Biden introduces attorney general pick Merrick Garland as he promises DOJ independence

President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday introduced federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland and other leading prosecutors as key members of his incoming Justice Department.Garland, whom Biden nominated as his attorney general, would helm a team of legal experts with deep experience in and around the Justice Department and significant experience in civil rights law.But in the wake of the pro-Trump riot on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Biden began his speech on Thursday by reiterating whom his nominees will serve.”We need to restore the honor, the integrity, the independence of the DOJ of this nation that has been so badly damaged,” Biden said.”I want to be clear to those who lead this department who you will serve: You won’t work for me. You are not the president’s or the vice president’s lawyer. Your loyalty is not to me,” he added. “It’s to the law, the Constitution, the people of this nation.”Many of Biden’s nominees echoed that sentiment and called for a return to an independent, apolitical Justice Department.Garland, whose prior nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Barack Obama was blocked by Senate Republicans, spoke immediately after the president-elect.”The essence of the rule of law is that like cases as treated alike: That there not be one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans, one rule for friends, another for foes, one rule for the powerful, and another for the powerless,” he said.”These principles — ensuring the rule of law and making the promise of equal justice under law real — are the great principles upon which the Department of Justice was founded and for which it must always stand,” Garland added.Federal Judge Merrick Garland delivers remarks after being nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President-elect Joe Biden at The Queen theater January 07, 2021 in Wilmington, Delaware.Chip Somodevilla | Getty ImagesBiden’s nomination of Garland, a political centrist and judge, likely reflects the president-elect’s focus on insulating the department from the partisanship seen under President Donald Trump, who often pressured his attorneys general to investigate personal grievances including false allegations of widespread election fraud.The president’s claims, though without evidence, are thought to have helped incite the violent riots at and siege upon Capitol Hill the day before.Biden’s calls for independent and tireless prosecution may quickly be put to the test amid a criminal tax probe into the president-elect’s son Hunter Biden.The younger Biden announced last month that his taxes were under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware, a unit of the DOJ.Though both father and son have said they are confident Hunter did nothing wrong, ethics officials will likely scrutinize the probe in its duration and scope.Lisa Monaco, Biden’s choice for deputy attorney general and a former counterterrorism advisor to Obama, said that restoration of the department’s unfettered pursuit of justice is of key importance after the last four years.”The soul of the Justice Department lives in the integrity of its career professionals, in the independence of its investigations and prosecutions and in the principles it brings to bear as it stewards the ideal of justice in America,” she said.”What is most critical, I think, in the days ahead is not a challenge at all, but an opportunity,” Monaco added. “For this team, and for the career professionals that make up the Justice Department, to reaffirm its norms and traditions. To do justice without fear or favor.”Biden tapped Vanita Gupta, a career civil rights lawyer and Justice alum, as an associate attorney general. A child of Indian immigrants, Gupta recounted a story from her childhood when she first realized that U.S. justice more often fails people and communities of color.She recalled how, as a four-year-old, she and her family were forced to leave a McDonald’s after a group of skinheads began calling them racial slurs and throwing food at her mother and grandmother.Vanita Gupta, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to be associate attorney general, speaks as Biden announces his Justice Department nominees at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, January 7, 2021.Kevin Lamarque | Reuters”There are many agencies in the federal government, but actually only one that bears the name of a value. By virtue of that name, that value of justice, we know that the department carries a unique charge,” she said.”At its best, it is the keeper of a sacred promise. It’s the promise of equal justice for all,” Gupta added. “But when abandoned, we degrade our democracy and sow the division that we’ve come to know all too well.”Kristen Clarke, the nominee to lead the DOJ’s civil rights division, rounded out the speeches. In a former role as a Justice Department career attorney, Clarke handled cases of police misconduct, hate crimes and human trafficking.Clarke said the nation is at a “crossroads” and, if confirmed, she would seek to “close the door” on discrimination by enforcing civil rights laws.”The department, and especially the civil rights division, has always occupied a special place in my heart. The clarion call of equal justice under law is what binds us together as a nation,” she said.

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