President Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. attorney general, Merrick Garland, said during the first day of his confirmation hearing on Monday that the attacks on federal courthouses in the Pacific Northwest may not qualify as domestic terrorism because the attacks happen at night when the court is closed.
“Let me ask you about assaults on federal property in places other than Washington, D.C. Portland for instance, Seattle,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) said. “Do you regard assaults on federal courthouses or other federal property as acts of domestic extremism, domestic terrorism?
Hawley’s question came after far-left rioters repeatedly attacked the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse in downtown Portland over the summer.
“Well, senator, my own definition, which is about the same as the statutory definition is the use of violence or threats of violence in attempt to disrupt democratic processes,” Garland responded. “So an attack on a courthouse while in operation, trying to prevent judges from actually deciding cases that plainly is, um, domestic extremism, um domestic terrorism.”
“An attack simply on government property at night or any other kind of circumstances is a clear crime and a serious one and should be punished,” Garland responded. “I don’t mean, I don’t know enough about the facts of the example you’re talking about, but that’s where I draw the line when it one is, both are criminal, but one is a core attack on our democratic institutions.”
WATCH: Senator Josh Hawley grills Biden's nominee for Attorney General Merrick Garland on the assaults on federal buildings during the summer riots pic.twitter.com/hY6pMiNgcM
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Garland claimed during the hearing that the U.S. is currently in a period “more dangerous” than after the Oklahoma City bombing happened in the 90s, which killed nearly 170 people.
“150 years after the Department’s founding, battling extremist attacks on our democratic institutions also remains central to the Department’s mission,” Garland said. “From 1995 to 1997, I supervised the prosecution of the perpetrators of the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building, who sought to spark a revolution that would topple the Federal Government. If confirmed, I will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on January 6th, a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government.”
On the issue of investigating the riot that happened at the U.S. Capitol back in January, Garland said that it would be his first priority as attorney general, if confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
“We begin with the people on the ground and we work our way up to those who are involved and further involved,” Garland said, adding later, “We also have to have a focus on what is happening all over the country and on where this could spread, and where this came from.”
This article has been updated to include additional remarks from Garland at his confirmation hearing.