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Merrick Garland to face challenges that include links to Biden and Trump

For Garland’s boosters, it was his reputation for fairness, honed for more than two decades in the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, that made him a good candidate to lead the ministry out of the Trump era. . His success in restoring public confidence in the ministry, however, may depend in large part on his political skill.

“Each attorney general embarks on ongoing sensitive and high-profile investigations to one degree or another. Garland is about as qualified as you can legally get to handle anything that comes his way. The question is whether and how he navigates the political aspects of the job, ”said Sarah Isgur, former public affairs chief for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has faced an investigation into President Donald Trump’s ties with Russia on his arrival at the Ministry of Justice.

A person familiar with the case said Garland will focus his testimony on Monday on the importance of the independence of the Department of Justice, the value of integrity within the department and the prioritization of civil rights under his leadership .

Republicans push Cuomo and Hunter Biden

GOP senators, on the other hand, have already announced that they will try to get the judge out during his confirmation hearing on the federal hot button inquiries into the federal inquiries into Democratic Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, and the son of the president, Hunter Biden. the first chance for Garland to reveal how he’s going to handle his full plate of political issues.

“When Judge Garland testifies before this committee, we expect him to urge the Justice Department to thoroughly investigate this cover-up to determine if any criminal laws have been violated and to prosecute any violations,” wrote a group of members of the Republican Senate Judiciary Committee in a letter published this week on the Cuomo case.

Revolving around a Democratic A-List figure once discussed as a potential candidate for Biden’s attorney general, the Cuomo inquiry emerged publicly this week as an instant addition to Garland’s Day One headaches.

On Wednesday, CNN reported that federal authorities in New York were examining Cuomo’s handling of some of the data regarding Covid-19 deaths in long-term care facilities in New York, according to a law enforcement official. .

The investigation is in its early stages and it is not clear whether authorities are looking into the governor or members of his administration, the source said. John Marzulli, a spokesman for the Eastern District of New York, told CNN he could neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.

Perhaps the thorniest case that awaits Garland, however, has been with the department since 2018 and centers on a character as close to the new president as possible: his son Hunter.

Delaware federal investigators have looked into several financial issues involving young Biden, including whether he violated tax and money laundering laws in doing business in foreign countries, primarily China, said two people briefed on the l investigation to CNN in December.

GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, has previously urged the current Acting Justice Department head not to interfere with the case as he advances, and a Republican aide said that the senators planned to raise upon Garland’s confirmation. hearing Monday and Tuesday.

Graham also hinted that he would question Garland about the ongoing investigation into the early days of the FBI’s Russia investigation led by Special Counsel John Durham.

Earlier this month, during a traditional custody change, the Justice Department asked U.S. attorneys who had been appointed by Trump to resign, but allowed Delaware federal prosecutor David Weiss to remain in office. function while overseeing the Hunter Biden investigation. Durham, who had been the US attorney in Connecticut, will resign from that role but will remain as special adviser.

Biden was keen to distance himself from decision-making at the Justice Department, and as questions about his son swirled earlier this winter, he vowed to install independent leaders at the agency.

“One of the most serious damage done by the last administration has been the politicization of the Justice Department,” Biden said in a CNN town hall on Tuesday. “I made a commitment, I will never tell my Justice Department – and it’s not mine, it’s the People’s Justice Department – who they should and shouldn’t sue.”

This contrasted him with Trump, who regularly called on his Justice Department to investigate and prosecute his political enemies.

Garland’s challenges in the DOJ

Garland, whose 2016 Supreme Court appointment was scuttled by Senate Republicans, said he would not have accepted the attorney general’s appointment without Biden’s assurance of his independence.

Dissent among grassroots prosecutors came to a head in the Justice Department under the last Senate-confirmed attorney general, William Barr, who appeared to be polarizing after several topical decisions that impacted Friends and the political future of the then president. Asset.

In an unusual and striking number, current and former officials publicly defected Barr as he took legal action that benefited GOP agent Roger Stone and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and launched a provocative criticism of career employees in a September speech.

Just weeks after a crowd descended on the Capitol building and temporarily halted certification of Biden’s election victory, the massive insurgency investigation could present the most pressing case for Garland if he succeeds in voting in the Senate.

More than 200 men and women have so far been arrested in connection with the investigation, which officials said was the largest in the department since the one following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and decisions on the opportunity to bring important charges like sedition in some of the countries. cases will upset Garland when he first started at the agency.

Trump investigation?

Political overtones also figure prominently in the US Capitol investigation.

The House of Representatives impeached Trump last month for inciting a riot, and despite an acquittal in a Senate trial, the longest-serving Republican in Congress, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has suggested that the criminal justice system was the right place to examine these allegations. .

In a first post-insurgency press conference, the senior federal prosecutor in Washington, DC, an ally of Barr, said investigators would look into the charges against the former president if it proved appropriate, although the Department of Justice canceled it.

Former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani could also face criminality for his role in the riot after a speech he gave at the rally that preceded it. Giuliani faces a civil suit brought earlier this week by a House Democrat over the insurgency, and is already under review in an independent federal inquiry in New York City.

Garland, for his part, offered only vague public comments on the insurgency and its aftermath. In a brief speech after Biden formally nominated him for the role on January 7, a day after the attack, Garland said events on Capitol Hill underscored the need for a fair and egalitarian justice system and spoke of the ” evolving threat of violent extremism. “

If confirmed, Garland would bring his experience in combating domestic terrorism to a Justice Department facing this growing threat.

In 1995, the day after an anti-government extremist blew up a moving truck in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, Garland flew to Oklahoma City to conduct the federal investigation into what was then the act of deadliest domestic terrorism in the country’s history.

A senior Justice Department official at the time, Garland called it the most significant case of his career.

“He has seen firsthand the impact that this kind of movement can have on our country, so I think he’s pretty well prepared for it,” Garland’s former deputy attorney general Jamie Gorelick said in an interview. . “He knows what the department can do when it’s well organized to do it.

Racial and criminal justice system

Garland will also likely face questions from both sides of the aisle about how he would run the Justice Department amid political debates over race and the criminal justice system, which emerged after a summer of protests by mass spurred by the murders of black men by the police. and women.

The Republican aide said senators plan to pressure Garland over statements on the subject made by two women appointed to senior positions in the department alongside him, which sparked controversy.

Merrick Garland to face challenges that include links to Biden and Trump
The assistant highlighted the role Biden’s candidate for Justice Department Civil Rights head Kristen Clarke played as a student in organizing a University of Justice event. Harvard in 1994 with an anti-Semitic professor. Clarke has since said she regrets hosting the event. Vanita Gupta, nominated for the department’s number three position, also drew the attention of Republicans for saying that every institution in the United States “suffers from structural racism.”

Meanwhile, the United States Civil Liberties Union is pressuring Garland from the left, writing in a letter released Thursday that he should make it clear during his confirmation hearing that he “will adopt policies to build a criminal justice system.” fairer racially ”as Attorney General.

A number of policies put in place by his Republican predecessors, such as a memo from the 2018 sessions that restricted the use of court-ordered agreements with local police departments accused of civil rights violations, may soon be overturned under Garland. Dozens of lawmakers led by Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley also urged Garland to end use of the federal death penalty after an execution frenzy in the dying days of the Trump administration that followed a change in policy under Barr.

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