Barack Obama previously nominated Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court, but Senate Republicans refused to hold hearings to advance Garland's nomination

By Karen Mizoguchi
January 07, 2021 04:08 PM
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President-elect Joe Biden announced Thursday he has selected Merrick Garland to be attorney general, more than four years after the judge's Supreme Court nomination was blocked by Senate Republicans.

Announcing the nomination from Wilmington, Delaware, with Garland in attendance, Biden called him a "man of impeccable integrity" and "one of the most respected jurists of our time."

"I fully expect that he will receive a fair hearing and swift confirmation," Biden said of Garland.

"Our nominees for the Justice Department will restore the independence of the Department, so it serves the interests of the people — not a presidency. They'll rebuild public trust in the rule of law and work to ensure a more fair and equitable justice system," Biden wrote on social media.

Also on Thursday, Lisa Monaco was nominated for deputy attorney general, Vanita Gupta for associate attorney general, and Kristen Clarke for assistant attorney general for civil rights.

Joe Biden, Merrick Garland
| Credit: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty; Andrew Harnik/AP/Shutterstock

While addressing the newly nominated Justice Department team and implicitly marking a departure from President Donald Trump's handling of the department, Biden told them: "You won't work for me. You are not the president or the vice president's lawyer. Your loyalty is not to me. It's to the law. The Constitution. The people of this nation."

Garland served on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for more than two decades after being nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1997, and was the Chief Judge for seven years.

He previously was with the Department of Justice and was the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division and Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General.

In his speech, Garland, who called his nomination a "kind of homecoming" to the Justice Department, held back tears and became emotional when discussing the DOJ's origins and its policies that were created in the wake of Watergate and President Richard Nixon's administration.

Garland touted the importance of "guaranteeing the independence of the department from partisan influence in law enforcement investigations, regulating communications with the White House, establishing guidelines for FBI investigations, ensuring respect for the professionalism of DOJ's lawyers and agents and setting out principles to guide the exercise of prosecutorial discretions."

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"I have loved being a judge, but to serve as attorney general at this critical time, to lead the more than 113,000 dedicated men and women who work at the department to ensure the role of law, is a calling I am honored and eager to answer," Garland said. "As everyone who watched yesterday's events in Washington now understands — if they did not understand before — the rule of law is not just a turn of phrase. It is the very foundation of our democracy."

Vice president-elect Kamala Harris, who also attended the announcement, shared the Justice Department nominations on social media.

"Fidelity to the rule of law forms the bedrock of our democracy. In the face of both the damage that has been done to our Justice Department and our country's long-overdue reckoning on racial injustice, these are the right leaders to meet this moment," Harris said on Instagram.

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Garland will likely have no trouble being approved by the Senate after Tuesday's runoff elections in Georgia, which flipped control of the chamber to the Democrats with the wins of Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock.

Garland's nomination comes one day after a violent mob incited by Trump's baseless claims about election fraud stormed the U.S. Capitol during a joint session of Congress to certify Biden's election victory.

Former Attorney General William Barr, who was one of Trump's most loyal defenders in the Cabinet, called the president's lack of swift action a "betrayal of his office and supporters," telling the Associated Press in a statement that "orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress is inexcusable."