President-elect Joe Biden has announced Merrick Garland as his pick for attorney general, saying the federal appeals court judge and three others he has selected for senior Justice Department positions will "restore the independence of the department so it serves the interests of the people not a presidency" and faith in the rule of law. The four lawyers are to be introduced by Biden at an event Thursday afternoon in Wilmington, Del. In picking Garland, Biden is turning to an experienced judge who held senior positions at the Justice Department decades ago, including as a supervisor of the prosecution of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Garland's nomination will force Senate Republicans to contend with someone they spurned four years ago—refusing even to hold hearings when then-President Obama nominated Garland for the Supreme Court. More:
- Others being named Thursday to the Justice Department's senior leadership team include Obama administration homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general and former Justice Department civil rights chief Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general, the No. 3 official. He will also name an assistant attorney general for civil rights, Kristen Clarke, now the president of Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, reports the AP.
- It is rare but not unprecedented for attorneys general to have previously served as judges. It happened in 2007 when President George W. Bush picked Michael Mukasey, a former federal judge in Manhattan, for the job. Obama’s first attorney general, Eric Holder, had also previously been a Superior Court judge in the District of Columbia.
- Black and Latino advocates had wanted a Black attorney general or someone with a background in civil rights causes and criminal justice reform. Though Garland is a white man, the selection of Gupta and Clarke, two women with significant experience in civil rights, appeared designed to blunt any concerns about his selection and served as a signal that progressive causes would be prioritized in the new administration.
- Garland would confront immediate challenges on the job, including an ongoing criminal tax investigation into Biden’s son Hunter as well as calls from many Democrats to pursue inquiries into President Trump after he leaves office. A special counsel investigation into the origins of the Russia probe also remains open, forcing a new attorney general to decide how to handle it and what to make public.
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