Washington – Judge Merrick Garland,for the attorney general, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee for the first day of his confirmation hearing on Monday, vowing to restore the independence of the Justice Department and prosecute those who participated in the January 6 attack against the Capitol.
“The time has come to reaffirm that the role of the Attorney General is to serve the rule of law and ensure equal justice before the law,” Garland said in his. “If I am confirmed as Attorney General, it will be the culmination of a career I have dedicated to ensuring that the laws of our country are applied fairly and faithfully and that the rights of all Americans are protected.”
A judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Garland made his debut before the Senators as the Justice Department emerges from a period in which he was placed at the center of ‘politically charged investigations involving allies of former President Donald Trump and prosecuted on charges of politicization.
Garland looks set to be confirmed by a wide bipartisan margin, as senators on both sides of the aisle praised his record of public service and his commitment to the rule of law.
Underlining his commitment to maintaining the independence of the Justice Department and protecting it from political pressure, primarily from the White House, Garland pledged to “reject any effort by anyone to initiate partisan or political prosecutions or investigations of any way “.
“I am not the president’s lawyer,” he said. “I am the lawyer for the United States.”
In an exchange with Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, Garland became emotional as he discussed his motivation to accept the appointment as attorney general as he reflected on the experiences of his grandparents who had fled anti-Semitism and persecution in the early 1900s for the United States.
“This country welcomed us, protected us,” he said, choking. “I feel obligated to repay the country. It’s the best and the best use of my own skill set to repay.”
If confirmed, Garland will take over as the head of the Department of Justice as he continues to investigate and prosecute the rioters who violated the U.S. Capitol during the violent Jan.6 insurgency.
The judge told lawmakers that “combating extremist attacks on our democratic institutions” remains at the heart of the Justice Department’s mission. He condemned the murderous assault on Capitol Hill, calling it “a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government”.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily a unique case,” Garland said of the attack.
Garland would also assume the post of attorney general as the department continues to oversee several politically sensitive investigations, including one involving Hunter Biden, the son of Mr Biden whose “tax cases” are under review, as well as the ongoing review by Special Counsel John Durham on the origins of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Garland told senators he had not discussed Hunter Biden’s case with the president and reiterated Mr. Biden’s public commitment to leave decisions regarding investigations and prosecutions to the Department of Justice.
“That was the reason I was ready to take this job,” he said.
As attorney general, Garland urged the Justice Department to participate fully in congressional inquiries into Mr. Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which led to family separations of apprehended migrants at the border. Ministry Inspector General Tracked Down Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions And His Staffin the policy of the previous administration.
“I think the policy was shameful,” Garland said. “I can’t imagine anything worse than tearing parents apart from their children, and we will provide all the cooperation we can.”
Garland received support for his appointment from a host of civil rights organizations and law enforcement groups. When asked if he supports progressives’ calls to deprive the police of their funding following the deaths of unarmed black men and women at the hands of law enforcement, the judge said: “President Biden has said he does not support dismantling the police, and neither does he. Instead, Garland said he believes more resources should be given to police services to gain support from communities and ensure that resources are available for mental health services.
Garland’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee comes five years after his appointment to the Supreme Court by former President Barack Obama following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016. But Republicans have refused to accept Garland’s nomination and he never received a confirmation hearing before the Judicial Panel, as GOP senators argued, the vacancy appeared too close to the 2016 presidential election.
If the Senate approves Garland as the country’s chief law enforcement officer, he would open a seat on the mighty DC Circuit for Mr. Biden. Garland, appointed to the court by former President Bill Clinton in 1997, served as its chief justice until February 2020. Garland is also no stranger to the Department of Justice, having served as a federal prosecutor in Washington. , DC, as well as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division and as Senior Assistant Attorney General.
The judicial commission will hear outside witnesses on Tuesday, the second day of the confirmation hearing. Committee chair Dick Durbin told reporters he expects the Senate to vote on Garland’s nomination next week.
Clare Hymes and Cassidy McDonald contributed reporting.