Earlier this week, Merrick Garland faced a confirmation hearing in the Senate as President Biden’s pick for attorney general.
If he gets confirmed, the very first thing on Garland’s agenda will be taking on the investigation into the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol. It’s a widespread investigation that presents greater questions for how the department handles far-right violence and domestic extremism going forward. A focus on those issues marks a change from President Donald Trump’s Justice Department, in which threats of far-right violence were reportedly de-prioritized.
This wouldn’t be the only change under a Biden Justice Department led by Garland.
At times under Trump, the Justice Department was politicized when pressured on cases involving the president’s allies. The once-close relationship between then-Attorney General William P. Barr and Trump called the department’s independence into question.
And the changes weren’t just in challenges around the department’s role in the executive branch. Policies changed, too. The Trump administration moved away from some efforts to address systemic police misconduct.
Those are parts of Trump’s legacy that the Biden Justice Department has now inherited.
On the“Can He Do That?” podcast, we covered many of the changes inside the Justice Department under Trump. Now, with Garland set to lead that Department, we want to take a look at what issues he faces and how he might tackle challenges.
Garland is set to head a department that has had its independence questioned, that has allowed its commitment to civil rights to waver and that will have its power tested as it conducts an investigation into the actions of a former president, his allies and a mob that tried to stop certification of the presidential election.
On this episode of the“Can He Do That?” podcast, we talk to national security reporter Matt Zapotosky about how Garland will take on these challenges. Can he rebuild confidence in the attorney general’s independence? And how might his efforts to fight far-right extremism and curb police violence make that goal of an independent Justice Department even harder? Plus, Mary McCord of Georgetown University Law Center offers insight from her experience as acting assistant attorney general for national security.
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