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Garland was Obama’s candidate for the Supreme Court in 2016, but was blocked by Republicans.
Posted on Jan 6, 2021 at 12:42 PM ET
WASHINGTON – President-elect Joe Biden plans to appoint Judge Merrick Garland – former President Obama’s failed Supreme Court candidate – as the next attorney general, several news outlets reported on Wednesday.
Biden’s selection is a return the national spotlight for Garland, whose appointment to the Supreme Court in 2016 was known to have been blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate. The announcement comes after the Democrats won two Senate seats in Georgia in Tuesday’s elections, giving them control of the chamber. Garland’s appointment as Justice Department head will be officially announced after Biden took office on Jan. 20.
Garland is currently a judge on the powerful US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. With the Democratic takeover of the Senate, Biden will find it much easier to replace him in court, which is the main arena for fights over federal government and executive power and has long been a stepping stone for the Supreme Court.
Garland is a Justice Department veteran who ping-ponged for decades between the Department and the private practice prior to his appointment to the DC Circuit in 1997. He served as a Washington, DC federal attorney in the early 1990s and served as a senior officer in the DC DOJ Criminal Division before becoming assistant attorney general in 1994. He oversaw the department’s investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings, which he has identified as one of the most important pieces of work of his career.
A major challenge for Garland, who heads the Justice Department, will be to find out how to deal with the numerous active lawsuits in which the Department is defending the Trump administration’s policies that the Democrats are speaking out against. The Supreme Court stands ready in the New Year to rule on a challenge to the Affordable Care Act by the Texas Attorney General, backed by the Trump administration, and the legality of Trump’s plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census data used in the decision To leave unsolved How many seats in Congress will each state get?
There are cases pending in the lower courts in which a number of measures by Trump and his administration are called into question, including increased enforcement of immigration regulations, setbacks in environmental protection , Restrictions on federal funding for groups offering abortion, a ban on racial sensitivity and diversity training for federal employees, and changes to the policies of the U.S. Postal Services blamed for postal delays this year. There are also pending cases where the Justice Department supported Trump’s opposition to efforts by Democrats in Congress and New York prosecutors to gain access to his personal financial records.
Attorney General Bill Barr’s tenure was marked by a rare public setback by prosecutors on decisions made by Barr and other senior political figures that benefited Trump and his allies, from interfering with law enforcement over the Mueller investigation to easing Justice Department activities before and after an election, a move that served to underline Trump’s baseless claims about election fraud. Trump used Twitter to publicly urge the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute his political rivals.
Another question for Garland is whether he will investigate Trump, his family and his political allies. NBC News reported in November that Biden didn’t want his administration charged by probes in Trump and his administration.
« I’m not going to say, ‘Go prosecute A, B, or C. ‘I won’t tell you. That’s not the role. It’s not my Department of Justice, it’s the Department of People’s Justice. So the people or people I choose to lead this department will be people who have the independent ability to decide who is prosecuted and who is not, « Biden said.
Trump had one from the start close relationship with the Ministry of Justice. Just over a week after he took office, he dismissed then-incumbent Attorney General Sally Yates when she told prosecutors not to defend the first iteration of the President’s travel ban order in court. He tapped Jeff Sessions, then a Republican Senator from Alabama and an early supporter of Trump’s candidacy, as his first attorney general to convict Sessions for failing to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.Trump repeatedly and publicly berated Sessions for the rejection decision over the next two years, eventually forcing Sessions to step down shortly after the November 2018 midterm elections.
Although Sessions lost Trump’s favor, he and his successors were – Matthew Whitaker, the four Served as attorney general for months, and Barr – an integral part of Trump executing key elements of his political agenda. In and out of court, they backed Trump’s tough immigration policies, supported efforts to withdraw legal protections for LGBTQ people, and scaled back or ended the Obama-era efforts to combat police misconduct.
Under Barr, the Justice Department intervened in politically sensitive cases in favor of Trump’s allies, and Barr faced a public revolt by lawyers currently serving at the ministry. Barr was embroiled in a brief but dramatic showdown that summer with Geoffrey Berman, then US attorney in Manhattan, over Barr’s efforts to remove Berman from office.
Earlier this year, the DOJ took the unusual move, To take over Trump’s defense against a private defamation suit brought by the writer E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump of sexual assault. During the campaign, Biden criticized the DOJ’s efforts to intervene in Carroll’s case, saying Trump was trying to turn the DOJ into « his own law firm ». A federal judge in New York denied the department’s efforts to get into the Carroll case, and the department is appealing that decision.
« Remember a Republican president or a former Democratic president who heard this guy looking for and prosecuting him? » Have you ever heard that Or, by the way, I’m going to be sued because a woman accused me of rape. Represent me. Represent me. … what is this all about? Why is? « Biden said during a televised town hall in October.
Zoe Tillman is a senior legal reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
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