AG-nominee Garland pledges to fight violent extremism while public interest groups petition for Trump investigation

In a speech accepting the nomination for Attorney General from President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday, Merrick Garland condemned the riots on Capitol Hill and underscored the importance of the rule of law as the foundation for American democracy.

Attorney General-designate Garland is currently a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and has been praised by both Republicans and Democrats for his apolitical nature, integrity and quality. In his acceptance speech, Garland heavily stressed the importance of a non-partisan Department of Justice. Garland emphasized that “like cases [should be] treated alike, that there not be one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans, one rule for friends, another for foes, one rule for the powerful, another for the powerless, one rule for the rich and another for the poor, or different rules depending upon one’s race or ethnicity.”

In a notable reference following the violence on Capitol Hill encouraged by President Trump Wednesday morning, just before the crowd marched down Pennsylvania Avenue and violently disrupted the formal Congressional counting of electoral votes, Garland quoted historian Ron Chernow, who wrote, “The new Justice Department would forge its identity in the battle to slay the first incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan and its offshoots.” Garland noted that the priorities that were before the Department of Justice in the 1870’s echo in today’s world and pledged that, upon his confirmation, he will fight to ensure racial equity and will meet “the evolving threat of violent extremism.”

Biden’s pick of Garland for Attorney General signals a departure from the Trump administration’s Department of Justice, but some public interest groups have petitioned that Garland take a step farther and open a coordinated investigation into President Trump and his allies.

In an open letter to Attorney General-designate Garland , a number of public interest groups, including Free Speech For People, Action Group Network, and Government Accountability Project, asked Garland to create “an independent task force to investigate any potential federal, criminal, or civil violations that may have been committed by President Trump, members of his administration, or his campaign, business, or other associates.” The letter alleges that President Trump “engaged in a flurry of unethical, unconstitutional, and often criminal activity, culminating [Wednesday] with the seditious insurrection on the United States Capitol incited and encouraged by the President and his allies.”

The letter requests that Garland’s task force, if created upon his confirmation as Attorney General, remains isolated within the Department of Justice to insulate it from partisan interference and to ensure an unbiased investigation. The authors of the letter cited six categories of offenses that they claim have been perpetrated by Trump and his allies:

1. Offenses related to President Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election
2. Offenses related to the 2016 election that were not prosecuted during the Trump presidency because of Department of Justice policy
3. Offenses related to misuse of the presidency and high office for personal profit, including bribery or extortion
4. Other offenses related to the Trump Organization, including tax fraud, bank fraud, or insurance fraud
5. Offenses related to immigration and the U.S.-Mexican border
6. Other offenses [including obstruction of justice, destruction or concealment of federal records, and other crimes that may have been perpetrated during his presidency or may be perpetrated in the days to come].

It is unclear whether Garland, once confirmed, will create a task force to investigate alleged crimes by Trump similar to the one requested by the public interest groups who authored the letter.