Democrat Joe Biden, media announced Wednesday, plans to name former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick, federal judge Merrick Garland, as Attorney General.
Biden has yet to make the pick official, but CNN and others anticipate that the Democrat will announce most of his Justice Department selections formally on Thursday after he is certified as the winner of the Electoral College vote and November’s presidential election.
“President-elect Joe Biden has decided to nominate Judge Merrick Garland as attorney general, people familiar with the matter tell CNN, a long-awaited decision that moved toward completion Wednesday as it became apparent that Democrats were on the brink of winning control of the Senate,” CNN noted. “The announcement of the attorney general, along with other senior leaders of the Justice Department, is expected to be made as soon as Thursday as Biden moves closer to filling the remaining seats in his Cabinet before assuming power on January 20.”
As with many of his Cabinet-level positions, Biden is expected to appoint mostly Obama administration alumni to major slots in the Justice Department.
Garland, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, is best known for being then-President Barack Obama’s pick to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court after Scalia died unexpectedly in February of 2016. Given that there was a pending presidential election and President Obama would not be eligible for another term, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to allow the Senate Judiciary Committee to consider Garland’s appointment, and the Court was left with a vacancy until President Donald Trump was sworn into office in January of 2017.
Justice Neil Gorsuch eventually filled the seat.
Garland became a household name again in 2020 when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away just weeks before the 2020 presidential election. Because President Trump was competing for a second term, McConnell allowed then-Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett to have a full hearing. She was eventually seated.
Garland remained on the D.C. Circuit. His move will open up a slot on the all-important federal appeals court that handles most of the litigation involving the federal government.
Biden’s team reportedly waited until Wednesday to make a final decision on their Attorney General nod — until after the results of two special elections in Georgia that determined whether Republicans or Democrats would have control of the United States Senate. As of Wednesday afternoon, Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff were certified as the winners of those two contests, giving Democrats very narrow control, but paving the way for Biden’s nominees to sail through committee.
Garland beat out a number of big names for the job.
“While Garland has been a top contender for weeks, concerns about the vacancy his selection would create on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia raised alarm bells among Biden and many advisers who believed Senate Republicans would block any nomination to that seat. But with Democrats poised to control the Senate after two Georgia runoff races, those concerns were allayed,” CNN noted. “Garland was chosen by Biden for attorney general over former Alabama Sen. Doug Jones and former acting attorney general Sally Yates, the two other finalists for the position.”
Although Garland leans left, his record shows he is largely sympathetic to law enforcement, which could mean he will take a law-and-order approach to his time as Attorney General. It does mean, though, that Department of Justice investigations into Joe Biden’s son Hunter, his taxes, and his foreign business dealings, are not likely to go forward.
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