Attorney general nominee Merrick Garland is vowing to defend the Justice Department’s independence from the White House, pursue equal justice for communities of color and make the battle against extremism “central” to the department’s mission, according to remarks prepared for delivery Monday at his Senate confirmation hearing.
Garland, a former top Justice official who last served during the Clinton administration, said he would reaffirm policies that he described as the foundation of the agency, including standards that “protect the independence of the department from partisan influence in law enforcement investigations; that strictly regulate communications with the White House. …”
Acknowledging the public outrage that defined last summer’s social justice protests, Garland highlighted the mission of the department’s Civil Rights Division to protect the rights of the “most vulnerable members of our society.”
“That mission remains urgent because we do not yet have equal justice,” Garland’s statement said. “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.”
Referring to last month’s Capitol attack, Garland recalled his past supervision of the Oklahoma City bombing investigation and the prosecution of bomber Timothy McVeigh and conspirator Terry Nichols who sought to “spark a revolution that would topple the federal government.”
“If confirmed, I will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who
stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 – a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government,” the judge said.
The selection of Garland has been cast by Biden as an attempt to reset a Justice Department roiled by politics and efforts by former President Donald Trump to use the institution to advance his political interests.
Garland got a boost Friday when four former attorneys general, including two Republicans, were among bipartisan groups of Justice Department alums and former federal judges who announced for the nominee.
Michael Mukasey and Alberto Gonzales, who both served as attorneys general in the George W. Bush administration, were among more than 150 former Justice officials and U.S. attorneys who lauded the federal appeals court judge as “the right person” for a difficult job following the tumult of the Trump administration.
Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, who led the Justice Department during the Obama administration, also were among the signatories to a letter submitted to the leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Garland is set for a Monday confirmation hearing.
A separate endorsement was submitted on behalf of 61 former federal judges appointed by Republican and Democratic presidents.
“Judge Garland approaches the law with an unwavering commitment to fairness and justice,” the judges said. “Those of us who have worked directly with Judge Garland have seen firsthand his strong moral compass and abiding integrity.”
“The work and reputation of the Department of Justice are as important as they have ever been,” the former Justice officials said. “Judge Garland is the right person to ensure the fair administration of justice, whether related to national security, public integrity, civil rights, antitrust, crime, or other pressing issues.
“He is also the right person to do so with integrity, humility, and a complete understanding of the substantial responsibility on his shoulders at this time,” the former Justice officials said.
Garland approaches his Monday confirmation hearing five years after a Republican-controlled Senate blocked his nomination to the Supreme Court by then-President Barack Obama.