After a chaotic day of insurrection at the nation’s Capitol, President-elect Joe Biden introduced Thursday key members of his incoming administration’s Justice Department while delivering an impassioned speech about accountability and decency.
During a live event on Jan. 7, Biden called the pro-Trump rioters’ invasion of the U.S. Capitol “an assault on the rule of law” just before formally nominating Judge Merrick Garland as Attorney General.
A federal appeals court judge serving since 1997, Garland is widely known for his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Barack Obama in 2016. However, Republican lawmakers refused to vote on Garland’s nomination, arguing that Obama should not be permitted to appoint a new Justice during the last year of his presidential term and that the nomination should fall on the next president.
Garland would have replaced the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Ironically, the country faced the same dilemma when beloved Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Sept. 18, 2020, and Republicans pushed to fill the vacancy despite it being so close to the presidential election in November. In 2016, Republican representatives like senators Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham refused to move Garland’s nomination forward, but had completely changed their tune in 2020.
In 2016, Graham urged listeners at a Judiciary Committee meeting to “use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president (elected) in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said, ‘Let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.’”
In 2020, Graham said that he will support Trump “in any effort to move forward regarding the recent vacancy created by the passing of Justice Ginsburg.”
Now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed and officially sworn in by the end of October 2020, almost immediately replacing Justice Ginsburg.
Though a different opportunity -- but a prestigious one, all the same -- Garland enthusiastically accepted Biden’s nomination Thursday, saying that the “rule of law is not just some lawyer’s turn of phrase,” and promising to serve fairly under the Biden-Harris Administration.
Biden also nominated Thursday Lisa Monaco as Deputy Attorney General, Vanita Gupta as Associate Attorney General and Kristen Clarke as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.
President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday denounced the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol as “domestic terrorists” and he blamed President Donald Trump for the violence that has shaken the nation’s capital and beyond.
The protest by Trump supporters that breached the security of Congress on Wednesday was “not dissent, was not disorder, was not protest. It was chaos.”
Those who massed on Capitol Hill intending to disrupt a joint session of Congress that was certifying Biden’s election victory over Trump “weren’t protesters. Don’t dare call them protesters. They were a riotous mob — insurrectionists, domestic terrorists. It’s that basic,” Biden said.
In solemn tones, Biden said the actions Trump has taken to subvert the nation’s democratic institutions throughout his presidency led directly to the mayhem in Washington.
“In the past four years, we’ve had a president who’s made his contempt for our democracy, our constitution, the rule of law clear in everything he has done,” Biden said. “He unleashed an all-out assault on our institutions of our democracy from the outset. And yesterday was the culmination of that unrelenting attack.”