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Biden’s Attorney General Pick Says He’ll Uphold Law, not Partisan Policy

Neil Campbell
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: January 12, 2021
Merrick Garland Joe Biden Pick for Attorney General
Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Merrick Garland waits for the arrival of Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in his office in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill May 19, 2016, in Washington, DC. (Image: by Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

Judge Merrick Garland, President-elect Joe Biden’s Attorney General pick, said he will uphold non-partisan rule of law if he is confirmed for the position, citing the words of 71st Attorney General Ed Levi during Levi’s inauguration speech: “Nothing can more weaken the quality of life, or more imperil the realization of the goals we all hold dear, than our failure to make clear by words and deed that our law is not the instrument of partisan purpose.”

Garland, who spoke during a press conference on Jan. 7, said he idealized the values of Attorney General Ben Civiletti, whom he served as Special Assistant from 1979 to 1981, because Civiletti sought to turn “norms that would ensure the departments’ adherence to the rule of law” into formal policies.

“If confirmed, my mission as Attorney General will be to reaffirm those policies as the principles upon which the Department operates,” said Garland, also noting the “essence of the rule of law is that like cases are treated alike.”

Garland worked briefly as an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Columbia office from 1989 to 1992. He returned to private practice for a year before joining the Bill Clinton administration as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. In 1995, Clinton nominated Garland to the U.S. District Court of Appeals for D.C., but he was not confirmed until 1997. Garland became Chief Judge of the D.C. Circuit in 2013 under the Obama administration. 

After Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in 2016, President Obama nominated Garland to fill his seat. The Republican Senate majority insisted that the next president’s nomination should fill the seat, and refused to hold a hearing for or vote on Garland’s confirmation.

Garland’s nomination expired at the end of the 114th Congress on Jan. 3, 2017, and the newly elected President Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch, who was successfully confirmed.

During the press conference, President-elect Biden introduced Garland, saying he clarified to all DOJ nominees: “You are not the President or the Vice President’s lawyer. Your loyalty is not to me. It’s to the law, the Constitution, the people of this nation, to guarantee justice.”

Garland’s nomination was revealed after Biden was officially confirmed as President-elect during the Jan. 6 Joint Session of Congress, presumably because Garland’s seat as Chief Judge on the country’s second most powerful court will have to be filled if Garland is confirmed. Since the Democrats gained control of the Senate, his seat will naturally be filled by a judge whose views are compatible with the Biden-Harris ticket’s ideologies.

The incumbent Attorney General will face challenges with the obvious conflict of interest between President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. 

In September, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs released an 87-page report alleging that Hunter was involved in illegal deals with “Chinese nationals linked to the Communist government and the People’s Liberation Army,” noting: “Those associations resulted in millions of dollars in cash flow.”

On Dec. 16, Fox News released emails it had acquired from Hunter Biden showing Hunter had arranged shared office space at House of Sweden in Washington, D.C. for his “office mates” Jill Biden, Jim Biden, and Joe Biden, at the same address where he requested keys for Gong Dongwen.

The Senate Report describes Gong as a Chinese Communist Party affiliate who served as an “emissary” for China Energy Company Limited Chairman Ye Jianming. Hunter had opened a joint bank account with Gong to “fund a $100,000 global spending spree with James Biden and Sara Biden.”

Ye Jianming was arrested in China on charges of bribery amid President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption sweep. 

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