Biden introduces his pick for attorney general
By Darlene Superville, Steve Peoples and Eric Tucker
WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden introduced his pick for the nation’s top law enforcement official on Thursday, turning to experienced judge Merrick Garland to help de-politicize the Justice Department and restore the rule of law after what the incoming president described as four years of lawlessness under President Donald Trump.
Biden also described the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol on Wednesday as “domestic terrorists” and assailed the Republican president for inciting the siege.
“The past four years we’ve had a president who’s made his contempt for our democracy, our Constitution, the rule of law, clear in everything he has done,” Biden said, vowing a dramatic shift in his administration. “More than anything, we need to restore the honor, the integrity, the independence of the Department of Justice that’s been so badly damaged.”
If confirmed by the Senate, which is likely, Garland would take over as the U.S. attorney general at a critical moment for the country and the agency. He would inherit urgent challenges related to policing and civil rights, an ongoing criminal tax investigation into Biden’s son Hunter and Democratic calls to pursue criminal inquiries into Trump after he leaves office.
Beyond those issues, Garland would be tasked with repairing the American people’s broader distrust in the Justice Department, fomented during a tumultuous four years under Trump’s leadership. The Republican president regularly meddled in the department, most notably firing FBI Director James Comey while his agency was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Biden vowed that Garland’s loyalty would rest not with the president, but with the law and Constitution.
“You don’t work for me,” Biden charged as he introduced Garland.
Facing the public for the first time at Biden’s side, Garland promised to restore an equal commitment to law and order and integrity to the nation’s top law enforcement agency, pointing to Wednesday’s assault on the Capitol as a consequence of failing to do so.
“As everyone who watched yesterday’s events in Washington now understands, if they did not understand before, the rule of law is not just some lawyers’ turn of phrase, it is the very foundation of our democracy,” Garland said.
Garland may be a familiar name to political observers.
Senate Republicans spurned him four years ago, refusing even to hold hearings when President Barack Obama nominated him for the Supreme Court. His confirmation prospects as attorney general were all but ensured when Democrats scored control of the Senate majority by winning both Georgia Senate seats.
Biden also introduced three others for senior Justice Department leadership posts on Thursday, including 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 also named an assistant attorney general for civil rights, Kristen Clarke, now the president of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an advocacy group.
Garland was selected over other finalists including former Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.