FILE PHOTO: Judge Merrick Garland, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's nominee to be U.S. Attorney General, speaks as Biden announces his Justice Department nominees at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., January 7, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Kevin Lamarque, Reuters, File

Biden's attorney general nominee Garland vows to prioritize civil rights

By Jan Wolfe and Sarah N. Lynch, Reuters | Posted - Feb. 21, 2021 at 8:51 a.m.


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WASHINGTON (Reuters) — President Joe Biden's attorney general nominee Merrick Garland will tell the Senate on Monday he plans to prioritize civil rights and combat domestic terror if confirmed as the top U.S. justice official, according to remarks released on Saturday.

The Justice Department's mission to enforce the 1957 Civil Rights Act "remains urgent because we do not yet have equal justice," said Garland, whose confirmation hearing is scheduled to begin Monday.

"Communities of color and other minorities still face discrimination in housing, education, employment, and the criminal justice system; and bear the brunt of the harm caused by pandemic, pollution, and climate change," he said.

Garland, 68, serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, one of 13 federal appeals courts. Former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, nominated him to the Supreme Court in 2016, but the Republican-controlled Senate at the time refused to hold hearings on the nomination.

Garland's confirmation this time around is considered a near-certainty, as several key Republican senators have endorsed him.

If confirmed by the full Senate, Garland will inherit the beginnings of a probe into the deadly storming last month of the U.S. Capitol by former President Donald Trump's supporters, as well as the challenge of preventing future domestic attacks.

In his remarks, Garland called the Jan. 6 riot a "heinous attack" on the peaceful transfer of power, and said that "battling extremist attacks on our democratic institutions also remains central" to the Justice Department's mission 150 years after its founding.

He will also face the daunting task of rebuilding a civil rights enforcement program that many advocates say was diminished by the Trump administration, promoting initiatives to eliminate racial disparities in criminal justice, and restoring morale among Justice Department employees, whom Trump repeatedly attacked as being part of a "deep state."

If confirmed, Garland will also face several politically sensitive investigations.

Delaware's top federal prosecutor is investigating Biden's son Hunter over tax issues and federal prosecutors in Manhattan are probing former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's business dealings in Ukraine. Giuliani served as Trump's personal lawyer.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Jan Wolfe; Editing by Scott Malone and Paul Simao)

© Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021

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