Garland says Capitol riot investigation will be top priority
Judge Merrick Garland on Monday said the United States faces “a more dangerous period” from domestic extremists than it faced at the time of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and praised the early stages of the investigation into the “white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol” on Jan. 6 as appropriately aggressive.
“I can assure you that this would be my first priority and my first briefing when I return to the department if I am confirmed,” Garland told the Senate Judiciary Committee at his confirmation hearing to be attorney general.
Garland, 68, who led the Justice Department’s investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing, also vowed to uphold the independence of a Justice Department that had suffered deep politicization under the Trump administration.
“I do not plan to be interfered with by anyone,” Garland said. Should he be confirmed, he said he would uphold the principle that “the attorney general represents the public interest.”
Former President Donald Trump spent his term treating federal prosecutors as either enemies to be crushed or players to be used to attack his political opponents, and Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said in his opening remarks that Garland would need to “restore the faith of the American people and the rule of law and equal justice.”
The ranking Republican, Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, pressed Garland on two politically charged investigations from the Trump era, asking whether he had discussed with President Joe Biden what he would do with a federal tax investigation into Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and whether he would let John Durham, a special counsel investigating the Trump-Russia inquiry, finish his work and then make any Durham report public.
Garland said he had not discussed the Hunter Biden case with the president and expected that “decisions about investigations and prosecutions will be left to the Justice Department.” He demurred about the Durham investigation, saying that while he was committed to transparency, he had not yet been briefed about its status and findings.
Garland also said he would reinvigorate the department’s civil rights division, which atrophied as the Trump administration curbed protections for transgender people and minorities, and barred policies intended to combat systemic discrimination.