Merrick Garland, who was President Barack Obama's pick for the Supreme Court but was never confirmed by the Senate, will be selected by President-elect Joe Biden for his administration's Attorney General.
Garland held senior positions at the Justice Department decades ago, including the prosecutorial supervision of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The pick will force GOP members in the Senate to contend with the nomination of a federal appeals court judge they snubbed in 2016 for a seat on the Supreme Court. The vacancy arose following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, but Republicans refused to hold hearings in the final year of Obama's term.
One year later, after the firing of FBI Director James Comey, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell actually floated Garland's name around as a replacement for that position, although Garland was reportedly not interested in the recommendation.
Biden is expected to announce Garland's appointment on Thursday, two informants familiar with the selection process told the Associated Press on Wednesday. Garland was selected over other final contenders for the job such as Alabama Sen. Doug Jones and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. One source claimed to AP that Garland will be respected by nonpartisan career staff for having served in the DOJ under presidents of both political parties.
If confirmed, Garland is expected to begin by urging Democrats to confront immediate challenges, including an ongoing criminal tax investigation into the incoming president's son, Hunter Biden, and inquiries into President Donald Trump after he leaves office. A special counsel investigation into the origins of the Russia probe also remains open, forcing the new attorney general to decide how to handle the situation and what information to make public.
Black Lives Matter activists have advocated for a black attorney general or an individual with a background in civil rights and criminal justice reform. Garland would likely be pressured by the political left to overhaul national policing policies after months of mass riots over the officer-involved deaths of black Americans.
These racial tensions between law enforcement and minorities from Garland's first stint at the DOJ persist today. The FBI has since confronted a surge of violent anti-government extremism, a familiar threat to Garland while a 42-year-old senior department official, principal associate deputy attorney general, and a top lieutenant to Attorney General Janet Reno in 1995.
At the time, Garland helped to manage the federal government's response to the bombing of a government building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people. Garland has called the work the "most important thing I have done" and was known for keeping a framed photo of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in his courthouse office in Washington.
Biden's move on Garland coincides with the naming of other senior department leaders, including former homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general and former DOJ civil rights chief Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general. Biden will also appoint Kristen Clarke, the founder of advocacy group Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, as an assistant attorney general for civil rights.