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6 takeaways from Merrick Garland’s confirmation hearing

The Chief Justice of the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit has pledged to “reject any effort by anyone” to politicize the department’s investigations.

“I am not the president’s lawyer,” Garland said. “I am the lawyer for the United States.”

Here are six takeaways from Garland’s nomination hearing.

Senate Republicans pressured Garland to make the Justice Department independent from the White House.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz asked him if he would be Biden’s “wingman”, a dig at a 2013 comment from former Barack Obama attorney general Eric Holder.

“I will do everything in my power, which I believe is considerable, to stave off any effort by anyone to initiate partisan or political prosecutions or investigations in any way,” Garland said. “My job is to protect the Department of Justice and its employees by doing their job and doing the right thing, according to the facts and the law.”

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa asked Garland if he had spoken to Biden about his son’s case. Delaware federal investigators have looked at several financial issues, including whether Hunter Biden broke tax and money laundering laws in the course of doing business in foreign countries.

“I didn’t,” Garland replied. “The President made it clear in every public statement before and after my appointment that decisions regarding investigations and prosecutions would be left to the Department of Justice. That was why I was prepared to take on this post.”

Garland said the Justice Department will pursue all leads in the Capitol riot investigation

Democrats largely did not mention Donald Trump’s name when asking about the Jan.6 riot investigation on Capitol Hill, but they did address whether the Justice Department should examine the role of the former president in cheering the crowd, which led to his impeachment. Even Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, after voting for Trump’s acquittal in the Senate trial, has suggested the criminal justice system is the right place to look into these allegations.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, urged Garland to look “upstream” and “not rule out an investigation into funders, organizers, leaders or caregivers and accomplices, who don’t ‘were not present at the Capitol on January 6 ”.

“We start with the people on the ground and work our way to those who were involved and involved more,” Garland responded. “We will pursue these leads wherever they take us.”

Garland worries about the death penalty

Prior to becoming a judge, Garland led the Justice Department’s investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. He said Monday he did not regret the execution of perpetrator Timothy McVeigh . But he said he had “developed concerns” about the death penalty since then because of certain exonerations of those convicted, the “arbitrary and haphazard nature of its application” and its “disparate impact” on Black Americans and other minority communities.

“These are things that make me think,” he said.

Garland said if the president orders a moratorium on the death penalty, it will apply to all cases. But in response to a question from Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Garland said he had not yet considered recommending to Biden a blanket commutation of death row inmates to reduce their sentences to life in prison.

Garland sees no reason why Durham probe won’t continue

Republicans in the Senate urged Garland to allow Special Advocate John Durham to complete his investigation into the FBI’s investigation into Russia, but Garland’s response did not really satisfy them.

Cotton urged Garland to explain why he couldn’t commit to giving Durham the resources he needed, noting that former Attorney General William Barr had done so for the Mueller inquiry during his confirmation hearing from 2019.

Garland said he needed to know more about the investigation before he could make any commitments, but added he had “no reason to believe he shouldn’t stay put.”

Garland said there were “problems” with the FBI’s foreign intelligence oversight warrants in the Russia investigation, which were documented by the report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz .

“I think deeply that we have to be careful how we use FISA, and this is the reason why we have quite strict internal regulations in policies,” he added. “We need to find out why they are not being followed and be sure they are being followed.”

Garland on track to be confirmed with bipartisan support

Garland is expected to be confirmed in the Democratic-led Senate with bipartisan support.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Garland was “a very good fit for this job.” And GOP Senator John Cornyn of Texas has indicated that he will vote for Garland, saying the candidate meets the senator’s “only” criteria – a commitment to conduct investigations without succumbing to political influence.

Even Republicans who can vote against him have praised Garland.

“In over two decades in the field, you have built a reputation for integrity and sidelining partisan interests while upholding the law,” said Cruz, before noting that the post of attorney general is different. .

Garland wants to ‘reimburse’ his country for protecting his family from anti-Semitism

New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker asked Garland to share a private conversation they had about his family’s history of facing hatred and discrimination. Garland responded with a brief but moving anecdote, holding back tears as he explained why running the Justice Department was important to him.

“I come from a family where my grandparents fled anti-Semitism and persecution,” Garland said. “The country welcomed us and protected us. I feel obligated to the country to repay.”


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