Garland vows sharp focus on Capitol riot as attorney general

Judge Merrick Garland, nominee to be Attorney General, testifies at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday in Washington.

Merrick Garland, President Joe Biden’s attorney general nominee, vowed Monday to prioritize combating extremist violence and said his first focus would be on the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol as he sought to assure lawmakers that the Justice Department would remain politically independent on his watch.

A federal appeals court judge who was snubbed by Republicans for a seat on the Supreme Court in 2016, Garland appeared Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee and is widely expected to sail through his confirmation process with bipartisan support.

“The attorney general represents the public interest, particularly and specifically as defined by the Constitution and the statutes of the United States,” Garland said. “I do not plan to be interfered with by anyone.”

Garland will inherit a Justice Department that endured a tumultuous era under Trump — rife with political drama and controversial decisions — and that faced abundant criticism from Democrats over what they saw as the politicizing of the nation’s top law enforcement agencies.

“I have grown pretty immune to any kind of pressure, other than the pressure to do what I think is the right thing, given the facts and the law,” he said.

Early in the hearing, Garland faced questioning about his plans to handle specific investigations and politically sensitive cases, like the federal tax investigation involving Biden’s son Hunter Biden, and the special counsel’s inquiry started by William Barr, while he was attorney general, into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation, which also remains open.

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