U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is tapping Merrick Garland, a federal appellate court judge whom Republicans snubbed for a seat on the Supreme Court in 2016, as the attorney general to lead the country’s Justice Department in his new administration, Biden aides said Wednesday.
Garland, 68, has served 23 years as an appeals court judge in Washington, but came to national attention when former Democratic President Barack Obama nominated him to the country’s highest court in the last year of his presidency.
But even though his nomination came months ahead of the 2016 presidential election, Republican senators refused to consider it, saying the American people should have a voice in the selection after a new president took office in 2017.
Subsequently, the Republican-controlled Senate has confirmed three of President Donald Trump’s nominations to the high court, including that of Justice Amy Coney Barrett days before Trump lost his re-election bid on Nov. 3.
Biden, set to be inaugurated Jan. 20, also plans to name former homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general and former Justice Department civil rights chief Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general, Biden aides said.
Before becoming a judge, Garland held senior Justice Department positions, including as a supervisor in the prosecution of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people in a domestic terrorism case.
If confirmed by the Senate, Garland will immediately face one politically sensitive case, a current criminal tax investigation into Biden’s son, Hunter, as well as demands from some Democrats to pursue investigations into Trump’s actions as president after he leaves office in two weeks and is no longer immune from possible prosecution.
Garland would also inherit a special counsel investigation into the origins of the probe of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election that led to Trump’s impeachment and eventual acquittal.
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