Merrick Garland vows to fight discrimination, domestic extremism as attorney general
Merrick Garland, President Biden’s pick for attorney general, is vowing to see that the Justice Department roots out domestic political extremism and fights discrimination in the criminal justice system if he is confirmed by the Senate.
“It is a fitting time to reaffirm that the role of the Attorney General is to serve the Rule of Law and to ensure equal justice under the law,” Garland will say as part of his prepared remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. “And it is a fitting time to recognize the more than 115,000 career employees of the Department and its law enforcement agencies, and their commitment to serve the cause of justice and protect the safety of our communities.”
The former judge to the U.S. Court of Appeals, whose confirmation hearings before the panel begin this week, has faced intense pressure from progressives to prosecute President Trump and his associates for alleged crimes while committed before and during his time in office.
“If we want accountability for Trump and his criminal network, we cannot just depend on Democratic leaders,” a statement from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said earlier this month. “We need to push them. A lot.”
Garland is slated to reference the deadly rioting by Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in his opening remarks and to compare the incident to the Oklahoma City bombing in the late 1990s.
“From 1995 to 1997, I supervised the prosecution of the perpetrators of the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, who sought to spark a revolution that would topple the federal government,” he will say. “If confirmed, I will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on January 6 — a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government.”
Garland will also say he plans to address systemic racism in policing and help the Biden administration achieve criminal justice reform.
“The Civil Rights Act of 1957 created the Department’s Civil Rights Division, with the mission “to uphold the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans, particularly some of the most vulnerable members of our society,” Garland will tell the committee. “That mission remains urgent because we do not yet have equal justice. Communities of color and other minorities still face discrimination in housing, education, employment, and the criminal justice system; and bear the brunt of the harm caused by pandemic, pollution, and climate change.”
The American Civil Liberties Union has also pressed Biden and an upcoming Garland Justice Department to be aggressive in seeking reform.
“Your nomination comes at a moment when America faces an overdue reckoning with racial injustice that can start to be addressed with policies such as adopting a federal use-of-force standard, decriminalizing marijuana, and ending mandatory minimum sentences,” Cynthia Roseberry, the deputy director for policy at the ACLU wrote in a letter to Garland this month, asking him to make sure the Justice Department “will adopt policies to build a more racially just criminal legal system.”
In 2016, Republicans refused to give Garland a hearing as former President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee because they argued the winner of that year’s presidential election should fill the vacancy left by the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.