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AG nominee Garland vows Capitol riot will be top priority

WASHINGTON (AP) — Merrick Garland, President Joe Biden's attorney general nominee, vowed Monday to prioritize combating extremist violence and said his first focus would be on the insurrection at...

2/22/2021 10:46:00 PM

Merrick Garland says his first focus as attorney general would be on the U.S. Capitol insurrection. During his Senate confirmation hearing, Garland sought to assure lawmakers that the Justice Department would remain politically independent on his watch.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Merrick Garland , President Joe Biden 's attorney general nominee, vowed Monday to prioritize combating extremist violence and said his first focus would be on the insurrection at...

“I have grown pretty immune to any kind of pressure, other than the pressure to do what I think is the right thing, given the facts and the law. That is what I intend to do as the attorney general, I don’t care who pressures me in whatever direction,” he said.

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Early in the hearing, Garland faced questioning about his plans to handle specific investigations and politically sensitive cases, like the federal tax investigation involving Biden’s son Hunter Biden, and the special counsel’s inquiry started by William Barr, while he was attorney general, into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation, which also remains open.

Garland said he had not spoken with Biden about the investigation into his son. He said he had agreed to the nomination as attorney general because the president had vowed that “decisions about investigations and prosecutions will be left to the Justice Department.”

Garland, though saying he was supportive of transparency and in publicly explaining Justice Department decision-making, declined to commit to making public the results of the Durham investigation. He said under questioning from Sen. Chuck Grassley, the committee’s top Republican, that he had not spoken to Durham yet but had no reason to think that former Attorney General William Barr’s decision to give Durham special counsel status to remain in his position was “not the correct decision.”

To date, Durham has interviewed officials from the FBI, Justice Department and the CIA regarding the early days of the Russia investigation, and has produced criminal charges against just one person — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to altering an email. Garland said “there were certainly serious problems” with applications for surveillance during the FBI’s Russia investigation, and that he intended as attorney general to speak more deeply about the issue with the Justice Department’s inspector general and with the FBI director.

“I am always concerned and have always been concerned that we be very careful about FISA,” Garland said, using the acronym for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.Garland’s failed nomination to the Supreme Court wasn’t far from lawmakers minds’, with the bitter partisan feelings over the 2016 confirmation battle apparent in the hearing room. Sen. Chuck Grassley, who was chairman of the panel at the time and carried out GOP leader Mitch McConnell’s directive to block Garland from the court, defended his role, saying he took a position and “stuck to it.” He then criticized Democrats over their handling of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Still, he indicated he would be supportive of Garland.“I admire Judge Garland’s public service,” Grassley said. “Just because I disagreed with anyone being nominated didn’t mean that I had to be disagreeable to that nominee.”Garland said his first briefing as attorney general would be focused on the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and promised to provide prosecutors with whatever resources they need to bring charges in the cases.

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“I will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on January 6 — a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government,” Garland said in his opening statement.

Biden’s choice of Garland reflects the president’s goal of restoring the department’s reputation as an independent body. 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.

Full Coverage:PoliticsIn his prepared remarks, Garland focused on prioritizing policing and civil rights to combat racial discrimination — he says America doesn’t “yet have equal justice” — as well as confronting the rise in extremist violence and domestic terror threats and restoring the department’s political independence after years of controversial decisions and turmoil.

“Communities of color and other minorities still face discrimination in housing, education, employment, and the criminal justice system; and bear the brunt of the harm caused by pandemic, pollution, and climate change,” Garland said.As civil rights groups and activists push Biden, a death penalty foe, to take immediate action to halt federal executions after an unprecedented run of capital punishment during the Trump administration, Garland described his reservation about the death penalty and its impact.

He said he believes it is likely the Biden administration could issue a moratorium on the death penalty after 13 federal executions were carried out in the final six months of the Trump administration. They were the first federal executions in nearly 20 years and became super-spreader events during the coronavirus pandemic. Garland said the death penalty gives him “great pause” and is concerned about what he sees as the “almost randomness or arbitrariness of its application” and the “disparate impact” the death penalty has on Black Americans.

Garland is an experienced judge who held senior positions at the Justice Department decades ago, including as a supervisor in the prosecution of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which led to the execution of Timothy McVeigh. But he is set to return to a department that is radically different from the one he left. His experience prosecuting domestic terrorism cases could prove exceptionally handy.

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Garland held back tears as Sen. Cory Booker asked Garland about his family’s history confronting hate and discrimination.“I come from a family where my grandparents fled antisemitism and persecution. The country took us in, and protected us, and I feel an obligation to the country to pay back, and this is the highest best use of my own set of skills to pay back,” Garland said. “So I very much want to be the kind of attorney general that you’re saying I could become, and I’ll do my best to become that kind of attorney general.”

His nomination has gained public support on both sides of the political aisle, from more than 150 former Justice Department officials — including former attorneys general Loretta Lynch, Michael Mukasey and Alberto Gonzales, along with 61 former federal judges. Others, including two sons of former Attorney General Edward Levi, have also written letters of support to Congress.

“There have been few moments in history where the role of attorney general — and the occupant of that post — have mattered more,” the committee’s chairman, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said. Read more: The Associated Press »

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That last part LOL He really makes bill barr look bad. 🙂 Hopefully to BRING EVERYONE INVOLVED IN THE INSURRECTION ATTEMPT ON JANUARY 6 TO JUSTICE . . . EVERYONE Sedition is Sedition, and must be punished regardless of party. Even when 100% of the Sedition being committed is all on behalf of just one of those parties.

Boyyy, I feel like Merrick Garland’s middle name is about to be Karma to some of them Senators. What a joke Sorry vote NO Ore Mo He was fantastic LOL insurrection-Media should ask a 5th grader what this word means His focus should on the Justice system. Inequities for decades. Causing he civil strife last summer. LEO taking the blame for a poor system design. The dweebs at the Capitol bring them to Justice. But focus on the real problem. Racial and financial inequity from DA, Courts Jail

Republicans are probably squirming in their seats knowing Garland will focus on the attack at the Capitol and the players involved. As it should. Do Republicans want to be sure the Merrick Garland remains politically independent after standing by for years watching Barr destroy the DOJ for the love of Trump and saying nothing?

His second focus needs to be voters rights in Texas, Georgia, and other states where GOP have been working to undermine democracy. I love this guy! ⚖️🇺🇸 What a breath of fresh air for every citizen including the marginalised. Something Democrats actually know how to do. Golly, the Republicans aren't going to like that. They believe the Justice Department should serve as the president's personal legal staff. Oh, wait.... That's when it was THEIR president.

So refreshing! He cannot be trusted. He won’t be independent I’m worried that the GOP is so far gone that anyone short of Donald Trump Junior heading the DOJ won’t suffice. They want to BURY what happened on 1/6. The insurrection is an appropriate place for Garland to start. Hate/militia groups are the greatest national security threat. They are packed full of domestic terrorist & future wannabes.

Let's hope he looks for accessories in Congress, too... I applaud and welcome MerrickGarland's forthrightness, but I don't know how realistic it is to think the DOJ can remain politically neutral when every move will be criticized by the right as being partisan. POTUS VP PressSec NicoletteGlazer Acosta weijia AprilDRyan PaulaReidCBS maggieNYT Yamiche peterbakernyt seungminkim ZekeJMiller jeffmason1 GeoffRBennett kwelkernbc JohnJHarwood KateBennett_DC Phil_Mattingly kaitlancollins JonLemire KellyO muslimban

He should’ve said I promise to remain as politically independent has the last 2 guys you all confirmed without hesitation. Does that work for you! Merrick Garland iNsUrReCtIoN... Praying you all confirm him 🙏 🙌. Great choice First actions need to be about the Global Ecosystem Catastrophe! We have about 10 years to stop burning fossil fuels!

you did this earlier. and the last part is a straight up lie. Reason why he wasn’t voted on. As the FBI and other agencies have stated they knew about the upcoming attack 24 plus hours. Check history. This is a good omen. Few understand how dangerously close we all came to being under the rule of the guy in the buffalo hat.

Put as much attention and passion into fighting white terrorism as much as is put into fighting all other forms of terrorism. Should focus on the murders being committed in our rural and urban communities SedatiousSenators Confirm him!!! Go get 'em champ!