WASHINGTON - U.S. Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland plans to tell senators at his confirmation hearing Monday that he is committed to fighting discrimination and extremist attacks against the government.
The 68-year-old Garland, currently a federal appellate court judge in Washington and a 2016 Supreme Court nominee whom Senate Republicans refused to consider in a presidential election year, is one of President Joe Biden's most important Cabinet selections.
If confirmed by the Senate, he would head the Department of Justice amid its ongoing investigation of hundreds of supporters of President Donald Trump, many of them with anti-government views, who stormed into the U.S. Capitol last month to confront lawmakers as they were certifying that Biden defeated Trump in last November's election.
In addition, Garland could oversee contentious racial disputes involving law enforcement abuses of minorities in criminal cases that led to massive street demonstrations in recent months.
In written remarks released ahead of his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Garland says that the United States "does not yet have equal justice."
"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," Garland says.
Garland says that if he becomes attorney general, it would 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."
Former Democratic President Barack Obama nominated Garland to the Supreme Court five years ago, but Republicans, who then controlled the Senate, refused to consider the nomination in the months ahead of the 2016 election won by Trump. The Republican-controlled chamber, reversing course, quickly approved one of Trump's appointments to the high court, Amy Coney Barrett, just days ahead of the 2020 election.
The Biden administration has upheld Garland, who is viewed as a judicial moderate, as a welcome change to the frequent turmoil that erupted in Trump's Justice Department.
Garland's nomination has been praised by civil rights groups as well as by police organizations, more than 150 former Justice Department officials of both the Democratic and Republicans parties, and 61 former federal judges.
Two Republican senators have expressed their support for Garland.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and a member of the Judiciary Committee tweeted support on January 6.
"He is a man of great character, integrity, and tremendous competency in the law," Graham wrote.
And John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas issued a statement January 25 saying he expected to support Garland's nomination.
"Judge Garland's extensive legal experience makes him well-suited to lead the Department of Justice, and I appreciated his commitment to keep politics out of the Justice Department," Cornyn's statement added.
Garland has been a federal appeals court judge in Washington for the past two decades. Early in his career, Garland was best known for overseeing the investigation and prosecution of Timothy McVeigh, the man who detonated a bomb outside a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people. McVeigh was convicted, sentenced to death and executed in 2001.
Now, Garland says that experience will put him in good stead in the investigation of the attack on the Capitol.
"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," he says in his prepared remarks.