Garland to Senators: 'I Am Not the President's Lawyer'

in Senate confirmation hearing, he says Capitol riot inquiry would be his top priority
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 22, 2021 11:34 AM CST
Updated Feb 22, 2021 12:20 PM CST
Garland Says Capitol Riot Probe Will Be First Priority as AG
Judge Merrick Garland, nominee to be attorney general, testifies at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021.   (Al Drago/Pool via AP)

Five years after Barack Obama nominated him to the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland is finally getting a Senate confirmation hearing—for a different role. Garland, nominated to be President Biden's attorney general, told the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday that his first priority would be the investigation of the Capitol riot, the Washington Post reports. In his opening statement, Garland vowed to fight both inequality and domestic terrorism. He said confirmation would be the "culmination of a career I have dedicated to ensuring that the laws of our country are fairly and faithfully enforced, and the rights of all Americans are protected." Read the statement in full via CNN. More:

  • A "heinous attack." Garland called the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol "a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government."
  • Oklahoma City experience. Before he became a federal judge in 1997, Garland was best known for his role in the investigation and prosecution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, the Post notes. He told senators Monday that his experience would help him guide the investigation of the Capitol riot and other domestic terrorism.

  • Grassley welcomes Garland. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee in 2016, GOP Sen. Charles Grassley refused to schedule a confirmation for Garland, but he gave him a warm welcome on Monday, the New York Times reports. "No one doubts that Judge Garland is qualified for the job," said Grassley, who is now the committee's ranking Republican. "I like you, I respect you, and I think you are a good pick for this job," Grassley told Garland.
  • GOP hopefuls to quiz Garland. Politico reports that the Judiciary Committee members questioning Garland include four Republicans seen as potential White House contenders in 2024: Sens. Josh Hawley, Ben Sasse, Tom Cotton, and Ted Cruz, who is not self-quarantining after his trip to Mexico. Before the hearing, they said they would bring up issues including the Justice Department's investigation of Hunter Biden and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's handling of the pandemic.
  • "I am not the president's lawyer." Garland said he would not allow politics to influence investigations and prosecutions, the Hill reports. "I can assure you that I do not regard myself as anything other than the lawyer for the people of the United States," he said. "I am not the president's lawyer." He said he had not discussed the Hunter Biden case with the president—and he would never have taken the job if he thought there was any chance of Biden interfering with the Justice Department.
  • Bipartisan support. The AP notes that Garland, who was known for building consensus during more than 20 years on the United States Court of Appeal for the DC Circuit, has strong bipartisan support and is expected to pass the confirmation process easily. More than 150 former Justice Department officials have written letters of support.
  • Closing the door on the Trump era. Garland outlined ways he planned to move the department on from the Trump era, including working with Democrats on an investigation of the "shameful" family separation policy, the Hill reports. He also promised that the department's voting rights section would be more active and said he supported sentencing reforms that would allow authorities to focus on violent crimes and "not have such an overemphasis on marijuana possession."
(Read more Merrick Garland stories.)

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