Biden appoints Judge Merrick Garland as Attorney General

WASHINGTON (AP) – President-elect Joe Biden has elected Merrick Garland, a judge of the Federal Court of Appeals, who was cheated by Republicans in 2016 to replace the Supreme Court as attorney general, two people experienced in the selection process said Wednesday.

When Garland is selected, Biden turns to an experienced judge who held a senior position in the Department of Justice decades ago, including as supervisor of the 1995 Oklahoma City Blast Prosecution. The election is forcing Senate Republicans to struggle with the nomination of a person they announced in 2016 – even if the Supreme Court vacated, he refused to hold hearings, but Biden Garland’s credentials and moderate reputation could entail confirmation.

Biden is expected to announce Garland’s appointment on Thursday, along with other heads of department, including Lisa Monaco, former deputy attorney general for homeland security, and Vanita Gupta, former secretary general for civil rights at the Department of Justice. He appoints Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Kristen Clarke, founder of the advocacy group for the Legal Committee of Lawyers under the Law.

Garland was chosen among other finalists, including Alabama Senator Doug Jones and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. Those skilled in the process were anonymous. One says Biden sees Garland as an attorney general who can restore the integrity of the Department of Justice and someone he served in the Department of Justice under the presidency of both political parties and will be respected by non-party career staff.

If confirmed, Garland will face immediate challenges, including an ongoing criminal tax investigation into Biden’s son, Hunter, and calls on many Democrats to pursue an investigation against Trump after he leaves office. A special advisory inquiry into the origins of the Russia probe will also remain open, forcing the new Attorney General to decide on its treatment and disclosure.

Garland would also inherit a ministry of justice that has lived a tumultuous life for four years and will likely need to focus more than just on civil rights issues and reworking national law enforcement policies after months of mass protests by law enforcement over the deaths of Black Americans. .

It was not clear how Garland’s election would be received by black and Latin advocates who spoke in favor of a black attorney general or a person with civil and criminal justice reforms.

Garland would return to a Department of Justice that is radically different from the one he left. The 9/11 attacks were years gone by, the ministry’s national security division had not yet been established, and the proliferation of aggressive cyber and countermeasure threats from foreign opponents made counties such as China, Russia, and North Korea a top priority for federal law enforcement. for.

But the problem with Garland’s first division still exists. Tensions between police and minorities, an issue that flared up after Rodney King was beaten in Los Angeles in 1992, remain a matter of urgent concern, especially after the summer racial unrest that stirred U.S. cities after George Floyd’s assassination in Minneapolis in May.

And the FBI has faced a violent rise of anti-government and racially motivated extremists. This poses a familiar threat to Garland, who in 1995, as a high-ranking official in the Department of Justice, helped handle the federal government’s response to the bombing of 168 people in the Oklahoma City government building. The bomber, Timothy McVeigh, who was later executed.

Garland called the work “the most important thing,” and was famous for holding a framed photograph of Alfred P. Murrah’s federal building in Oklahoma City in Washington, D.C., in his office building office.

At the time of the bombing, Garland was 42 years old and his Deputy Attorney General, Lt. Gen. Janet Reno. He was elected to Oklahoma City, an official in the Supreme Justice Department there, and led the prosecution for a month until a permanent chief prosecutor was appointed.

Garland was selected for the position by other candidates, including Alabama Senator Doug Jones, who lost his Senate seat last month, and Sally Yates, former Deputy Attorney General.

It is rare, but not unprecedented, that attorneys-general have previously served as judges. It happened in 2007 when President George W. Bush elected Michael Mukasey, a former Manhattan federal judge, for the job. Eric Holder, President Barack Obama’s first attorney general, was also previously a Supreme Court judge.

Garland was brought before the Supreme Court by former President Barack Obama in 2016, following the just death of Antonin Scalia, but Republicans refused to hold hearings in the final year of Obama’s term. The vacancy was later filled by Justice Neil Gorsuch during the Trump administration.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not allowed the nomination to continue in the Senate in the final months of Obama’s tenure. Democrats criticized the fall when it took the opposite approach to confirming President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court election, Amy Coney Barrett. According to him, the difference this time was that the White House and the Senate were run by the same political parties.

A year later, after the dismissal of FBI Director James Comey, McConnell actually floated Garland’s name as a substitute for that position, although Garland was reportedly not interested.

Garland has been with the Federal Court of Appeal in Washington since 1997. Prior to that, he worked in private practice as well as as a federal prosecutor, a senior official in the criminal department of the Ministry of Justice and as a deputy chief prosecutor.