U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday publicly introduced Merrick Garland, a federal appellate court judge whom Republicans snubbed for a seat on the Supreme Court in 2016, as the attorney general to lead the country’s Justice Department in his new administration.
Garland, 68, has served 23 years as an appeals court judge in Washington but came to national attention when former Democratic President Barack Obama nominated him to the country’s highest court in the last year of his presidency.
“To serve as AG at this critical time … is a calling I am honored and eager to answer,” Garland said shortly after Biden formally announced his nomination.
Although Garland’s Supreme Court nomination by Obama came months ahead of the 2016 presidential election, Republican senators refused to consider it, saying the decision should await the inauguration of a new president in 2017 so the American people could have a voice in the selection.
Subsequently, the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed three of President Donald Trump’s nominees to the high court, including Justice Amy Coney Barrett days before Trump lost his reelection bid on November 3.
Biden spoke at length about the importance of bolstering faith in the Department of Justice before introducing Garland and three other top Justice Department nominees, accusing Trump of treating the agency as “his personal law firm.”
“You won't work for me, you are not the president's or the vice president's lawyer," said Biden, who is due to be inaugurated on January 20.
Along with Garland, Biden nominated former homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general and former Justice Department civil rights chief Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general. Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, was named as assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.
If confirmed by the Senate, Garland would assume control of an agency that Democrats believe was overtly politicized in recent years under William Barr, Trump’s recently departed attorney general.
Before becoming a judge, Garland held senior Justice Department positions, including as a supervisor in the prosecution of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people in a domestic terrorism case.
If confirmed, Garland is expected to immediately face one politically sensitive case: a criminal tax investigation into Biden's son, Hunter, as well as demands from some Democrats that he pursue investigations into Trump’s actions as president after he leaves office in two weeks and is no longer immune from prosecution.
Garland would also inherit a special counsel investigation into the origins of the probe of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election that led to Trump’s impeachment.