Republicans are calling foul play after the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a lawsuit against the son of West Virginia Governor Jim Justice on Wednesday.

Justice, a Republican, is running for Senator Joe Manchin’s seat. Manchin is the only Democratic senator in the traditionally red state of West Virginia and could be a key player for Democrats to maintain control of the Senate in 2024 as Republicans fight for control. Yet just one day after a poll was released showing Justice’s staggering 22-point lead over Manchin in a notional matchup, the Justice Department announced it was suing Justice’s son, James Justice III, and his 13 coal mining companies for allegedly committing more than 130 violations of federal law and creating health and safety risks.

Republicans have long criticized the Justice Department and other federal organizations like the FBI after former President Donald Trump accused the organizations of conducting a “witch hunt” against him in myriad lawsuits ranging from alleged illegal dealings to 2020 voter fraud.

The recent announcement has Republicans lamenting foul play who they feel is once again unfairly targeting one of their own.

DOJ to 'Target' Joe Manchin's Rival
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice attends a roundtable discussion on the opioid epidemic with state and local officials at the Cabell-Huntington Health Department in Huntington, West Virginia on July 8, 2019. Republicans call game dirty after the DOJ filed a lawsuit against Justice’s son on Wednesday.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty

“Joe Biden’s Justice Department has gone completely rogue,” NRSC spokesman Tate Mitchell. saying in a statement on Twitter. “Democrats using the federal government as a weapon to attack the family of a Republican Senate candidate is a complete abuse of power.”

news week contacted the Justice Bureau by email for comment.

“Did anyone really think that Biden’s use of DOJ weapons to target his political opponents was going to kill Trump?” Donald Trump Jr., Trump’s eldest son, tweeted with a copy of the NRSC news release from Wednesday.

Manchin has yet to announce a re-election bid, but Democrats see it as their best chance to retain a key Senate seat. Manchin has held his red state seat since 2010 by siding with Republicans on certain issues, angering his Democratic colleagues. Still, Justice could be the GOP’s best chance to flip West Virginia in his favor, even as he faces Manchin, who will have starting advantage if he decides to run.

The East Carolina University poll of 957 registered voters found Justice leading by 22 percentage points in a head-to-head matchup with Manchin, news week reported on Tuesday. 54 percent of voters said they planned to back Justice, while 32 percent said they would vote for Manchin.

And while Justice also dominated a poll that pitted him against other Republicans, including Rep. Alex Mooney, a widely publicized lawsuit over his son could change Mooney’s approval rating.

The poll found that a matchup between Mooney and Manchin would be much closer, with just one percentage point separating the two in favor of Mooney, giving the Democratic senator a better chance of retaining his seat if he decides to run.

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