March 11 (UPI) — Merrick Garland was confirmed by the Senate Wednesday to serve as President Joe Biden’s attorney general.
Garland was confirmed in a 70-30 vote five years after he was nominated to the Supreme Court by former President Barack Obama.
Garland, a former federal prosecutor before becoming a judge on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., said during his confirmation hearing that overseeing the prosecution of supporters of former President Donald Trump who took part in the Jan. 6 riot at the capitol would be the agency’s top priority.
“If confirmed, I will supervise the prosecution of White supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 — a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government,” he said.
He also said the Justice Department will work to correct racial and social inequality in the justice system, address an upswing in violent crime in some of the nation’s largest cities and could be open to federal gun control reforms, while dismissing calls to defund police.
As attorney general, Garland could oversee the investigation of the FBI’s probe into potential collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia in the 2016 election but has said he does not have “any reason to think” special counsel John Durham, who was appointed by the previous administration, shouldn’t remain in place.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware also has an open investigation regarding possible tax fraud by President Biden’s son, Hunter, which Garland said he has not discussed with the president.
“Decisions about investigations and prosecutions will be left to the Justice Department,” he said.
Garland was selected by Obama to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in March 2016, however, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and other GOP senators blocked his nomination, declaring that the winner of that year’s presidential election should fill the vacancy.
McConnell cast a vote to confirm Garland on Wednesday, citing his “long reputation as a straight-shooter and legal expert.”