Live Updates

Merrick Garland’s attorney general confirmation hearing: Day 1

Updated 4:46 PM EST, Mon February 22, 2021
Merrick Garland was asked why he wants the job. See his emotional response

What you need to know

  • President Biden’s nominee for attorney general, Judge Merrick Garland, testified before the Senate for his two-day confirmation hearing.
  • Garland was grilled by senators about his legal career and ability to stay above partisan politics.
  • If confirmed, Garland will be tasked with leading the Department of Justice and could take on a number of thorny issues, including the ongoing fallout from the Capitol riot.

Our live coverage has ended. Scroll through the posts below to see how it unfolded.

29 Posts

Key lines from Day 1 of Merrick Garland's confirmation hearing

PHOTO: Al Drago/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The first day of Merrick Garland’s confirmation hearing for attorney general just wrapped. 

For more than six hours, Garland testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and faced questions about a multitude of topics, including the politically charged investigations that await him if he’s confirmed to lead the Justice Department.

Here’s a look at some key lines from today’s hearing: 

  • On the DOJ’s independence: “I don’t care who pressures me in any direction. The department, if I am confirmed, will be under my protection for the purpose of preventing any kind of partisan or other improper motive in making any kind of investigation or prosecution. That’s my vow. That’s the only reason I’m willing to do this job,” Garland said.
  • On the Capitol riot probe: “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 claimed.
  • On inequality in the justice system: The attorney general nominee stressed that the Justice Department’s role is meant to “serve the Rule of Law and to ensure equal justice under the law.” He noted that last year was the 150th anniversary of the Justice Department’s founding in the aftermath of the Civil War, and that its core mission was to secure the civil rights promised by the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. “The mission remains urgent because we do not yet have equal justice,” Garland said. “Communities of color and other minorities still face discrimination in housing, education, employment, and the criminal justice system.”
  • On past Trump policies: While Garland declined to weigh in on some of the controversies of the Trump administration, he strongly rebuked the Trump administration’s child separation immigration policy, calling it “shameful” and committing to aiding a Senate investigation into the matter. “I think that the policy was shameful. I can’t imagine anything worse than tearing parents from their children, and we will provide all of the cooperation that we possibility can,” he told Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin of Illinois.
  • On what the role means to him: Garland pointed to his own family story and grandparents who found protection in the US after fleeing anti-Semitism and persecution as his reason and motivation for wanting to confront hate and discrimination in the US justice system. The nominee got emotional when he said that he would like to use the best of his own set of skills to pay back the country for that protection. “I come from a family where my grandparents fled anti-Semitism and persecution. The country took us in and protected us. And I feel an obligation to the country to pay back, and this is the highest best use of my own set of skills to pay back,” Garland said. Watch is response here.

What comes next: Garland’s hearing will continue for a second day tomorrow, with outside witnesses testifying before the Judiciary Committee. Durbin told CNN on Monday that he expected Garland’s nomination would be approved by his panel next Monday, and he expects the full Senate will confirm Garland later that week. He said Republicans have agreed not to delay next Monday’s committee vote, which they can do for one week under the rules.

The Capitol riot has been front and center in today's hearing. Here's what Garland said about the probe. 

PHOTO: Samuel Corum/Getty Images/FILE

The ongoing investigation of the Capitol riot that left five people dead has been front and center during today’s confirmation hearing. 

Attorney General nominee Judge Merrick Garland on Monday called the insurrection the “most heinous attack on the democratic processes” that he has ever seen and something he “never expected to see” in his lifetime.

In an exchange with California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Garland laid out his plan for ensuring that the perpetrators of the attack are brought to justice.  

“One of the very first things I will do is get a briefing on the progress of this investigation. I intend to give the career prosecutors who are working on this matter 24/7, all the resources they could possibly require to do this,” Garland said, adding, “And at the same time, I intend to make sure that we look more broadly, to look at where this is coming from, what other groups there might be that could raise the same problem in the future and that we protect the American people. And I know that the FBI director has made the same commitment.”

Democrats didn’t mention Trump by name when asking about the investigation into the January 6 riots, but they touched on the question of whether the Justice Department should examine Trump’s role, which led to his impeachment. Even Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, after voting to acquit Trump in the Senate trial, suggested that the criminal justice system is the right venue to consider those allegations instead.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, encouraged Garland to look “upstream,” asking whether it was a fair question for the investigation to “not rule out investigation of funders, organizers, ringleaders or aiders and abettors who were not present in the Capitol on January 6.”

“Fair question,” Garland responded. “We will pursue these leads wherever they take us.”

Federal prosecutors have charged at least 250 people in connection with the Capitol riot, according to a CNN analysis of court records and DOJ announcements. The riot was an attempt to stop the Senate from counting the electoral votes that confirmed President Biden’s win. The Senate tomorrow will hold its first public hearing on the security failures that led to the deadly Capitol riot.

CNN’s Paul Murphy contributed reporting to this post.

Garland has no regret pursuing the death penalty for the Oklahoma City bomber

PHOTO: Demetrius Freeman/Pool/Getty Images

Attorney General nominee Judge Merrick Garland said he has no regrets that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh received the death penalty, but has since changed his perspective on the death penalty.

Garland reiterated his stance on the death penalty during questions with Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton.

“As I said in my original Senate hearing when I became a judge, originally, I supported the death penalty, at that time, for Mr. McVeigh in that individual case. I don’t have any regret, but I have developed concerns about the death penalty in the twenty sum years since then and the sources of my concerns are issues of exoneration of people who have been convicted,” Garland said. 

Garland responded to Cotton that he was not asked by President Biden or anyone from his campaign not to pursue capital punishment in cases against murderers and terrorists.

Garland indicates he'd continue DOJ's antitrust suit against Google

Attorney General nominee Judge Merrick Garland suggested Monday he would allow the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Google to continue. 

What he knows of the suit comes largely from reading press reports, Garland told Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn, but he sees little reason to alter course. 

“Much of that lawsuit is public,” he said, “and again, given what I’ve read, I don’t see any reason why that investigation, the decision to institute that investigation, would be changed. But I only know what I’ve read with respect to the descriptions of the public filings.”

Senate Judiciary chairman expects Garland will be confirmed next week

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) speaks during his opening statement during Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland's confirmation hearing.
PHOTO: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) speaks during his opening statement during Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland's confirmation hearing.

The first day of Merrick Garland’s confirmation hearing is still ongoing, but Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin already indicated when he thinks the nominee will be confirmed.

Durbin told CNN that Garland’s nomination will be approved by his panel next Monday, and he expects the full Senate will confirm Garland next week.

The Democrat noted that Republicans have agreed not to delay next Monday’s committee vote, which they can do for one week under the rules.

Garland says he will not give in to political pressure 

PHOTO: Al Drago/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Attorney General nominee Judge Merrick Garland says his 24 years serving on the bench has trained him on not give in the political pressure. 

“People on one side or the other of every single case think I’ve done the wrong thing in that case because both sides can’t win. 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,” Garland said. 

Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley asked Garland if he would resist the calls and efforts by political groups to politicize the Justice Department for political targeting. 

“I don’t care who pressures me in any direction. The Department, if I am confirmed, will be under my protection for the purpose of preventing any kind of partisan or other improper motive in making any kind of investigation or prosecution. That’s my vow. That’s the only reason I’m willing to do this job,” Garland said.

Senate Judiciary chairman says he's hopeful Garland will receive bipartisan support

Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin signaled that he’s hopeful Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination for attorney general will likely receive bipartisan support.

“Republican senators just told me privately they will support him. I hope that his testimony will add to that number,” Durbin told reporters on a break during Garland’s confirmation hearing on Monday.

Garland: I feel an obligation to "pay back" the US for offering protection to my grandparents

PHOTO: Al Drago/Getty Images

President Biden’s attorney general nominee Merrick Garland shared his reason and motivation for wanting to confront hate and discrimination in the US justice system.

Garland pointed to his own family story and grandparents who found protection in the US after fleeing anti-Semitism and persecution. The nominee got emotional when he said that he would like to use the best of his own set of skills to pay back the country for that protection.

“I come from a family where my grandparents fled anti-Semitism and persecution. The country took us in and protected us. And I feel an obligation to the country to pay back, and this is the highest best use of my own set of skills to pay back. And so, I want very much to be the kind of attorney general that you’re saying I could become. I’ll do my best to try and be that kind of attorney general,” Garland said in an exchange of questioning with Democratic Sen. Cory Booker.

Earlier in the exchange with Booker, when asked whether he thought the US justice system treats people equally, Garland said “sadly, it is plain to me that it does not.”

“Senator, there is no question there is disparate treatment in our justice system. Mass incarceration is a very good example of this problem,” Garland said. 

The nominee noted that fighting racial injustice in the criminal justice system was one key reason he wanted to take on the role of attorney general “at this moment.”

Watch the moment here:

Garland says he doesn't support defunding the police. These are the reasons he outlined. 

Attorney General nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, does not agree with de