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Merrick Garland faces resurgent peril after years of fighting extremism

Justice Garland and his wife of 33 years, Lynn Garland, live in the Washington suburb of Bethesda, Maryland. He maintains a large collection of friends, is a familiar presence at Washington dinners and parties, and adores his former employees.

Former clerk Karen Dunn, now a lawyer in Washington, remembers how the Garlands unexpectedly descended on her with a well-cooked dinner when she returned from the hospital after the birth of her first child. “They brought food, sat and ate with us, cleaned everything up and left,” recalls Dunn.

Judge Garland is now awaiting confirmation from the Senate, probably not his favorite word combination, given the history. But his appointment is unlikely to face serious opposition. Several Republican senators made a point when they said their blockade of Justice Garland’s appointment to the Supreme Court in 2016 was “not personal,” for what it’s worth. (Not a lot, by friends.)

On Friday, a large, bipartisan group of former Justice Department officials and former federal judges sent two letters to Senate leaders asking for Judge Garland’s prompt confirmation. Among them were four former attorneys general: Alberto R. Gonzales and Michael B. Mukasey, who served in the George W. Bush administration, and Eric H. Holder Jr. and Loretta Lynch, who served in the Obama administration. The group also included Ken Starr, the independent lawyer in charge of the Whitewater investigation.

At the very least, friends said, becoming attorney general would free Judge Garland from the purgatory of reputation to be defined by his ordeal on the Supreme Court. “It’s interesting how fate sometimes works,” said J. Gilmore Childers, lawyer and colleague at the Department of Justice in Oklahoma City. “Merrick Garland may be the perfect person to do this job, right now.”

Regardless of her qualifications, no one disputes that the moment is intimidating. In a statement last week, Biden said that despite the Senate acquittal, the substance of the House impeachment charge against Mr. Trump – inciting insurgency – “is not in dispute,” asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki if Mr Biden supported a criminal lawsuit against his predecessor.

Ms Psaki referred the matter to the next Attorney General.

“It will be up to the Department of Justice to determine,” she said.

Kitty Bennett contributed to the research.


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