United States Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday urged Congress to increase funding for various Justice Department priorities, including tackling domestic terrorism, protecting civil rights, prosecuting hate crimes and the fight against the opioid epidemic.
Testifying for the first time as attorney general before a House supply subcommittee, Garland also spoke about policing reforms, including a budget request to improve community-based policing.
“Promoting public trust between communities and law enforcement is essential to making communities and policing safe. Our budget proposes an increased investment in programs that support community-based policing and address systemic inequalities, ”Garland said.
Asked about the dangers facing the most troubled country, Garland said foreign and domestic terrorism was “an emerging and growing threat.”
“Both forms of terrorism concern me extraordinarily. We never want to take our eyes off what happened on September 11 and the risks our country continues to face due to foreign attacks on the homeland.” , did he declare. “Likewise, we have a growing fear of violent extremism and domestic terrorism. Both of these keep me awake at night.”
These dangers have only increased in recent years, he added. “The lethality of weapons available to these types of terrorists, both foreign and domestic, has increased. The consequences of the Internet and encryption mean that they can send information and make plans much faster and in complete secrecy than what could have been done before, ”Garland says.
He said the president’s budget request for the Justice Department is designed to combat “international and domestic terrorism while respecting civil liberties. It includes increases of $ 45 million for FBI investigations into the domestic terrorism and $ 40 million to US lawyers to deal with the growing number of domestic terrorism cases. “
Garland said the $ 35 billion budget also calls for increased funding for his agency’s civil rights division to fight discrimination, protect the right to vote and prosecute hate crimes.
Garland also touted budget requests to increase funding for the Justice Department’s office on violence against women, including $ 120 million to tackle a backlog in processing rape kits.
The budget also calls for increased funding to hire more judges to tackle a massive backlog of cases in immigration courts, as well as funding for programs to tackle gun violence and the opioid crisis.
Senior sub-committee member Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., Noted that he and his colleagues had only seen a summary of the budget, not the budget itself, and expressed skepticism with respect to some of the points highlighted by Garland, referring to some of the proposed gun violence measures as “liberal welfare programs”.
Aderholt expressed concern that the proposal does not focus enough on foreign terrorist threats or on improving human trafficking prosecutions, but added: “I think there will be a possibility of reach agreement on measures to reduce violent crime, combat the scourge of drug addiction and protect the vulnerable and those who seek to abuse it. “