Merrick Garland, President Joe Biden’s nominee for Attorney General, vowed that his top priority would be on the violent Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol as he seeks to combat extremist violence, while also assuring lawmakers that the Department of Justice would stay independent from political interference.
What You Need To Know
- Judge Merrick Garland testified in his Senate confirmation hearing that his top priority would be the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and combating extremist violence
- Garland held senior positions at the Justice Department, including as a supervisor in the prosecution of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing
- Garland told senators the department must ensure laws are “fairly and faithfully enforced” and the rights of all Americans are protected, while reaffirming an adherence to policies to protect its political independence
- Former President Obama nominated Garland for U.S. Supreme Court justice in 2016, but the Republican-controlled Senate refused to give him a hearing
Garland, a federal appeals court judge, is widely expected to sail through his confirmation process, which began Monday before the Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee, with bipartisan support.
In his opening statement, Garland told senators the department must ensure laws are “fairly and faithfully enforced” and the rights of all Americans are protected, while reaffirming an adherence to policies to protect its political independence, with the attorney general acting as a lawyer for the American people, not for the president.
“The attorney general represents the public interest, particularly and specifically as defined by the Constitution and the statutes of the United States,” Garland said. “I do not plan to be interfered with by anyone.”
Republicans acknowledged Garland’s failed 2016 Supreme Court nomination over the course of Monday’s hearing, which died because the Republican-controlled Senate refused to hold a hearing. Sen. Chuck Grassley, who was chairman of the panel at the time and carried out GOP leader Mitch McConnell’s directive to block Garland from the court, defended his role, saying he took a position and “stuck to it.” He then criticized Democrats over their handling of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Still, he indicated he would be supportive of Garland.
“I admire Judge Garland’s public service,” Grassley said. “Just because I disagreed with anyone being nominated didn’t mean that I had to be disagreeable to that nominee.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also said he thought Garland would be a “very good pick” for attorney general, despite a tough round of questioning from the senator.
Garland will inherit a Justice Department that endured a tumultuous time under Trump — rife with political drama and controversial decisions — and abundant criticism from Democrats over what they saw as the politicizing of the nation’s top law enforcement agencies. During his four years as president, Donald…