By Terrance Turner
Jan. 6, 2021
Photo from Politico.
President-Elect Joe Biden has selected Judge Merrick Garland to serve as Attorney General. Politico confirmed the news with two sources familiar with the decision.
In 2016, then-President Barack Obama nominated Judge Garland to serve on the Supreme Court, filling the vacancy left by late Justice Antonin Scalia. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) blocked Garland’s nomination. McConnell refused to even bring the nomination up for a vote, letting him languish in limbo for a whole year. When President Trump took office, he nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill that seat.
McConnell blocked Garland on the pretense of not filling a Supreme Court seat during an election year. But that excuse went out the window after the death of legendary Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. McConnell sped through Justice Amy Comey Barrett’s confirmation within mere days — despite it being mere weeks before the election. Now, however, McConnell faces the prospect of being Minority Leader, and Garland has been selected for the nation’s highest law enforcement slot.
Garland, 68, is a graduate of Harvard Law School. According to Axios, he has served on the U.S. District Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia since 1997. He served as chief judge from 2013 to Feb. 2020, according to The New York Times. He is a moderate, and he has gotten praise for high-quality opinions — clear, reasoned, and attentive to precedent — per the Times.
In a press conference on Jan. 7, Biden introduced Garland as his pick. Observers noted that Garland has prosecuted domestic terrorists such as the Oklahoma City bombers and the Olympic bombing in Atlanta. That experience proves especially valuable in light of yesterday’s terrorist attack on the Capitol. Biden spoke at length about the riot in his remarks today. “They weren’t protestors. Don’t dare call them protestors. They were a riotous mob […] domestic terrorists,” Biden asserted. He also noted that Garland had pointed out a little-known fact: the Department of Justice was originally formed to combat the Ku Klux Klan, to enforce the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.
Biden emphasized that Garland would serve “not as a personal attorney for the president, but the people’s lawyer.” Biden added: “You won’t work for me. You are not the president or the vice president’s lawyer. Your loyalty is not to me, it’s to the law, the Constitution, the people of this nation to guarantee justice.”
This is the latest in a series of game-changing personnel choices by Biden. On Nov. 24, 2020, he announced a number of high-profile nominations for key positions. Biden selected Antony Blinken for Secretary of State. Antony Blinken served as National Security Advisor to Biden (2009-2013). He also was Deputy National Security Advisor (2013-2015). Then he became Deputy Secretary of State (2015-2017). Biden described him as one of his most trusted advisors. Blinken returned the compliment in spades during his remarks, telling Biden: “Working with you, having you as a mentor and friend, has been the greatest privilege of my professional life”.
But he also opened up about his history: his grandmother fled Communist Hungary. His mother was chairwoman of the American Center for Students and Artists in Paris; his father was a U.S. Ambassador to Hungary. Blinken’s stepfather was a Holocaust survivor — one of 900 children at his school in Poland, but the only one to survive. His parents and sister were killed during the Holocaust.
Blinken told the story of his stepfather as a teenage boy in Bavaria. “At the end of the war, he made a break from a death march into the woods in Bavaria,” Blinken continued. “From his hiding place, he heard a deep rumbling sound. It was a tank. But instead of the Iron Cross, he saw painted on its side a five-pointed white star […] He ran to the tank. The hatch opened. An African American GI looked down at him. He got down on his knees and said the only three words he knew in English that his mother had taught him before the war. God bless America. The GI lifted him into the tank, into America, into freedom.”
“That’s who we are,” Blinken emphasized. “That’s what America represents to the world, however imperfectly.”
For Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Biden nominated Alejandro Mayorkas. Mr. Mayorkas, 61, was born in Havana, Cuba. Like Blinken’s family, Mayorkas’ family emigrated from Communist countries. “My father and mother brought me to this country to escape Communism. They cherished our democracy and were intensely proud to become American citizens, as was I,” Mayorkas said on Nov. 24.
Mayorkas served as U.S. Attorney for California for 12 years. He served as Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from 2009-2013. USCIS oversees the naturalization process that helps people obtain green cards and become American citizens. As head, Mayorkas oversaw DACA. He later served as Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security (2013-2016). If confirmed, he will be the first Latino (and first immigrant) to lead the Department.
For Director of National Intelligence, Biden nominated Avril Haines. Ms. Haines, 51, earned a J.D. from Georgetown University. She served as the first female Deputy Director of the CIA (2013-2015). Haines assisted the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency in carrying out his duties and responsibilities, including gathering and processing national security information. She then replaced Blinken as Deputy National Security Adviser (2015-17). “She always calls it as she sees it,” Biden says.
For Ambassador to the United Nations, Biden nominated Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Ms. Thomas-Greenfield, 68, grew up in segregated Louisiana. “My parents had very little,” she said on Nov. 24, “but they gave me and my siblings everything they had.”