Merrick Garland lectures on 'the rule of law' after Trump judge ruled former president deserves special treatment
Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland. (AFP)

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland explained the concept of the rule of law in a Saturday speech before new immigrants at Ellis Island.

"Everything Mr. Garland says these days is parsed for deeper meaning — and prosecutorial clues — as the Justice Department plunges ahead with sprawling, open-ended investigations into former President Donald J. Trump and his allies. The attorney general often uses public appearances to address Mr. Trump and Trumpism in veiled but unmistakable terms, decrying division and vowing to hold 'the powerful' accountable for crimes they commit," The New York Times reported.

"But Saturday’s speech came at a critical moment, as Mr. Garland commits to an inquiry into possible criminality by a former president who remains a political force, and has repeatedly attacked Mr. Garland, his department and the F.B.I."

Garland's speech came only days after Trump-appointed Judge Aileen Cannon issued a highly criticized ruling claiming Trump deserved special treatment as a former president.

“The protection of law — the rule of law — is the foundation of our system of government,” Garland told the new citizens.

“The rule of law means that the law treats each of us alike: There is not one rule for friends, another for foes; one rule for the powerful, another for the powerless; a rule for the rich, another for the poor,” Garland said.

Garland argued the rule of law “is fragile, it demands constant effort and vigilance.”

Cannon was widely criticized for arguing Trump deserved different than everyone else.

"Based on the nature of this action, the principles of equity require the Court to consider the specific context at issue, and that consideration is inherently impacted by the position formerly held by Plaintiff," Cannon wrote.

Harvard Law's Laurence Tribe tweeted Cannon, "ends her denial of a stay by saying (in effect) former presidents are entitled to special treatment."

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti summed up the judge's argument as "former presidents get special treatment."

"From the beginning, Judge Cannon’s open admission that Trump is entitled to special treatment has troubled me most," civil rights lawyer Subodh Chandra wrote. "There is no rule of law. There is no equal justice under law. Not where lawless judges like this are concerned."

On Friday, a group of top former GOP officials filed a motion asking to file a friend of the court briefing in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The group includes former Govs. William Weld (R-MA) and Christine Todd Whitman(R-NJ).

Ambassador Norm Eisen, who was ethics czar in the Obama White House, said "former top GOP officials from every GOP administration since Reagan agree: Donald Trump shouldn't get special treatment in court because he's a former president."

The group argued, "the district court also erred by repeatedly affording greater protection to the plaintiff because he is a former president."

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"'Principles of equity' require that citizens be treated equally under the law. The district court’s analysis, which gave greater weight to the reputation of a former President than to the reputation of any other citizen, and greater weight to that personal reputation than to national security concerns, is fundamentally inconsistent with the basic tenets of U.S. law," they wrote. "Under the court’s reasoning, its analysis would be different if the plaintiff were not the former President but a school teacher, police officer, or veteran who had taken classified information from a U.S. government facility and stored it in their home."