The Department of Justice needs to restore its leadership in the fight against systemic discrimination “in all its forms,” witnesses told a hearing Tuesday in support of the nomination of Judge Merrick D. Garland to head the department.
The past two attorneys general “failed to live up to this high standard” of what the position should mean, said interim president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Wade Henderson.
“America is in dire need of a course correction at DOJ,” Wade continued.
“The nation needs an attorney general with a demonstrated commitment to integrity, independence and the enforcement of civil rights. The DOJ must embrace the nation’s tremendous diversity while protecting the rights of individuals and communities that have borne the burdens of systemic discrimination in all its forms.
“Judge Garland, who is widely regarded as one of the top legal minds in the nation embodies these principles.”
On the first day of the confirmation hearings Monday, Garland said the threat from domestic extremism was greater today than at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and he pledged that if confirmed he would make the federal investigation into the Capitol riot his first priority, reports The New York Times.
Garland pledged on Monday to restore the independence of a Justice Department that had suffered deep politicization under the Trump administration and reinvigorate the department’s civil rights division as America undergoes a painful and destabilizing reckoning with systemic racism.
“Communities of color and other minorities still face discrimination in housing, education, employment and the criminal justice system,” said Garland, who added that he did not support defunding the police.
Discussing the threat of domestic terrorism, Judge Garland said that “we are facing a more dangerous period than we faced in Oklahoma City,” and that, in addition to an immediate briefing on the investigation, he would “give the career prosecutors who are working on this manner 24/7 all the resources they could possibly require.”
When asked whether or not he would pursue some of the more high profile members of Trump’s supporters accused of instigating and aiding the Capitol riot, Judge Garland answered, “We will pursue these leads wherever they take us.”
Republicans focused primarily on two politically charged investigations from the Trump era: a federal tax investigation into Mr. Biden’s son Hunter Biden, and the work of a special counsel, John H. Durham, to determine whether Obama-era officials erred in 2016 when they investigated Trump campaign officials and their ties to Russia.
Judge Garland said he had not discussed the Hunter Biden case with the president, and he reiterated that the Justice Department would make final decisions about investigations and prosecutions. Responding to a question about Mr. Durham’s investigation, Judge Garland suggested that he would let the inquiry play out but avoided making any explicit promises about how he would handle it.
Key Republicans including Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a member of the committee, and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, have said they would support Judge Garland to serve as Mr. Biden’s attorney general. Democrats cast him on Monday as the necessary antidote to four years in which Mr. Trump had treated Justice Department investigators as enemies to be crushed or players to be used to attack his political enemies and shield his allies, especially as he sought to thwart and undo the Russia investigation.