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Merrick Garland’s 2-day confirmation hearing to be Biden’s attorney general starts Monday morning

At last, Merrick Garland gets his Senate confirmation hearing.

Five years ago, Garland became the poster child for the Republican blockade of an open Supreme Court seat in the final year of President Barack Obama’s term when Senate Republicans denied even a hearing to the Supreme Court nominee.

Now Garland gets another chance to go before the Senate Judiciary Committee at 9:30 a.m. ET on Monday, the first day of a two-day hearing, but this time he’s appearing for a different role as President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Justice Department.

While Garland is expected to face pointed questions over multiple thorny issues awaiting him at the Justice Department, his selection has been praised by both Democrats and Republicans leading up to the hearing. The GOP opposition to Garland in 2016, of course, had nothing to do with Garland himself, as Republicans came out against confirming Obama’s Supreme Court nominee before Garland was even named.

Garland plans to tell the Judiciary Committee that he will prosecute those who carried out the “heinous” attack on the US Capitol last month.

“If confirmed, I will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on January 6 — a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government,” Garland said in prepared remarks released over the weekend.

The attorney general nominee also plans to stress that the role is meant to “serve the Rule of Law and to ensure equal justice under the law,” noting that last year was the 150th anniversary of the Justice Department’s founding in the aftermath of the Civil War, and that its core mission was to secure the civil rights promised by the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments.

“The mission remains urgent because we do not yet have equal justice,” Garland plans to say. “Communities of color and other minorities still face discrimination in housing, education, employment, and the criminal justice system.”

Garland’s confirmation hearing this time around still became a source of partisan contention, when Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin of Illinois urged outgoing GOP Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to hold Garland’s hearing the day before the Senate impeachment trial, but Graham declined, saying he would not shorten the two-day hearing.

“The public’s faith in the Department of Justice has been shaken — the result of four years of Departmental leadership consumed with advancing the personal and political interests of one man — Donald Trump,” Durbin plans to say Monday, according to his prepared remarks. “Judge Garland, we are confident that you can rebuild the Department’s once hallowed halls. That you can restore the faith of the American people in the rule of law. And that you can deliver equal justice for all.”

After Trump won the White House in 2016 and selected a new Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, Garland returned to his position as the chief judge of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. While he stepped down from that position a year ago, he remains on the appellate court and has served on the federal bench for more than two decades.

He’ll be leaving that appointment to take over a department often at the center of the political crises of the Trump administration.

Garland is likely to face questions from Democrats and Republicans alike on how he plans to navigate the political investigations in the Department — both involving Trump as well as Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.

Republicans are likely to seek a commitment from Garland not to interfere in the Hunter Biden case, where federal investigators in Delaware have been examining multiple financial issues involving the younger Biden, including whether he violated tax and money laundering laws in business dealings in foreign countries, principally China, two people briefed on the probe told CNN in December.

Republicans are also sure to push Garland to fully investigate Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, after reports last week that federal investigators were investigating his handling of some of the data surrounding Covid-19 deaths in long term care facilities in New York.

Garland has said he wouldn’t have accepted the attorney general nomination without assurances from Biden about his independence.

Democrats, meanwhile, are likely to push Garland on whether the Justice Department will investigate Trump, particularly following the January 6 riots that led to his impeachment. Even Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, after voting to acquit Trump in the Senate trial, suggested that the criminal justice system is the right venue to consider those allegations instead.

Garland is also likely to face questions over his plans to steer the Justice Department amid policy debates over race and the criminal justice system, which came to the fore after a summer of mass protests spurred by the police killings of Black men and women.

Prior to his appointment as a federal judge, Garland served as principal associate deputy attorney general at the Justice Department, where he supervised the investigation of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and led the investigations of the 1996 Olympics bombing in Atlanta.

Article Topic Follows: Politics

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