Who is Merrick Garland? A Comprehensive Look at the U.S. Attorney General

Who is Merrick Garland? A Comprehensive Look at the U.S. Attorney General

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Written By Joe Martin

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The gracelessness of Senator Ted Cruz has become all too familiar, but some moments still stand out. One such moment occurred during the confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland, President Biden’s nominee for Attorney General.

Garland, a judge on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, was responding carefully to a question about the future of the investigation led by U.S. Attorney John Durham into the origins of the FBI’s Trump-Russia probe when Cruz interrupted him.

“You’re not nominated to be a judge in this position,” Cruz reminded Garland, who had been a judge for over two decades. The reminder seemed unnecessary, given Garland’s extensive judicial experience, including his nomination by President Barack Obama to the Supreme Court in 2016. This nomination was blocked by Cruz and his colleagues, allowing Donald Trump to fill the seat instead.

Garland, however, maintained his composure and continued to address the questions posed to him. The contrast between his measured responses and Cruz’s confrontational style was stark. Cruz’s behavior was not unique among Republicans, as many of them seemed intent on undermining Garland’s qualifications and history.

Merrick Garland’s Judicial Legacy

Merrick Garland’s judicial career began long before his nomination for Attorney General. Appointed to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals by President Bill Clinton in 1997, Garland had served for over 20 years before being nominated to the Supreme Court by President Obama. His nomination came after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016, but Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, refused to hold a hearing, keeping the seat vacant for Trump’s appointee.

Garland’s tenure as a judge was marked by a commitment to fairness and justice. His role in overseeing the prosecution of the Oklahoma City bombing case, where he supported the death penalty for Timothy McVeigh, showcased his dedication to justice. However, Garland’s views on the death penalty have evolved, reflecting concerns about wrongful convictions, arbitrary applications, and racial disparities.

The Confirmation Hearing and Republican Opposition

During his confirmation hearing for Attorney General, Garland faced intense scrutiny from Republican senators. Chuck Grassley, the former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, admitted to not giving Garland a hearing in 2016 but claimed he didn’t mischaracterize Garland’s record. Garland’s calm demeanor contrasted sharply with the contentious atmosphere of the hearing.

Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, questioned Garland about his stance on the death penalty, particularly regarding McVeigh’s execution. Garland reaffirmed his support for the decision at the time but expressed his evolving concerns about the death penalty’s application. This nuanced perspective highlights Garland’s ability to balance past decisions with contemporary issues.

Garland’s Vision for the Justice Department

As Attorney General, Garland has articulated a clear vision for the Justice Department. In his opening statement, he emphasized his commitment to prosecuting those responsible for the January 6th Capitol attack, describing it as an assault on democracy. Garland’s approach to this investigation demonstrates his dedication to upholding the rule of law and ensuring accountability.

Garland has also addressed other pressing issues, such as family separations at the border, which he called “shameful.” His willingness to confront the legacy of Trumpism, including its impact on immigration policies, reflects his broader commitment to justice and equality.

House Speaker Mike Johnson’s Subpoena Efforts

House Speaker Mike Johnson’s recent efforts to enforce a subpoena against Garland highlight the ongoing tensions between the executive and legislative branches. Johnson seeks audio recordings of President Biden, which the Justice Department has declined to release, citing executive privilege. This clash underscores the complexities of balancing transparency with the need to protect sensitive information.

The Justice Department’s decision not to prosecute Garland for contempt of Congress has further fueled Republican accusations of a two-tiered justice system. However, the department’s stance aligns with its longstanding practice of protecting executive branch officials from congressional overreach.

Garland’s Impact on Future Legal Precedents

Garland’s influence extends beyond his current role. His decisions as Attorney General will shape future legal precedents, particularly in areas like capital punishment, civil rights, and executive accountability. His balanced approach, rooted in decades of judicial experience, positions him to navigate these complex issues effectively.

Conclusion

Merrick Garland’s journey from a respected judge to the U.S. Attorney General reflects his unwavering commitment to justice. Despite facing significant opposition, he has consistently demonstrated his dedication to the rule of law and fairness. As Attorney General, Garland’s decisions will continue to shape the legal landscape, ensuring that justice is served and the principles of democracy are upheld.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who is Merrick Garland?

Merrick Garland is the U.S. Attorney General, appointed by President Joe Biden. Before this role, he served as a judge on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals for over two decades. Garland was also nominated to the Supreme Court by President Obama in 2016, but his nomination was blocked by Senate Republicans.

2. What is Merrick Garland’s judicial philosophy?

Garland’s judicial philosophy emphasizes fairness, justice, and the rule of law. He has a reputation for being a meticulous and thoughtful judge, as seen in his handling of high-profile cases like the Oklahoma City bombing. His views have evolved over time, particularly regarding the death penalty and its implications.

3. How did Merrick Garland handle his confirmation hearing?

During his confirmation hearing for Attorney General, Garland maintained a calm and composed demeanor despite intense scrutiny from Republican senators. He addressed their questions thoughtfully and demonstrated his deep understanding of legal principles and justice.

4. What are Merrick Garland’s priorities as Attorney General?

As Attorney General, Garland prioritizes prosecuting those responsible for the January 6th Capitol attack, addressing systemic issues like family separations at the border, and ensuring justice and equality. He aims to uphold the rule of law and confront the legacy of Trump-era policies.

5. Why did House Speaker Mike Johnson subpoena Merrick Garland?

House Speaker Mike Johnson subpoenaed Merrick Garland to obtain audio recordings of President Biden. The Justice Department declined to release the recordings, citing executive privilege. This led to tensions between the executive and legislative branches, with Republicans accusing the DOJ of a two-tiered justice system.

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