March 09, 2021

Grassley on the Nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to be Attorney General

Prepared Floor Remarks by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee
On the Nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to be Attorney General
Tuesday, March 9, 2021
 
Today, the senate will start consideration of Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to be Attorney General of the United States. I will be supporting his nomination, but as I said at Judge Garland’s hearing before the Judiciary Committee, I have concerns.
 
I hope that he will take those concerns seriously, and I will work with members of the Judiciary Committee to conduct thorough oversight of the Department of Justice in order to make sure the Department is being run independently and free from political influence.  
 
On paper, I don’t think that anyone would doubt Judge Garland is a good pick to lead the Department of Justice.
 
His credentials are excellent, and he has a distinguished career of public service. Of all the possibilities to be President Biden’s Attorney General, it’s hard to come up with a better pick.
 
The top law-enforcement officer of the United States must be committed to enforcing the rule of law. As our former colleague, John Ashcroft, likes to say, the Department of Justice is the only cabinet agency whose name is an ideal.
 
It’s not the Department of Law Enforcement but the Department of Justice. Justice is equality under the law. There’s one law for all Americans regardless of race, color, creed or political affiliation.
 
It’s our founding principle that all people are created equal. My hope is that Judge Garland agrees with that principle and runs the Justice Department accordingly.
 
That’s not how it’s always been run.
 
I don’t think it’s how it was run during the Obama years.
 
Here’s what I don’t want to see from Judge Garland: I don’t want an attorney general who is a “wing man” to the President, as Eric Holder famously said.
 
I don’t want an attorney general who takes tarmac meetings with President Clinton while she’s investigating his wife.
 
I don’t want consent decrees that federalize law enforcement and cause murder rates to soar.
 
I don’t want the Civil Rights Division trying to stop school choice in Louisiana.
 
I don’t want a return to catch and release.
 
I don’t want Operation Chokepoint, where DOJ decides that gun stores don’t get access to banking services.
 
I’m concerned about the Justice Department’s direction before Judge Garland is even confirmed. DOJ has changed its litigation positions on a number of high profile cases in court, including on immigration, affirmative action, Obamacare and other cases.
 
Former Solicitor General Paul Clement said, “It has been the long-term position of the Justice Department to defend the constitutionality of statutes whenever reasonable arguments can be made.”
 
It appears the Biden administration is going to flout that tradition. I hope that Judge Garland brings them in line and preserves the credibility of the Justice Department.
 
I hope he also preserves his credibility with the Durham investigation. During the Trump Administration I supported the Mueller investigation. I even supported legislation to protect his investigation in 2018 when it looked like President Trump might fire him.
 
In 2019 when Bill Barr was before the Judiciary Committee he was required to commit to not interfere with the Mueller investigation. I thought that was appropriate.
 
Now we have another special counsel investigation, this one being run by John Durham, a respected career prosecutor, who is investigating the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, in which members of the Obama Administration spied on and prosecuted members of the Trump Campaign.
 
As a Republican who supported Mueller, I think it is obvious that Judge Garland should have made the same commitment about Durham that Bill Barr made about Mueller.
 
Judge Garland was given multiple opportunities to do so during his hearing and in written questions for the record, but every time he declined to do so unequivocally. He has implied that he won’t and I take him at his word for it.
 
But I want to be clear: it’s Judge Garland’s credibility that’s on the line here. If Durham is fired for anything but cause, we’ll know why Judge Garland refused to give us the commitments we asked for.
 
Lastly, I want to make a point about how Judge Garland’s nomination went through the Judiciary Committee.
 
Republicans called two witnesses, both of whom supported Judge Garland’s confirmation.
 
Republicans also decided not to hold-over Judge Garland’s nomination, allowing him to be reported to the Senate Floor a week early.
 
Judge Garland also received bipartisan support in Committee.
 
None of these courtesies were extended to either of President Trump’s nominees to be Attorney General, one of whom was a colleague and one of whom had already held the job before.
 
I say all of this to make a point the media seemingly refuses to cover. After the last four years of unprecedented obstruction of nominees, I think Republicans would have been justified to make this confirmation a drawn out process. We did not.
 
I don’t plan on opposing nominees just because of the person who nominated them, like many of my colleagues unfortunately did for the last four years.
 

So even though I still have some concerns, I believe Judge Garland is a good man, and a good pick to lead the Department of Justice, so I will vote for his confirmation.