Merrick Garland took questions in the Senate today in support of his nomination by President Joe Biden for US Attorney General.
Senator Josh Hawley asked Garland his thoughts on "assaults on federal property in places other than Washington, DC, Portland, for instance, Seattle." Garland said, in essence, that while the attack on the Capitol was domestic terrorism, the attacks on federal buildings over the summer likely were not.
"Do you regard assaults on federal courthouses or other federal property as acts of domestic extremism, domestic terrorism?"
"Well Senator, my own definition, which is about the same as the statutory definition, is the use of violence or threats of violence in an attempt to disrupt democratic processes. So an attack on a courthouse while in operation, trying to prevent judges from actually deciding cases, that plainly is domestic extremism, domestic terrorism.
"An attack simply on a government property, at night, or any other kind of circumstances is a clear crime and a serious one and should be punished. I don't know enough about the facts of the example you're talking about, but that's where I draw the line.
"Both are criminal, but one is a core attack on our Democratic institutions," Garland said.
As regards the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Garland intends to deal harshly with those who participated.
"One hundred and fifty years after the Department's [of Justice] founding, battling extremist attacks on our Democratic institutions also remains central to the Department's mission. From 1995 to 1997, I supervised the prosecution of the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City Federal Building, who sought to spark a revolution that would topple federal government," Garland said.
"If confirmed," he went on, "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. And that critical work is but a part of the broad scope of the Department's responsibilities."