Testifying Monday at his Senate confirmation hearing, Judge Merrick Garland — President Biden’s nominee for Attorney General — said his first priority would be the deadly and destructive Jan. 6 riot by Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol.
“Garland drew parallels to the domestic terrorism threat the Justice Department faced in confronting the Ku Klux Klan and the prosecution he led of Timothy McVeigh in the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995,” reported the Washington Post.
Now, Garland told the senators, “we are facing a more dangerous period than we faced in Oklahoma City.”
In his opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Garland said he will “supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 — a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government.”
“Garland also pledged that he would cooperate with the committee’s investigation into the actions of the Trump-era Justice Department on immigration and its ‘zero tolerance policy’ that led to large numbers of parents being separated from their children,” reported the New York Times.
“I think the policy was shameful,” Garland said.
Garland also promised to “reinvigorate the department’s civil rights division,” the Times said.
“Communities of color and other minorities still face discrimination in housing, education, employment and the criminal justice system,” Garland told the committee.
It was Day 1 of what was scheduled to be two days of testimony.
“Biden’s choice of Garland reflects the president’s goal of restoring the department’s reputation as an independent body,” said the Associated Press. “During his four years as president, Donald Trump insisted that the attorney general must be loyal to him personally, a position that battered the department’s reputation.”
President Barack Obama nominated Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016, but Republican senators refused to even consider the pick or to hold a confirmation hearing.
Monday’s most striking and emotional moment came when Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) asked Garland to describe his Eastern European family’s flight from the Nazis in World War II:
In contrast to five years ago, Garland, 68, a federal appeals court judge, is widely expected to be confirmed as AG with bipartisan support. But that didn’t mean Republicans were going to let him off easily.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA), the ranking GOP member of the Judiciary Committee, asked if Garland had ever talked with the president about his son Hunter Biden’s finances and taxes, according to U.S. News.
“I have not,” Garland replied. “The president made abundantly clear in every public statement before and after my nomination that decisions about investigations and prosecutions will be left to the Justice Department. That was the reason I was willing to take on this job.”
Grassley also pressed Garland on whether he’d allow special counsel John Durham, who was appointed by former Trump AG Bill Barr, to complete his probe of the origins of the FBI’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, U.S. News said.
“Garland didn’t give a firm answer, noting he would first need to speak with Durham to acquaint himself with the investigation” — but he implied he was inclined to keep Durham on the case.