Merrick Garland guarantees a broad DOJ probe into the roots of the Capitol rebellion

U.S. Attorney General candidate Merrick Garland during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Washington, DC, February 22, 2021.

Demetrius Freeman | Pool | Reuters

Judge Merrick Garland on Monday pledged to conduct a thorough investigation into the leaders of the Jan. 6 Capitol Rising in the event that he is confirmed as Justice Department head, calling it his # 1 priority.

On the first day of his confirmation hearings, President Joe Biden’s attorney general told lawmakers that he would “follow these leads wherever they lead”.

“We start with the local people and work our way through to the stakeholders,” said Garland, speaking with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, DR.I. The Senator has urged investigations into tax-exempt conservative groups who helped organize the pre-uprising rally.

Overseeing the investigation into the attack on Congress is expected to be a key role for Garland if it is confirmed. The investigation, which has led to more than 200 charges, is one of the largest in the history of the Justice Department, according to official sources.

Garland told Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., The judicial committee chairman, that overseeing the investigation will be his first concern.

Senate Justice Committee Chairman Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) speaks during his opening address during Attorney General Merrick Garland’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Justice Committee, Washington, DC, on February 22, 2021.

Drew Angerer | Reuters

“I don’t yet know what additional resources will be needed by the department. I can assure you that this will be my first priority and briefing,” said Garland.

The centrist federal appellate judge was received with relatively little drama by senators from both parties, suggesting his nomination is likely to be upheld non-partisan.

Conservative Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Lindsey Graham, RS.C., each suggested that Garland is likely to have their support.

Justice Department leaders have indicated that the investigation into the storming of the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump is still in its infancy.

The investigation, which initially included relatively low-level charges such as unlawful federal property, has since expanded to include conspiracy charges.

On Friday, federal authorities indicted six alleged members of the militant Oath Keepers organization. Alleged members of the far-right Proud Boys group, which supports Trump, have also been charged with conspiracy.

Trump was charged by the House of Representatives on charges of instigating the insurrection, but was acquitted by the Senate earlier this month in a 57-43 vote that failed to achieve the two-thirds majority required for conviction. Garland, who has served on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals for more than two decades, has emphasized his independence from politics.

Acting US attorney Michael Sherwin, who oversees the investigation into the Capitol riot, said in January that the DOJ would not rule out criminal charges for Trump related to the riot, but there was no indication that the ex-president insisted This route is targeted. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the matter was left to the Justice Department when asked about it at a briefing last week.

The judge said during the hearing that he would “make sure we have a broader look at those who perpetrated the attack, as well as similar groups that may not have been involved.

“Look at where this is coming from and see what other groups there might be in the future that could be causing the same problem,” Garland said.

He also said, “I would not have taken this job if I had thought that politics would influence law enforcement and investigations.”

Garland became a household name after former President Barack Obama appointed him to the Supreme Court following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016. However, Garland repeatedly cited another experience to explain how he would head the division: his work investigating the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing investigation.

“From 1995 to 1997 I oversaw the prosecution of those who committed the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in an attempt to spark a revolution that would overthrow the federal government,” Garland said in his opening address.

“If this is confirmed, I will oversee the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 – a hideous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government,” added he added.

Garland’s abandoned Supreme Court nomination came about. Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, referred to the episode.

“Yes, it is true that I did not give Judge Garland a hearing,” said Grassley. “I also didn’t misrepresent his record. I didn’t attack his character. I didn’t look through his high school yearbook. I didn’t get his wife to tear off the hearing.” Grassley was referring to the controversial hearings confirming the Supreme Court’s approval of Brett Kavanaugh, who had been charged with sexual misconduct. Kavanaugh denied the claims.

During the hearing, which continued Monday afternoon, Garland made it clear that he would stand by Biden on his commitment not to interfere in any law enforcement or Justice Department investigation.

Senior Member, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), speaks during the attorney general Merrick Garland’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Washington, DC, the United States, February 22, 2021.

Al Drago | Reuters

At the beginning of the hearing, Grassley urged Garland whether he had discussed an ongoing federal investigation into Biden’s son Hunter Biden. Garland said he hadn’t.

“I don’t intend to be bothered by anyone,” Garland said.

The 68-year-old judge ended up giving neither Democrats nor Republicans much political ammunition.

At one point, Garland declined to provide much insight into his views on the death penalty, referring to his current status as a judge. He did not respond to his views on the investigation led by Special Adviser John Durham into the origins of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s inquiry into Russia.

Speaking to Graham, Garland admitted he hadn’t read all 478 pages of a DOJ surveillance report into the FBI’s decision to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and said he had just read the executive summary. Cornyn asked Garland to read the full document, and the judge agreed.

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