Senate

Garland expected to become Biden’s AG after high court holdup

Nearly five years after Senate Republicans refused to grant Merrick Garland a hearing to be confirmed as a justice on the Supreme Court, the appeals court judge is getting his chance to go before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, this time as President Biden’s choice to be attorney general. 

In 2016, former President Obama nominated Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, but then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not allow a hearing on the nomination, citing the presidential election eight months later. 

Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the seat on the high court the following year, just more than two months after he was nominated by former President Trump.

Garland is one of the last major Cabinet appointments by Biden, and he is likely to secure confirmation with bipartisan support despite the former Republican blockade on his last nomination.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) has said Garland’s experience “makes him well-suited to lead the Department of Justice, and I appreciated his commitment to keep politics out of the Justice Department.”

“Unless I hear something new, I expect to support his nomination before the full Senate,” Cornyn added, according to The Associated Press.

In opening remarks released Sunday, Garland pledged to address the threat of domestic extremism as the nation’s top law enforcement officer, specifically invoking the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“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,” Garland’s remarks read. “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.”

Biden has pledged that the Justice Department during his tenure will be free of political influence or interference. 

The Justice Department has asked for the resignations of all Trump-appointed U.S. attorneys, a somewhat typical move for incoming administrations. But Biden left in place the U.S. attorney in Delaware in charge of investigating the tax affairs of his son Hunter Biden.

He is also allowing U.S. Attorney John Durham to continue in his role as a special prosecutor probing the origins of the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, a position appointed by former Attorney General William Barr.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in January that Garland was a “sound choice” for the position, tweeting, “He is a man of great character, integrity, and tremendous competency in the law” after the nomination was reported.

Garland’s current confirmation hearing was held up one more time this year by Graham, who in February, when he was still chairman, refused to hold Garland’s hearing for attorney general, pointing to what was then the upcoming impeachment trial of Trump as a roadblock.

Garland currently serves as chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. 

He previously served as a principal deputy associate attorney general during the Clinton administration. During that tenure, he investigated numerous high-profile domestic terror cases such as Ted Kaczynski’s bombing campaign, the Oklahoma City bombing and the bombing of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics by far-right extremist Eric Rudolph.

Garland referred back to this previous work in his prepared statement.

“That critical work is but a part of the broad scope of the Department’s responsibilities. DOJ protects Americans from environmental degradation and the abuse of market power, from fraud and corruption, from violent crime and cybercrime, and from drug trafficking and child exploitation,” Garland said. “And it must do all of that without ever taking its eye off the risk of another devastating attack by foreign terrorists. The Attorney General takes an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies — foreign and domestic.”

Tags Donald Trump Joe Biden John Cornyn John Durham Jon Ossoff Lindsey Graham Merrick Garland Mitch McConnell Neil Gorsuch Raphael Warnock William Barr

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