafayette Square Park.
  • DOJ's broad authority also overlaps with many of the issues at the top of President Biden's agenda, including restoring faith in government, promoting racial justice and police reform, and curbing gun violence.

Driving the news: Liberal fears that the soft-spoken Garland might resist prosecuting Trump and his allies for the sake of unity were partially eased on Wednesday, when news broke that federal agents had raided the Manhattan home of Rudy Giuliani.

  • The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, which Giuliani once led, is known to be highly independent.
  • But under Attorney General Bill Barr, the department repeatedly blocked SDNY prosecutors from executing a search warrant for Giuliani's electronic records in the final months of 2020, according to the New York Times.

The Justice Department also announced on Wednesday that three Georgia men were charged with federal hate crimes in the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, whose death was a rallying cry during last year's racial-justice protests.

  • In Michigan, a superseding indictment was filed against five men accused of plotting last year to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, with prosecutors referring to the alleged crimes as "domestic terrorism" for the first time.
  • That shift comes amid new developments in the investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which has been described as the most complex probe in DOJ history. Garland, who played a leading role in the prosecution of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, has vowed to make prosecuting the Capitol rioters his "first priority."

Other major steps taken in Garland's first 50 days include:

  • "Pattern or practice" investigations into the Minneapolis and Louisville police departments, following the deaths last year of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
  • A 30-day "expedited review" into how DOJ can better prosecute and track hate crimes amid a surge in violence against Asian Americans.
  • The revocation of a Trump-era policy that restricted federal funding for "sanctuary cities."
  • Responsibility for five of the six executive actions on gun control ordered by Biden.

What to watch: Garland's commitment to depoliticizing DOJ will undergo a key test when a charging decision is made in the case of Hunter Biden, whose finances are under investigation.

  • Special counsel John Durham is also expected to submit a report concerning alleged abuses by Obama-era intelligence officials during the Russia investigation.

Go deeper

NYT: Search warrant executed on Giuliani's NYC apartment

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Federal investigators have executed a search warrant on former President Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani's Manhattan apartment as part of an investigation into Giuliani's dealings in Ukraine, the New York Times reported.

The state of play: The Times reports that Giuliani's electronic devices have been seized. The execution of a warrant, which must be approved by a judge, also signals that the investigation into Giuliani's role in Ukraine during the Trump administration is intensifying.

Off the Rails

Trump turns on Barr

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Drew Angerer, Pool/Getty Images

Attorney General Bill Barr stood behind a chair in the private dining room next to the Oval Office, looming over Donald Trump. The president sat at the head of the table. It was Dec. 1, nearly a month after the election, and Barr had some sharp advice to get off his chest. The president's theories about a stolen election, Barr told Trump, were "bullshit."

Apr 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

3 men charged with hate crimes in death of Ahmaud Arbery

Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of Ahmaud Arbery, stands in front of a painting of her son after a candlelight vigil for Arbery at New Springfield Baptist Church on February 23, 2021 in Waynesboro, Georgia. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Three white men have been charged with federal hate crimes and attempted kidnapping in connection to the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot and killed last year in Georgia, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.

The big picture: Arbery's death is one of several that drove nationwide Black Lives Matter protests last summer, including demonstrations over the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.