Attorney General Merrick Garland says the Justice Department will review how to tackle anti-Asian violence within 30 days

Asian community protests Atlanta shooting
Demonstrators at at Rally Against Hate to end discrimination against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, New York City, March 21, 2021.

  • The Department of Justice is prioritizing a review of its handling of anti-Asian hate crimes.
  • Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the new effort in a Tuesday statement.
  • Garland says he wants the Justice Department to “recommit” to using its resources to combat hate.
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Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Tuesday that the Justice Department would review how to tackle anti-Asian violence within the next 30 days.

The review was announced in a letter from Garland obtained by CBS Chief Justice and Homeland Security Correspondent Jeff Pegues and shared on Twitter by his colleague, CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Weijia Jiang.

Garland cited the DOJ’s efforts to prosecute Ku Klux Klan members in its early history, saying, “One hundred and fifty years later, hate crimes persist and continue to have a toxic effect on our society.”

Hate crimes against Asian-American have surged in the last year amid the coronavirus pandemic, and Garland said he wanted the Justice Department to “recommit” to use its resources to combat hate.

Read more: Meet Merrick Garland’s inner circle of 15 officials working to restore the Justice Department’s independence after Trump

He said the Justice Department would consider how it could better track the reporting of hate crimes and hate incidents, prioritize criminal investigations, utilize civil enforcement authorities to ensure bias does not arise, and equip US Attorney’s Offices with resources to protect against hate.

“While this effort remains ongoing, the Department will seek justice for the victims of hate-fueled mass murderers we have seen too many times in the past several years – killings that have shaken our communities, torn at our social fabric, and undercut our most basic values,” Garland said in the statement.

Garland added that he would “continue to deploy” community outreach organizations and civil enforcement power to help prevent further hate crimes. That would include working with state and local authorities to provide bolstered resources to both investigate and prosecute hate crimes and prevent potential hate events before they occur.

In mid-March 2021, a mass shooting targeting massage parlors and spas in the Atlanta area that killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women, brought the rising trend of anti-Asian violence and hate crimes into the national spotlight and onto the radar of Congress, the Biden White House, and law enforcement agencies like the DOJ.

Violence targeting Asians and Asian-Americans has been on the uptick since early 2020 when COVID-19 began to spread around the globe, continuing decades of painful discrimination and violence against people of Asian descent in America.

Insider’s Ryan Barber recently reported that Garland, an experienced federal prosecutor and former longtime judge, is also aiming to restore morale and boost a sense of camaraderie at the DOJ following the tumultuous events of 2020 and 2021, culminating in the January 6 insurrection on the US Capitol.

Also on Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced a number of White House initiatives to combat anti-Asian hate and violence.

They include “reinstating and reinvigorating” the White House’s work with federal agencies to focus on hate crimes. To that end, Biden is redirecting some funds from the American Rescue Plan to create a new $49.5 million grant program to help Asian-American domestic violence and sexual assault victims, and also establishing a new COVID-19 Equity Task Force focused on xenophobia and health disparities.

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McConnell voted to confirm Merrick Garland as attorney general 2 years after saying blocking his Supreme Court nomination was the ‘most consequential thing I’ve ever done’

Biden-Garland
Judge Merrick Garland, right, was nominated by President Barack Obama to the US Supreme Court in March 2016 after the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, but was subsequently blocked from hearings by Senate Republicans.

  • McConnell voted Wednesday to confirm Merrick Garland as attorney general.
  • The vote came five years after he stonewalled Garland’s nomination for a Supreme Court seat.
  • In 2019, McConnell called that decision “the most consequential thing I’ve ever done.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted on Wednesday to confirm Judge Merrick Garland as US attorney general, just five years after he blocked Garland’s nomination for a Supreme Court seat.

Garland, a two-decade veteran of the DC Circuit Court, received broad, bipartisan support to lead the Justice Department, with 70 US senators voting in favor of his confirmation and 30 voting against.

Nineteen other Republican senators voted yes along with McConnell, who revealed last month that he would support Garland’s nomination.

Politico first reported on McConnell’s decision to support Garland for attorney general last month. When asked whether he intended to back the judge, McConnell said, “I do.” He did not elaborate.

The Kentucky Republican made headlines in February 2016 as Senate majority leader when, just an hour after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, he announced that he would not grant a Senate hearing to any nominee then-President Barack Obama selected to fill Scalia’s seat. McConnell vowed to keep the seat open for nearly another year, until a new president was elected.

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” he said at the time. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” Senate Republicans drew swift backlash for refusing to even grant the appeals-court judge a confirmation hearing and tanking his nomination before he had a chance to testify.

Nearly three years later, McConnell praised himself for the decision, telling The New York Times in a 2019 interview that blocking Garland’s nomination was “the most consequential thing I’ve ever done.” Scalia’s vacant seat was eventually filled by the conservative judge Neil Gorsuch, who President Donald Trump nominated shortly after taking office in 2017.

McConnell has frequently said that reshaping the federal judiciary is his biggest priority and touted the record number of conservative judges the GOP-controlled Senate was able to confirm during Trump’s tenure. The former president worked closely with McConnell and was able to appoint more than 200 judges to the federal bench and three justices to the Supreme Court.

Last year, McConnell faced backlash when he pushed through the confirmation of Trump’s third Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death just weeks before the November general election. Democrats pelted the GOP leader with allegations of hypocrisy over his refusal to grant Garland a confirmation hearing nine months before the 2016 election in order to honor the voters’ choice and doing the opposite in 2020.

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Senate confirms Merrick Garland as attorney general

merrick garland
Judge Merrick Garland testifies at his confirmation hearing for attorney general.

The Senate voted on Wednesday to confirm Judge Merrick Garland as attorney general of the United States, elevating the longtime federal jurist to become the country’s chief law enforcement officer. The widely-expected confirmation went through with broad bipartisan support in a vote of 70 in favor to 30 opposed.

Twenty Republicans joined Democrats to confirm Garland: Sens. Roy Blunt, Richard Burr, Shelley Capito, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, John Cornyn, Joni Ernst, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Grassley, Jim Inhofe, Ron Johnson, James Lankford, Mitch McConnell, Jerry Moran, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, Mitt Romney, Mike Rounds, John Thune, and Thom Tillis.

President Joe Biden nominated Garland to lead the Department of Justice on January 7, saying in a statement that Garland and other DOJ nominees reflected Biden’s “deeply held commitment to reaffirming the Department of Justice as a pillar of independence and integrity, and ensuring that the Attorney General and his senior leadership team are the American people’s lawyers – not the president’s law firm.”

At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Garland committed to assuring that the DOJ applies the rule of law so that “the laws of our country are fairly and faithfully enforced, and that the rights of all Americans are protected.”

He will face a torrent of high-profile issues, including investigations into the deadly January 6 Capitol riot, immigration, the future of the death penalty, and the Hunter Biden tax probe.

Garland pledged during his confirmation hearings that the Capitol insurrection would be his “first priority” as attorney general.

“If confirmed, I will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on January 6 – a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government,” he said at the time.

Garland criticized the migrant child separation policy of former President Donald Trump as “shameful.”

“I can’t imagine anything worse than tearing parents from their children, and we will provide all the cooperation that we possibly can,” he said.

After a surge of young migrants at the US-Mexico border, Biden has temporarily reopened a Texas facility for unaccompanied children, drawing harsh criticism from progressives and immigration activists.

Biden is opposed to the death penalty and Garland echoed many of the sentiments shared by opponents of the practice, citing an “arbitrariness and randomness” of the punishment.

“I am very concerned about the large number of exonerations that have occurred through DNA evidence and otherwise, not only in death penalty convictions but also in other convictions,” he said.

Garland also said that he hadn’t spoken to the president about his son, Hunter, and pledged that any investigations into the younger Biden’s tax affairs would be handled independently by the DOJ and without interference from the White House.

When Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey asked him to discuss his motivation for serving as attorney general, Garland became emotional.

“I come from a family where my grandparents fled antisemitism and persecution,” he said. “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, 68, previously served as a judge on the US Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, since 1997. He began his professional career at the DOJ in the 1970s under President Jimmy Carter and is widely respected in the legal community.

Before becoming a federal judge, Garland oversaw the prosecution of Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people and injured nearly 700 other people.

In March 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Aware of the deterioration of Senate legislative comity, Obama asked that Garland’s nomination be removed from the politics of the moment and that he be granted a hearing and a vote.

But Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, then the majority leader, stonewalled Garland’s nomination, left the seat empty, and said the winner of the 2016 general election should nominate Scalia’s successor to “give the American people a voice.”

Garland stepped away from hearing active cases in the DC circuit court after his nomination but returned to the bench in January 2017, when President Donald Trump was sworn in.

Trump quickly filled the Supreme Court vacancy, nominating conservative Judge Neil Gorsuch, who was confirmed to the seat in April 2017.

During Garland’s confirmation hearings, he faced many of the same Republicans who blocked his nomination, but in the end, he won many of them over.

Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina praised Garland’s tenure on the federal bench and his reputation for judicial independence.

“Merrick Garland has an outstanding record serving our country and has a deep understanding of the law,” Tillis said in a statement. “I have no doubt he will serve with integrity, keeping the best interest of our great country in mind with every decision he makes, and will respect the constitutional rights and liberties of all Americans.”

McConnell once described blocking Garland’s Supreme Court nomination as “the most consequential thing I’ve ever done.”

This week, he voted to confirm Garland as attorney general.

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Merrick Garland says he’s concerned about ‘randomness’ of death penalty and its ‘disparate’ impact on Black Americans

Merrick Garland
Demetrius Freeman/Getty Images

  • Merrick Garland in his confirmation hearing expressed serious concerns about the death penalty. 
  • Garland on Monday cited the “disparate” impact of capital punishment on Black Americans. 
  • Garland said it’s “the most terrible thing” if someone is executed for a crime they didn’t commit.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

President Joe Biden’s nominee for attorney general, Judge Merrick Garland, on Monday expressed serious concerns about the death penalty in the US and the glaring racial disparities in the implementation of capital punishment. 

“I have had a great pause about the death penalty. I am very concerned about the large number of exonerations that have occurred through DNA evidence and otherwise, not only in death penalty convictions, but also in other convictions. I think it’s a terrible thing that occurs when somebody is convicted of a crime that they did not commit,” Garland said during his Senate confirmation hearing. 

Garland conveyed consternation about the “increasing randomness, almost arbitrariness” of the use of the death penalty.

Since 1973, 185 people have been exonerated after being wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death, according to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC).

“The data is clear that it has been enormously disparate impact on Black Americans and members of communities of color, and exonerations also that something like half of the exonerations had to do with Black men. So all of this has given me pause,” Garland added. 

To Garland’s point, Black Americans make up about 13% of the total US population, but comprised 42% of the death row population in 2020. 

A September 2020 DPIC report also found major historic racial disparities regarding the death penalty. The report, for example, said: “Since executions resumed in 1977, 295 African-Americans defendants have been executed for the murder of a white victim, while only 21 white defendants have been executed for the murder of an African-American victim.”

Biden is the first sitting US president to openly oppose capital punishment, and during his campaign pledged to end the death penalty at the federal level. The president’s position on this issue marks a drastic shift from the Trump administration, during which a record number of federal executions were carried out. 

The 13th and last federal execution to occur under President Donald Trump took place just five days before Biden was inaugurated. Trump broke a 17-year hiatus in federal executions, and was the first president in 130 years to see executions carried out during a presidential lame duck period. He oversaw more executions than any president in 120 years. 

More than two-thirds of the world’s countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice, according to Amnesty International. Biden is under mounting pressure from civil rights groups and progressives in Congress to follow their lead. 

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Domestic terror in the US is ‘more dangerous’ now than after the Oklahoma City bombing, Biden AG nominee says

merrick garland hearing
Attorney general nominee Merrick Garland.

  • Judge Merrick Garland, Joe Biden’s attorney general nominee, began his confirmation hearing Monday.
  • Garland said domestic terrorism is “more dangerous” than its previous peak in the 1990s.
  • The January 6 insurrection made the climate worse than the deadly OKC bombing, Garland said.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

President Joe Biden’s nominee for attorney general sounded the alarm Monday on the domestic terrorism threat facing the United States.

“I certainly agree that we are facing a more dangerous period than we did in Oklahoma City at that time,” Judge Merrick Garland, the nominee, told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The 1996 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal office building killed 168 people, including children. An investigation found that the bombing’s conspirators were radicalized by white nationalist propaganda in the aftermath of the deadly FBI raids at Waco and Ruby Ridge in the early ’90s.

Garland was a principal associate deputy attorney general at the time, and led the Department of Justice’s prosecution of the bomber.

Garland attributed today’s heightened threat to the January 6 Capitol siege.

The judge said the Capitol insurrection is “not necessarily a one-off,” and that the forces behind it stretch far back into American history.

“There is a line from Oklahoma City and another … to the original battles of the Justice Department against the Ku Klux Klan,” Garland said.

If confirmed, Garland said he is committed to pursuing the ongoing investigations against the insurrectionists and getting the Department of Justice the resources necessary for the broader inquiry into the riots.

“If confirmed, I will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on January 6, a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy,” Garland said.

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