Snubbed as Obama high court pick, Garland in line to be AG

  • By Michael Balsamo/AP

(Washington)  —  President Joe Biden’s pick of Judge Merrick Garland to be attorney general offers a seemingly problem-free nominee with bipartisan support.

Senate hearings begin Monday, and Biden is trying to restore the Justice Department’s reputation as an independent body.

The president also is looking for an attorney general who’ll manage the tax investigation of Biden’s son, Hunter, as well as the fallout from the Capitol riot.

And a special prosecutor is looking into how the FBI handled the Russia probe.

Some five years ago, Garland’s nomination for the Supreme Court withered because the then-Republican-controlled Senate refused to hold a hearing.

Former Justice Department officials pointed out that after Watergate, President Gerald Ford enlisted former University of Chicago President Edward Levi to be attorney general and restore public confidence in the institution. The Justice Department bestows an award for honor and integrity in his name.

Supporters said Garland could play a similar role, sending twin messages: the department will operate free from political influence in law enforcement matters, and that its leaders will prioritize morale of the DoJ’s career employees.

“He will restore the independence of the Department of Justice,” said his friend and former DOJ colleague Jamie Gorelick. “And this will be a perfect capstone of his career, which has been devoted to the law, to the judiciary for the last 23 years, and before that, at every seat at the Department of Justice.”

Among the first and thorniest issues the next attorney general will face is what, if anything, to do about allegations President Trump obstructed justice or violated other laws before and during his occupancy in the White House.

If he is confirmed by the Senate, Garland would join an institution that DOJ veterans have said is in need of a “salvage operation.” One said the next leadership team needs to conduct a sweeping assessment of enforcement cases that were brought and not brought in the Trump era, to see whether anything can be done now about them.

Allies praised Garland’s steady temperament and his collegiality, two qualities that could help settle the work force. At the court, Garland also became known for his focus on transparency, including efforts to make argument audio available to the public.

NPR contributed to this story.

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