Biden’s Justice pick calls extremism his ‘first priority’
WASHINGTON, Feb 23: President Joe Biden's nominee to lead the US Justice Department said Monday that fighting domestic extremism would be his 'first priority' if confirmed as attorney general.
Appeals court judge Merrick Garland told the Senate Judiciary Committee that far-right extremism today was worse than when he investigated the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City that left 168 dead.
He said there was a direct line between that attack and the January 6 assault on the US Capitol by extremist supporters of former president Donald Trump.
"This was the most heinous attack on the democratic process that I have seen, and one that I never expected to see in my lifetime," Garland told the panel, which is vetting his nomination, adding that he did not think it was "necessarily a one-off."
"We are facing a more dangerous period than we faced in Oklahoma City at that time," he continued.
"I can assure you that this will be my first priority, and my first briefing," he told the committee.
The hearing comes just weeks after Trump went on trial in the Senate -- and was acquitted -- on impeachment charges of fomenting the January 6 attack.
Garland was asked if he would investigate the "ringleaders" and "aiders and abetters" behind the attack.
"We will pursue these leads wherever they take us," he said, without any mention of the former president.
Garland, a respected, moderately liberal judge of nearly 24 years and before that a senior Justice Department official, also pledged to keep the department free of politics after alleged repeated interference by Trump.
He also said an "urgent" task of the department was to ensure equal justice for minorities and people of color, in an apparent reference to the Black Lives Matter movement. -AFP