Biden taps judge Obama tried to put on Supreme Court for US attorney general
A frame grab from a handout video released by the Office of the President Elect shows Judge Merrick Garland, Biden's pick for US Attorney General speaking during a press conference in Wilmington, Delaware, 07 January 2021. EFE/EPA/OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT ELECT / HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
File photo dated March 28, 2016, showing then-nominee for the US Supreme Court Judge Merrick Garland, whose nomination by former President Barack Obama was stonewalled by the Senate's Republican majority. President-elect Joe Biden nominated Garland for US attorney general on Jan. 7, 2021. EFE/EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS
Washington, Jan 7 (efe-epa).- President-elect Joe Biden announced Thursday his pick for US attorney general in his upcoming administration federal Judge Merrick Garland.
Former President Barack Obama - under whom Biden served for eight years as vice president - tried without success to put Garland on the US Supreme Court in 2016.
At that time, the Republican majority in the Senate obstructed Garland's nomination, but the respected jurist currently holds a lifetime appointment on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Republican lawmakers argued as they were blocking Garland's high court confirmation process that it made no sense for them to approve a nomination of such importance in an election year, but last October they ignored their own precedent and rushed conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett - whom President Donald Trump had picked to fill the high court seat left vacant by liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death - through the approval process just days before the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Aware that Garland was a victim of political gamesmanship in Washington, Biden had wanted to repay him with the post of attorney general, with his duties including directing the US Department of Justice and its agencies, including the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
"It is no surprise why President Obama nominated Judge Garland to the Supreme Court. He embodies honor, decency, integrity - fidelity to the rule of law and judicial independence," Biden said.
"It's those same traits he will now bring as the attorney general of the United States, not as the personal attorney to the president. He will restore trust in the rule of law and equal justice under law," the president-elect went on to say.
After a tumultuous day in Washington because of the assault on - and invasion of - the Capitol building by Trump supporters, egged on by the president himself with an eye toward disrupting Congress's confirmation of Biden as president-elect, the former vice president sent a message to Garland and the rest of his nominees for other DOJ posts.
"You won't work for me, you are not the president or vice president's lawyer," Biden said before introducing Garland as his AG pick. "Your loyalty is not to me, it's to the law, the constitution, the people of this nation - to guarantee justice."
"There is no more important and heartfelt effort on my part than restoring the independence and integrity of our Justice Department," Biden said.
The 68-year-old Garland said with Biden seated at his side after being introduced that his priorities as attorney general, if he is confirmed by the Senate, will include "ensuring racial equity in our justice system ... (and) meeting the evolving threat of violent extremism," among other things.
"As everyone who watched yesterday's events in Washington now understands, if they did not understand before, the rule of law is not just some lawyer's turn of phrase," Garland said at the headquarters of Biden's transition team in Wilmington, Del.
"The essence of the rule of law is that all cases are treated alike. Not one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans, one rule for friends and another for foes, one rule for the powerful, another for the powerless," he said.
Biden waited to nominate Garland until it was clear that Democrats would control the Senate when he is inaugurated on Jan. 20, and now that the two Democratic senatorial candidates have won the runoff elections in Georgia that possibility has become fact and the president-elect moved forward with tapping the jurist.
The Democratic majority in the Senate - where Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who once she takes office will also become president of the Senate and will be able to cast the tiebreaking vote should the upper house, divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans after the Georgia wins, become deadlocked on various matter - promises to facilitate the process of confirming Garland.
Biden also nominated two former officials from the Obama administration as the DOJ's number two and three figures - Lisa Monaco and Vanita Gupta, respectively - along with attorney Kristen Clarke as head of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division.