U.S. federal judge Merrick Garland’s Senate confirmation hearing to serve as the next U.S. Attorney General began Monday morning.
“The president nominates the attorney general to be the lawyer – not for any individual, but for the people of the United States,” Garland said in his opening statement before the Senate and Judiciary Committee.
“If I am confirmed, serving as attorney general will be the culmination of a career I have dedicated to ensuring that the laws of our country are fairly and faithfully enforced, and that the rights of all Americans are protected,” he added.
Garland, a judge on one of the country’s highest courts —the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals— is expected to face questions on a number of hot-button issues.
On the Jan. 6. Capitol Hill riot, Garland said he is devoted to prosecuting those directly involved in the attack.
Democratic Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse told Garland he should also consider taking action against individuals and groups that may have indirectly contributed to or supported the deadly riot.
“If confirmed, I will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on January 6 – a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government,” Garland’s opening statement reads. “That critical work is but a part of the broad scope of the Department’s responsibilities.”
Republican senators asked Garland about his position on the federal investigation into the origin of the FBI’s 2016 “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation of since-discredited claims that members of former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with Russia.
The probe into the FBI’s investigation is headed by U.S. Attorney John Durham, who was appointed a special prosecutor by Trump-era Attorney General William Barr.
Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Senate’s second-highest-ranking official, said the Biden administration’s effort to remove Trump-era federal prosecutors makes him “especially concerned about the Durham investigation.”
“Today you’ll need to be clear about what your position will be,” on that investigation Grassley told Garland Monday.
Garland said he didn’t “have any information” on Durham’s probe but didn’t “have any reason” to think Durham should cease the inquiry, according to Fox News.
Another subject on which senators are expected to question Garland is Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s nursing home controversy.
“When Judge Garland testifies before this Committee, we expect him to commit the Department of Justice to fully investigating this cover-up to determine whether any criminal laws were violated and to prosecute any violations,” nine Republicans led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz wrote in a letter last week.
“We will also ask him whether he has the resources he needs to fully pursue an investigation, not only into the deaths that occurred in New York but the deaths that occurred in other states that adopted similar directives leading to the admission of COVID-19 infected persons into elder care facilities,” they added.
Last week, Grassley called on the Biden administration to keep Toni Bacon, the acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of New York, to handle any investigation of Cuomo’s nursing home policy.
An investigation into the matter “could not be credibly carried out by the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who happens to be the mother-in-law,” of Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa, Grassley’s office said in a statement.
The Iowa Republican also asked Garland about the federal investigation of Hunter Biden’s “tax affairs.”
Hunter, President Biden’s son, revealed in early December that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware informed him they have been investigating his tax affairs since 2018.
Grassley asked Garland if he has discussed the investigation with the president, which would raise questions about possible conflict of interests.
“I have not,” Garland replied, per Fox News. “The president made abundantly clear in every public statement… that decisions… will be left to the Justice Department. That was the reason I was willing to take on this job.”
This is a developing story
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