Does the DOJ target more Republicans than Democrats? Here’s the data


The long-standing allegation from former President Donald Trump is that President Joe Biden has weaponized the Department of Justice and that there is a double standard for Republicans as compared with Democrats.

There’s plenty of evidence otherwise lately.

Sen. Bob Menendez, the up-for-reelection Democrat from New Jersey, is on trial for bribery for the second time in seven years – and across the street from where Trump’s New York state trial related to hush money payments is taking place in Manhattan. Menendez denies the allegations, which include that he and his wife accepted gold bars, envelopes of cash and much more.

In Texas, federal prosecutors have brought corruption charges against Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat, for allegedly taking nearly $600,000 in bribes, including from a foreign oil and gas company. Cuellar denies the allegations.

Another Democrat, Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri, is the subject of a federal probe into her campaign spending, according to a CNN report in January. She has denied wrongdoing and defended paying her husband for security services.

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Evidence against the idea of political bias

The cases above, if nothing else, are a serious complication to Trump’s often-repeated claim that he is the subject of a partisan “witch hunt.”

So is prosecution of Hunter Biden, the president’s son, in a gun case in Delaware that is rarely brought as a stand-alone charge, and a separate tax case in California. Both trials are slated to begin in June.

Yes, Trump is the subject of two, distinct prosecutions brought by special counsel Jack Smith, concerning the former president’s refusal to return classified material to the National Archives after he left the White House and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Both of those prosecutions are currently on hold. But it’s worth noting that federal prosecutors passed on charging Trump for the hush money payments scheme that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg later pursued.

An unusually feisty Attorney General Merrick Garland rejected any claim of bias during testimony on Capitol Hill last September.

“Our job is not to do what is politically convenient,” he said. “Our job is not to take orders from the president, from Congress or from anyone else about who or what to criminally investigate.”

The Cuellar indictment, the Bush probe and the beginning of the Menendez trial are new developments to add to a running list of federal prosecutions I first compiled last year.

Here’s a look at active and recent federal cases against federal lawmakers and governors. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but it is what I could find going back to 2000 in CNN’s coverage and from other news outlets.

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Ongoing federal cases against sitting federal lawmakers

There is one against a Republican, expelled Rep. George Santos of New York, and two against Democrats, Menendez and Cuellar. No charges have yet been filed against Bush.

There is also a non-prosecution to mention. Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican, was informed last year by the DOJ that he would not be charged in a long-running sex trafficking probe.

Federal cases against recent members of Congress

These are federal cases against current or former federal lawmakers. I was able to find nine targeting Republicans and eight targeting Democrats.

Former Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, a Republican from Nebraska – Found guilty in 2022 of three felonies in a case that centered on campaign contributions.

Former Rep. TJ Cox, a Democrat from California – Still awaiting trial after his 2022 indictment, including for fraudulent campaign contributions. He was offered a plea deal, according to local reports.

Former Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California – Sentenced to 11 months in prison for misusing campaign funds, but later pardoned by Trump.

Former Rep. Chris Collins, a Republican from New York – Sentenced to 26 months in prison for insider trading, but later pardoned by Trump.

Former Rep. Corrine Brown, a Democrat from Florida – Served more than two years for setting up a false charity.

Former Rep. Steve Stockman, a Republican from Texas – Sentenced to 10 years in prison for multiple felonies including fraud and money laundering, but pardoned by Trump after serving part of his sentence.

Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, a Democrat from New York – Sentenced to 21 months in prison for sexting with a minor.

Former Rep. Chaka Fattah, a Democrat from Pennsylvania – Sentenced to 10 years in prison for racketeering, fraud and money laundering.

Former Rep. Michael Grimm, a Republican from New York – Pleaded guilty and sentenced to eight months in prison for tax evasion. Attempted to run again for Congress.

Former Rep. Rick Renzi, a Republican from Arizona – Sentenced to three years for corruption. Pardoned by Trump after he served time.

Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey – Acquitted by a judge and other charges dismissed after a jury deadlocked in a bribery case that predates the current prosecution.

Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., a Democrat from Illinois – Sentenced to 30 months in prison for misusing campaign funds.

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Former Sen. Ted Stevens, a Republican from Alaska – Conviction by jury for lying on ethics forms was later set aside over allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.

Former Rep. William Jefferson, a Democrat from Louisiana – Sentenced to 13 years for corruption and soliciting bribes. There was video of him taking $100,000 from an African official. Served multiple years in prison, but many of the charges were later vacated by a judge based on a US Supreme Court decision.

Former Rep. Bob Ney, a Republican from Ohio – Sentenced to 30 months after a guilty plea for corruption tied to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, a Republican from California – Sentenced to eight years in prison after a guilty plea for bribery. Later pardoned by Trump.

Former Rep. James Traficant, a Democrat from Ohio – Sentenced to eight years in prison for corruption after defending himself during trial. Was later expelled from the House.

Other prosecutions to consider

Two Republican governors and two Democratic governors have been convicted in federal courts in recent decades:

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnella Republican, was convicted for bribery and corruption. But the US Supreme Court changed the rules in corruption and bribery cases when it threw out the case against McDonnell.

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, was convicted for trying to sell his power to appoint a replacement to Barack Obama’s Senate seat. His sentence was later commuted by Trump.

Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat, was convicted by a jury of bribery and corruption and was sentenced to more than six years in prison.

Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, a Republican, was convicted on corruption charges after an FBI sting.

What’s not included here

Local prosecutions – like the state or local cases against former Rep. Trey Radel, the Republican from Florida, for cocaine possession in Washington, DC, or former Sen. Larry Craig, the Republican from Idaho, for lewd behavior in the Minneapolis airport – don’t really fit here since they were not conducted by the Department of Justice.

Some notable recent DOJ prosecutions have focused on Democrats at the state level, like Andrew Gillum, the Democrat and former Tallahassee, Florida, mayor who ran for governor and lost to Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2018. Gillum was acquitted of lying to the FBI.

Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, also a Democrat, was sentenced to three years in prison after she pleaded guilty to charges related to a scheme in which local nonprofit organizations bought her self-published children’s book.

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Trump charges

Trump likes to argue he’s the subject of a conspiratorial “witch hunt” engineered by a deep state.

Why, he will often say, was Hillary Clinton not prosecuted for her email server while he is being prosecuted for mishandling classified material?

This forgets the history of the 2016 election, which Clinton has said she lost because of then-FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the investigation of her emails. Comey did not charge her before the election but did criticize her, and then, 11 days before Election Day, he said the investigation had been reopened.

These whataboutisms can go on and on without changing anyone’s mind.





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