Biden introduces Judge Merrick Garland as attorney general


WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — President-elect Joe Biden introduced Merrick Garland as his pick for attorney
general on Thursday, turning to an experienced judge to help de-politicize the Justice Department and
restore the rule of law after what he described as four years of lawlessness under President Donald
Biden also described the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol on Wednesday as "domestic
terrorists" and assailed the Republican president for inciting the siege.
"The past four years we’ve had a president who’s made his contempt for our democracy, our
Constitution, the rule of law, clear in everything he has done," Biden declared, vowing a dramatic
change of course in his administration. "More than anything, we need to restore the honor, the
integrity, the independence of the Department of Justice that’s been so badly damaged."
If confirmed by the Senate, which is likely, Garland would take over as the nation’s top law enforcement
official at a critical moment for the nation and the agency. He would inherit immediate challenges
related to civil rights, an ongoing criminal tax investigation into Biden’s son Hunter and calls from
many Democrats to pursue criminal inquiries into Trump after he leaves office.
Garland’s nomination will force Senate Republicans to contend with someone they spurned four years ago —
refusing even to hold hearings when President Barack Obama nominated Garland for the Supreme Court. His
confirmation prospects were all but ensured this week when Democrats scored control of the Senate
majority by winning both Georgia Senate seats.
Garland and three others Biden has picked for Justice Department leadership posts were introduced
Thursday afternoon in Wilmington, Delaware. They include Obama administration homeland security adviser
Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general and former Justice Department civil rights chief Vanita Gupta as
associate attorney general, the No. 3 official. He also named an assistant attorney general for civil
rights, Kristen Clarke, now the president of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an advocacy
Garland was selected over other finalists including former Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., and former Deputy
Attorney General Sally Yates.
Garland would inherit a Justice Department that has endured a tumultuous four years and abundant
criticism from Democrats over what they see as the overpoliticization of law enforcement. The department
is expected to dramatically change course under new leadership, including through a different approach
to civil rights issues and national policing policies, especially after months of mass protests over the
deaths of Black Americans at the hand of law enforcement.
Black and Latino advocates had wanted a Black attorney general or someone with a background in civil
rights causes and criminal justice reform. Groups including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
had championed Garland’s Supreme Court nomination, but the extent of support from minority groups for
the attorney general job was not immediately clear.
Though Garland is a white man, the selection of Gupta and Clarke, two women with significant experience
in civil rights, appeared designed to blunt any concerns and served as a signal that progressive causes
would be prioritized in the new administration.
Garland would also inherit the special counsel investigation into the origins of the Russia probe, which
remains open.
He would return to a Justice Department radically different from the one he left. The Sept. 11 attacks
were years in the future and the department’s national security division had not yet been created. A
proliferation of aggressive cyber and counterintelligence threats from foreign adversaries have made
countries like China, Russia and North Korea top priorities for federal law enforcement.
Monaco in particular brings to the department significant national security experience, including in
cybersecurity — an especially urgent issue as the U.S. government confronts a devastating hack of
federal agencies that officials have linked to Russia.
Some of the issues from Garland’s first stint at the department persist. Tensions between police and
minorities, an issue that flared following the 1992 beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles, remain a
major concern, particularly following a summer of racial unrest that roiled American cities after the
May killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
And the FBI has confronted a surge in violence from antigovernment and racially motivated extremists.
That is a familiar threat to Garland, who as a senior Justice Department official helped manage the
federal government’s response to the 1995 bombing of a government building in Oklahoma City that killed
168 people. The bomber, Timothy McVeigh, was later executed.
Garland has called the work the "most important thing I have done" and was known for keeping a
framed photo of Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in his courthouse office in
Garland was put forward by Obama for a seat on the Supreme Court in 2016 following the death of Justice
Antonin Scalia, but Republicans refused to hold confirmation hearings in the final year of Obama’s term,
arguing that the person elected president that fall should make the selection.
Garland has been on the federal appeals court in Washington since 1997. Before that, he had worked in
private practice, as well as a federal prosecutor, a senior official in the Justice Department’s
criminal division and as the principal associate deputy attorney general.
AP writer Steve Peoples in New York contributed.

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