Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin has emerged as one of the most influential public intellectuals in the country, regularly capturing the attention of White House chief of staff Ronald Klain and now potentially kicking the Department of Justice into action against Georgia's supposedly discriminatory voting laws.
In her Wednesday column, Rubin demanded the resignation of President Joe Biden's attorney general, Merrick Garland, complaining that he had "failed to act aggressively in the face of a new Jim Crow movement to suppress voting." "It's frankly embarrassing that private voting rights advocates must play what should be the Justice Department's role in challenging state laws in court," Rubin wrote. In a Thursday tweet celebrating Biden's infrastructure negotiations, Rubin called for action on voting rights to be the administration's next act.
On Friday morning, Garland announced that the Department of Justice was suing Georgia over its new election law.
The decision earned immediate plaudits from Jennifer ‘pro-voting' Rubin, as she calls herself on Twitter. "I am delighted Garland finally moved," she wrote on the popular social networking website. "New suits in other states as well, please." Her advocacy had gained the eye of Klain, who just 23 hours earlier had "liked" Rubin's tweet calling for White House action on voting rights.
Presumably, Klain has not seen Rubin's comments yet as he has not been active on Twitter since Friday morning. One of his last interactions with her Twitter came 23 hours ago, when Rubin tweeted, "If Biden gets a bipartisan hard infrastructure and a reconciliation infrastructure with items like childcare he'll defy virtually any Dems' expectations. Is voting rights too much to hope for?" potentially raising questions about the Justice Department's political independence from the White House.
Rubin's screed against Garland constituted a dramatic reversal for the columnist, who in February heralded Garland as the "right pick to be attorney general" due to his "aura of authority" and immense experience. That meant Klain, a man who spends hours upon hours a day on social media looking for the approval of journalists and liberal tastemakers, likely faced a deep conundrum over how he was directing White House policy.
It is unclear whether the White House played a role in directing Garland's lawsuit. Klain is considered one of the most powerful men in Washington, if not the world. Congressional Republicans regularly refer to him as "Prime Minister Klain." A fawning CNN report on his role in the White House said Klain is "unusually visible" and "involved in practically everything."
Early on in his administration, Biden promised he would never interfere with or direct his Justice Department. "You won't work for me," Biden said when announcing Garland's nomination. "You are not the president's or the vice president's lawyer. Your loyalty is not to me."
A force of nature on Twitter, Klain regularly breaks with his boss's opinion on key issues, such as what the federal minimum wage should be. In January, he seemingly endorsed a $23-per-hour minimum wage, just after the president called for a hike to $15-an-hour.