Senate confirms Merrick Garland as Biden attorney general in bipartisan vote
Former Assistant FBI Director Chris Swecker weighs in on whether Garland can run the department without political bias amid the Hunter Biden investigation.
Garland received bipartisan support during his confirmation process from both Democrats and Republicans.
"Judge Garland's unshakeable commitment to serving his country is deeply rooted in who he is," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to recommend Garland's nomination. "He fundamentally grasps that America's greatness rests in our bedrock principles of justice and the rule of law."
Leahy added, "This is the nomination we need at the time we need it."
Republicans also expressed their support at the time, although some pointed to concerns they have about Garland.
Judge Merrick Garland, nominee to be attorney general, testifies at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Al Drago/Pool via AP) ((Al Drago/Pool via AP))
"I agree that Judge Garland has the temperament and the qualifications for the job of attorney general. As I said, I was impressed by his humility and his humanity, and I intend to support his nomination," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said at the committee vote. "But I must express some concerns because I hope we're not headed toward another Obama-Holder Justice Department take two."
Cornyn specifically pointed to Garland's failure to commit to allowing John Durham's investigation of the origins of the Russia probe to continue.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking member on the committee, similarly expressed support for Garland while noting that he was worried about how he might handle Second Amendment issues.
Support from both parties has been far from a guarantee for President Biden's picks. Biden previously withdrew his nomination of Neera Tanden to lead the Office of Management and Budget after Republicans confronted her with anti-GOP social media posts she had written. Associate attorney general nominee Vanita Gupta faced similar criticism for past posts at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
Garland is no stranger to the Justice Department, having spent much of his career there. His experience with the DOJ dates back to 1979 when he began as a special assistant attorney general, a role he held until 1981. He was an assistant U.S. attorney from 1989 to 1992 and a deputy assistant attorney general in the DOJ's criminal division from 1993 to 1994.
From 1994 to 1997, Garland was principal associate deputy attorney general under Attorney General Janet Reno, and in that role he led a prosecution team following the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
Garland is best known for being a judge on the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals and for his unsuccessful Supreme Court nomination in 2016. President Obama nominated Garland to the high court in 2016, only for Senate Republicans to refuse to hold a hearing so that the winner of that year's election – President Trump – could pick a new nominee.