Merrick Garland Ready to Take on Domestic Extremists
The man most famous for getting screwed out of a Supreme Court seat has a more interesting backstory.
Bloomberg (“Garland Pledges to Prosecute ‘Heinous Attack’ on the Capitol“):
Merrick Garland, President Joe Biden’s nominee for attorney general, is pledging he’ll take the lead in prosecuting participants in the mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“If confirmed, I will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 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 an opening statement prepared for his confirmation hearing on Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Garland also signaled he’ll make decisions independently from Biden. “The president nominates the attorney general to be the lawyer — not for any individual, but for the people of the United States,” he said in the brief prepared testimony of less than three pages.
In the testimony released Saturday night, Garland indicated that, if confirmed, he’ll seek to restore policies and practices the department developed before the Trump administration, including those that the nominee said protect the agency “from partisan influence in law enforcement investigations,” those that “strictly regulate” communications with the White House and those that respect the professionalism of career employees.
Just getting a hearing for the cabinet post will be vindication for Garland almost five years after Senate Republicans blocked consideration of his nomination to the Supreme Court by President Barack Obama. This time, Garland has bipartisan support and is expected to be confirmed.
The Jan. 6 insurrection has only added to a roster of politically charged issues that Garland will be asked about when he finally has his confirmation hearing.
The report covers more from Garland’s responses, which strike me as exactly right for the moment. While it covers social justice and other issues, the “insurrection” and right-wing extremism, especially, are likely the toughest challenge the new Attorney General will face. And Garland is uniquely qualified to take them on.
NYT (“Merrick Garland Faces Resurgent Peril After Years Fighting Extremism“):
Judge Merrick B. Garland always made a point of wearing a coat and tie when he surveyed the wreckage at the site of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the worst domestic terrorist attack in American history.
He had been dispatched from Washington to oversee the case for the Justice Department, and he told colleagues that he viewed his daily uniform as a gesture of respect for a community left devastated after Timothy J. McVeigh placed a 7,000-pound bomb in a Ryder truck and blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people, including 19 children.
“It really looked like a war zone,” Judge Garland said in recalling the destroyed and still-smoldering building, part of an oral history he participated in for the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. “The site was lit up like a sun, like the middle of the day.” The worst part, he said, was seeing the demolished day care center. “There was nothing there,” he said. “It was just a big empty concave.” His own daughters were 4 and 2 at the time.
The Oklahoma City case, he later said, was “the most important thing I have ever done in my life.”
When President Biden nominated Judge Garland last month to be attorney general, the news conjured up his ordeal in 2016 as President Barack Obama’s thwarted nominee to the Supreme Court. But Judge Garland’s experience prosecuting domestic terrorism cases in the 1990s was the formative work of his career, from the nuances of federal statutes down to the feeling of broken glass crunching beneath his dress shoes.
The man has now met the moment. At his Senate confirmation hearings starting on Monday, he will almost certainly be asked about the Department of Homeland Security’s warning that the United States faces a growing threat from “violent domestic extremists” and that the Jan. 6 mob attack on the Capitol may not have been an isolated episode. In a strange, or perhaps fateful, turn of events, the news leaked that Judge Garland was Mr. Biden’s pick for attorney general only hours before the deadly riot. Mr. Biden formally nominated him for the position the next day.
“He has seen this hatred up close and in a very personal way,” said Donna Bucella, a former Justice Department investigator who worked with Judge Garland in Oklahoma City. In the oral history, Judge Garland recalled the “stone cold” demeanor of Mr. McVeigh and his chilling absence of emotion. “There was just no indication from him that he had any feelings about what had just happened,” Judge Garland said.
Judge Garland has been a Court of Appeals judge for the District of Columbia Circuit since 1997, and in Washington, he is known as a centrist whose congenial manner places him stylistically at odds with an era that might require more prosecutorial zeal. But friends said no one should mistake his gentleness for softness, and point out that he was part of the Justice Department team that sought the death penalty for Mr. McVeigh, who was executed by lethal injection in Terre Haute, Ind., in 2001.
In addition to Oklahoma City, Judge Garland supervised high-profile cases that included Theodore J. Kaczynski (a.k.a. the Unabomber) and the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. “The militias and the right-wing terrorists whom we encountered in the 1990s were a foreshadowing of the groups you saw storming the Capitol,” said Jamie Gorelick, who as deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton was Judge Garland’s immediate boss at the Justice Department. “Their literature is the same, their tattoos are similar, and their language is similar.”
Judge Garland will take over what prosecutors are calling the biggest, most complex investigation in Justice Department history, the Capitol assault that led to the second impeachment of President Donald J. Trump. So far there have been at least 230 arrests connected to the riot, but federal officials are investigating as many as 500 people in all. Prosecutors have brought five major cases involving 11 members of the Proud Boys, a far-right nationalist group that was out in force at the Capitol. Nine members of the Oath Keepers militia group have been charged with conspiring to stop the congressional certification of Mr. Biden’s victory.
“There’s an undercurrent in this country that has waxed and waned over the decades with people who do not believe in the federal government,” said Michael Chertoff, a former Justice Department official who served as the secretary of homeland security under President George W. Bush. Mr. Chertoff called the nature of today’s threat “strikingly similar” to what Judge Garland confronted, but also distinct. Guns and other weaponry have grown in abundance and sophistication. Social media has allowed for terrorist networks to communicate and expand rapidly.
There’s quite a bit more there but it’s interesting that the 68-year-old longtime judge is essentially going back to his roots, relying on experiences that made his career a quarter-century ago.
When his name was floated for this post, I feared that the Republicans who cynically refused to give him a hearing for the Supreme Court seat five years ago would see the nomination as a poke in the eye. Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be the case.