WASHINGTON (NEWSnet/AP) — Attorney General Merrick Garland is forcefully rebuking what he described as “unprecedented” attacks on the Justice Department Tuesday, telling Republicans who have sought to hold him in contempt that he will “not be intimidated.”

During a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Garland condemned the “conspiracy theory” pushed by Donald Trump’s allies that the department was behind Trump’s state court prosecution in New York in which the former Republican president was convicted of 34 felony charges.

Garland called the unsupported claim “an attack on the judicial process itself.”

He also pushed back against “baseless and extremely dangerous falsehoods” being peddled about the FBI as well as threats to defund the special counsel prosecutions of former President Trump.

Garland was the only witness called for the day.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, who was investigated by the Justice Department but not charged in a sex trafficking inquiry, had a tense exchange early in the hearing when he demanded to know if the department would produce records related to the New York state case in which Trump was convicted last week.

Garland disputed as false allegations by Gaetz that he had “dispatched” to the Manhattan District Attorney office a Justice Department attorney who later became part of the Trump prosecution team, insisting that he had nothing to do with it.

This testimony comes as Republicans have moved to hold Garland in contempt for the Biden administration's refusal to hand over audio of President Joe Biden's interview with special counsel Robert Hur, which focused on the president's handling of classified documents.

A transcript of Biden's interview has been released, but the president asserted executive privilege over the audio last month to block its release. The White House has said lawmakers only want the audio so they can chop it up and use it for political purposes.

“I will not be intimidated,” Garland will say, according to prepared remarks provided to reporters. "And the Justice Department will not be intimidated. We will continue to do our jobs free from political influence. And we will not back down from defending our democracy.”

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