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Garland, at confirmation hearing, vows to fight domestic extremism

WASHINGTON – Justice Merrick B. Garland, President Biden’s candidate for attorney general, said on Monday the threat from domestic extremism was greater today than at the time of the Oklahoma bombing City in 1995, and he vowed that if confirmed, he would make federal power investigating the Capitol Riot his top priority.

Judge Garland, who led the Justice Department’s prosecution of the Oklahoma City bombing, told the Senate Judiciary Committee on the first day of his confirmation hearings that the early stages of the investigation in course on the “white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol” seemed to be aggressive and “perfectly appropriate.”

He received a largely positive reception from members of both parties on the panel, five years after Senate Republicans blocked his Supreme Court nomination by President Barack Obama to fill the vacancy created by the death of Judge Antonin. Scalia.

Justice Garland, 68, who was confirmed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1997, pledged Monday to restore the independence of a Justice Department that had underwent deep politicization under the Trump administration.

“I don’t intend to be embarrassed by anyone,” Justice Garland said. If confirmed, he said, he would maintain the principle that “the attorney general represents the public interest”.

Justice Garland has also said he will reinvigorate the department’s civil rights division as America suffers a painful and destabilizing toll with systemic racism.

“Communities of color and other minorities continue to face discrimination in housing, education, employment and the criminal justice system,” Justice Garland said in his opening remarks. But he said he did not support the call by some on the left, emerging from this summer’s civil rights protests, to dispel the police.

The Trump administration has worked to reduce civil rights protections for transgender people and minorities. It also prohibits policies aimed at addressing systemic racism, sexism, homophobia and other implicit prejudices.

“I consider my responsibilities for the civil rights division high on my list of top priorities,” Justice Garland said.

Judge Garland answered questions on a wide range of additional topics, including criminal justice reform, antitrust cases, the power of big tech companies, congressional oversight and departmental morale.

Discussing the threat of domestic terrorism, Justice Garland said, “We are going through a more dangerous time than we have faced in Oklahoma City.”

He called the attack on Capitol Hill “the most heinous attack on democratic processes I have ever seen, and the one I never expected to see in my lifetime.”

In addition to an immediate briefing on the investigation, he said he would “give career prosecutors who work in this way 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, any resources they may need.”

Tackling extremism is “at the heart” of the Justice Department’s mission and has often overlapped with its anti-systemic racism mission, as with its fight against the Ku Klux Klan, Judge Garland said.

But the hearing also recalled how politics loom over so many high-profile issues that Judge Garland will face if the full Senate confirms, especially as the Capitol Riots investigation is affecting members. Mr. Trump’s inner circle and more defendants. say they acted on former President Donald J. Trump’s order to prevent Mr. Biden from taking office.

Asked by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, whether the Capitol Riot investigation should prosecute people “upstream” from those who violated the building, including “the backers, the organizers, the leaders or helpers and accomplices who were not present in the Capitol on January 6, replied Judge Garland, we will pursue these leads wherever they take us.

Republicans have mainly focused on two politically charged investigations from the Trump era: a federal tax investigation into Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and the work of special advocate John H. Durham, to determine whether the Obama-era officials made a mistake in 2016 when they investigated those responsible for the Trump campaign and their ties to Russia.

Justice Garland said he did not discuss the Hunter Biden case with the President and reiterated that the Justice Department will make the final decisions regarding investigations and prosecutions.

“This investigation was carried out quietly, and not publicly, as all investigations should be,” he said. He noted that the US lawyer appointed by Trump in Delaware had been asked to stay and oversee the Hunter Biden investigation.

“I have absolutely no reason to doubt that this is the right decision,” he said.

Responding to a question about Mr. Durham’s investigation, Justice Garland hinted that he would let the investigation unfold, but avoided making explicit promises about how he would handle it.

“I have no reason – from what I know now, which is really very little – to make a decision,” Justice Garland said. “I have no reason to believe he shouldn’t stay put,” he said of Mr Durham.

Regarding the disclosure of any report from Mr. Durham, he added: “I should however speak with Mr. Durham and understand the nature of what he did and the nature of the report.”

Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the leading Republican on the committee, said he would not “object” to responses to the Durham inquiry which were “not as straightforward” as he claimed. wished “because I think you are an honorable person.” “

Justice Garland has strong legal credentials, a reputation as a moderate, and a long history of service to the Department of Justice. After serving as a clerk for Judge William J. Brennan Jr., he worked as a federal prosecutor for the US Attorney’s Office in Washington under President George HW Bush and was chosen by Jamie Gorelick, Deputy Attorney General to President Bill Clinton, to serve as his senior deputy.

In addition to Oklahoma City, Justice Garland has overseen high-profile cases such as Theodore J. When Mr. Obama appointed him to the Supreme Court in 2016, he was widely described as a moderate.

Key Republicans, including committee member Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and minority leader Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have said they will support Judge Garland to become Mr Biden’s attorney general.

Democrats presented him on Monday as the necessary antidote to four years in which Mr. Trump treated Justice Department investigators as enemies to be crushed or players to be used to attack political enemies and protect allies, all the more so since he sought to thwart and defeat the investigation into Russia.

Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said in his opening remarks that “the misdeeds of Trump’s Justice Department have brought this nation to the brink” and that Judge Garland is said to have need to “restore the faith of the American people in the rule of law and deliver equal justice.” “

Asked about Mr. Trump’s statement, “I have the absolute right to do whatever I want to do with the Department of Justice,” Justice Garland said the President “is constrained by the Constitution” and that anyway Mr. Biden had pledged not to interfere with the work of the department.

Justice Garland’s response drew an implicit contrast to William P. Barr, who served under Mr. Trump as attorney general for almost two years and appeared to see his role as serving the president’s interests much more than other prosecutors. post-Watergate generals.

“Decisions will be made by the ministry itself and directed by the attorney general,” he said, “without regard to partisanship, without regard to the power of the perpetrator or the lack of power, to the influence of the author or lack of influence. “

Judge Garland was for the most part measured and even-tempered, but he became moved when he described his family’s flight from anti-Semitism and persecution in Eastern Europe and asylum in America.

“The country welcomed us – and protected us,” he said, his voice still. “I feel an obligation to the country to repay. It’s the best and the best use of my own skill set to pay off. And so I really want to be the kind of attorney general that you say I could become.

Justice Garland has pledged to cooperate with a Congressional inquiry into Trump’s Justice Department’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration that has led to the separation of many parents from their families. children.

“I think the policy was shameful,” Justice Garland said. “I can’t imagine anything worse than tearing parents apart from their children. And we will provide all the cooperation we possibly can. “

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Video: Watch Live: Merrick Garland’s Confirmation Hearing

TimesVideoWatch Live: Merrick Garland Confirmation Hearing Monday, the two-day confirmation hearing for Judge Merrick Garland, President Biden’s choice to be attorney general, per Reuters.

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Video: Watch Live: Gina Raimondo’s Confirmation Hearing

TimesVideoWatch Live: Gina Raimondo Confirmation Hearing On Tuesday, Governor Gina Raimondo, chosen by President Biden for the post of Secretary of Commerce, will appear before the Senate Trade Committee for a confirmation hearing by Reuters.

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Biden’s choice for Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has a confirmation hearing.

The Commerce Department has broad authority over issues as broad as technology exports and climate change. President Biden’s candidate for head of the agency, Gina M. Raimondo, will appear before the Senate Commerce Committee for a confirmation hearing on Tuesday. Ms. Raimondo, the current governor of Rhode Island, is a moderate Democrat and former venture capitalist.

Here are some things to watch out for as the hearing begins at 10 a.m.

Senators from both sides are likely to question Ms Raimondo on how she plans to use Commerce Department powers to counter China’s growing mastery of cutting-edge and sensitive technologies, like advanced telecommunications and artificial intelligence.

The Trump administration has made extensive use of departmental officials to crack down on Chinese tech companies, often turning to the so-called entity list, which allows the United States to block companies from selling American products and technologies. to certain foreign companies without first obtaining a License. Dozens of companies have been added to the Commerce Department’s list, including telecom giants like Huawei and ZTE.

The Commerce Department was also tasked with describing President Donald J. Trump’s U.S. ban on Chinese-owned social media apps TikTok and WeChat – actions that were later halted by a court ruling. Mr Biden said he viewed TikTok’s access to US data a “matter of real concern,” but it is unclear how the new administration will handle these issues.

But the Commerce Department has other capabilities that some tech experts say were underutilized in the Trump administration, such as the role it plays in setting global technology standards that private companies must operate on.

As Commerce Secretary, Ms. Raimondo would wield powers that could help struggling businesses and advance the Biden administration’s goals of developing a domestic industry and revitalizing U.S. research and development. This includes the economic development programs and manufacturing partnerships that the Commerce Department offers to small and medium-sized businesses, as well as its primary mission of promoting U.S. exports.

Like some of Mr Biden’s other candidates, Ms Raimondo has faced a bit of backlash from progressive Democrats, who have criticized her close ties to venture capital and big tech companies. Prior to running for political office, Ms Raimondo was a founding employee of investment firm Village Ventures, which was backed by Bain Capital, and co-founded her own venture capital firm, Point Judith Capital.

Some progressives have also condemned some actions she has taken as governor of Rhode Island, including clashes with unions over an overhaul of state pension plans and the extension of some liability protections. nursing homes and health care facilities during the pandemic. But Democrats, who will back Ms Raimondo’s prompt confirmation, are unlikely to put too much emphasis on these issues, if at all.

Ms Raimondo’s financial disclosure forms, released this month, also appear uncontroversial, showing an annual salary of Rhode Island state $ 150,245 and $ 2.9 million to $ 7.5 million in cash, investment accounts and other assets, mainly mutual funds.

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In confirmation hearings, Biden Aides points to tough approach to China

At Ms Haines’ hearing, she promised to take a non-partisan approach to intelligence gathering. Although she did not mention her name, Mr Trump’s current Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, she has made it clear that she will take a different approach. Democrats have accused Mr. Ratcliffe of giving political direction to the information he presents to the White House and acting more like a partisan aide than a non-political official with various declassifications and publication of documents intended to help Mr. Trump.

“One of the first things I would like to do is send a clear message to the intelligence community that we are supposed to produce non-political and unvarnished intelligence to the president-elect, to his senior advisers,” Haines told the Senator Angus King. , independent from Maine. “The president himself expects this and will expect the intelligence community to provide information whether he wants to hear it or not.

She was also asked several questions about far-right groups and she pledged to help the FBI and examine attempts by foreign governments to influence extremist organizations in the United States.

Lawmakers told her about China and how much priority it would place on improving intelligence gathering and counterintelligence, but also whether it supports an aggressive stance by the Biden administration.

“China is challenging our security, our prosperity, our values ​​across a range of issues and I support an aggressive stance,” Haines said. “This is where we are now and the one that is more assertive than where we were in the Obama-Biden administration.”

Republican and Democratic senators pushed Ms. Haines on the issue. Senator Mark Warner, Democrat from Virginia, who is on the verge of becoming chairman of the intelligence committee, said he was part of an old bipartisan consensus that wrongly concluded that more Beijing was part of “the order. global ”, the more it would follow the international. standards. Now, he has expressed concern about China’s efforts to influence American policymakers, strengthen its military, dominate new technologies, steal intellectual property, and oppress its own people.

In response, Ms Haines said intelligence agencies should focus more on China. While the administration should try to work with China on issues like climate change, in the intelligence world, Beijing was not a partner.

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How Mitch McConnell gave Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s quick confirmation

WASHINGTON – Hours after Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg died last month, Senator Mitch McConnell was on the phone with President Trump, assuring him Senate Republicans would not hesitate to fill the suddenly vacant post despite the election imminent.

But he offered a word of warning to the president: “It will be the hardest fight of my life,” said McConnell, according to an aide. “We have to play this perfectly.”

There were good reasons to be careful. Mr. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican and majority leader, moved just as quickly in 2016 to prevent President Barack Obama from filling a Supreme Court seat nine months before the election, saying voters should decide who would choose next judge. Now he was proposing to brazenly reverse course and muscle through a candidate who would cement a conservative court majority amid the presidential vote and a pandemic that had reached the Senate.

This approach would set in motion the most partisan Supreme Court confirmation in modern history, a sprint that tore Senate practice apart and circumvented some obscure rules. This sparked outrage from Democrats who called the whole process illegitimate and set a tight schedule that could have been derailed by a number of unexpected events.

But on Monday night, as Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, denounced Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court as one of the “darkest days” in Senate history, Mr. McConnell was seated near the Senate. , smiling and laughing to himself knowing he was minutes away from a vote that would fulfill his highest purpose.

For Mr McConnell, Monday was a day of celebration as he achieved what he couldn’t even have imagined four years ago, when he decided to capitalize on Donald J. Trump’s presidency and his formidable power in the Senate to give a deep and lasting conservative imprint. on federal courts. Three Supreme Court justices, 53 appeals court judges and dozens of new young Tories presiding over district courts: all have been delivered under the close supervision and direction of Mr McConnell.

“I certainly didn’t expect to have three Supreme Court justices,” McConnell said in an interview on Tuesday, as he relished an achievement that he said placed him in the top row of the leaders. Senate of History. “At the risk of playing my own horn, look at the majority leaders since LBJ and find another who may have done something as important as this.

His success could come at a great cost to Republicans, perhaps with the loss of their Senate majority next Tuesday and certainly with an even more bitter Senate by the harsh partisanship and tough tactics Mr. McConnell employed to install the judge. Barrett in the field a week before the election. Depending on the results, then there could be a profound restructuring of the Senate and the court itself if Democrats take the White House and the Senate and seek to readjust a judicial system that they say has been unfairly biased towards the right.

Mr McConnell’s steadfast emphasis on installing federal judges rather than seeking a legislative compromise has won him appreciation from a Republican right-wing who has at times mistrusted him, but now credits him with the erection of a judicial firewall against liberal policies if Democrats take control of the government.

This has earned him the contempt of Democrats, who say they have sullied the Senate and the Supreme Court with his tactics.

“The majority leader, more than any other actor, turned what was once the overwhelming bipartisan confirmation of a qualified candidate – and bipartisan ratification of judicial independence – into an all-partisan exercise that destroyed the constitutional responsibility of the Senate to advise and consent and now risks destroying the credibility of the Supreme Court and lower courts as well, ”said Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado.

Mr McConnell said it was the Democrats who made the process fail. He regularly recites a practical story that traces democratic guilt for judicial wars to the rejection of Judge Robert Bork by the Senate in 1987. Perhaps more importantly, Mr. McConnell claims he cares little about what his enemies say so much. ‘he’s on the winning side.

“It is a difficult business that we are all engaged in and we expect to be criticized,” he said. “The more impact we have, the stronger the voices of the opposition. It goes with the grass.

The overhaul of the courts by Mr McConnell was the result of a strategic plan developed by a man who became obsessed with the role of the Senate in staffing the federal judiciary in his early days as a staff assistant under the Nixon administration. While he could not predict that his blockade of Mr. Obama’s 2016 candidate, Judge Merrick B. Garland, would pay political dividends, the vacant post was credited with the Conservative support needed to elect Mr. Trump in 2016.

As Mr. Trump made his way to the White House, Mr. McConnell immediately began planning with Donald F. McGahn II, the new White House lawyer, to set up a confirmation assembly line to occupy the dozens of Lower Federal Court seats which Mr. McConnell had. vacant during the last two years of the Obama presidency. Republicans have changed long-standing Senate practices to speed up their work by denying Democrats the procedural tools to block candidates.

“Obviously the president receives a tremendous amount of credit because he makes the appointments, but the value Senator McConnell brought to the project should not be underestimated,” said McGahn, who now works in the industry. private. “It is clear without him, the success of the president would not have happened.”

The judicial juggernaut appeared to peak in June, when the Senate filled the final opening of a federal circuit court, fulfilling Mr. McConnell’s goal of “leaving no vacancies behind.” But he had no intention of being caught off guard if the opportunity presented itself for the ultimate prize: a seat on the Supreme Court.

Before returning to Kentucky in August for the summer vacation, Mr McConnell met with senior advisers to plan for the possibility of a Supreme Court opening, aides said. They had no inside knowledge of Judge Ginsburg’s declining health, but Mr McConnell wanted to be ready since his colleagues would be scattered. He quickly decided that any statement should include an explicit guarantee of a vote to fill a vacant post before the end of the year.

Given what transpired with Judge Garland in 2016, such a pledge was sure to spark Democratic outrage and provoke cries of hypocrisy. But Mr McConnell called on his colleagues to urge them to reserve judgment on what should be done in the event of a vacancy.

Then, at around 7:25 p.m. on September 18, Andrew Ferguson, lead counsel for Mr McConnell and former clerk of the Supreme Court, informed the senator that he had learned from his contacts with the court that Justice Ginsburg had passed away. .

“We have to fill it out,” McConnell said immediately. His point of view was quickly conveyed to Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, who was traveling with the president. In less than two hours, Mr McConnell released a statement praising Judge Ginsburg and promising a vote to take his seat, as he had planned.

The next day, Mr McConnell launched a concerted campaign for Judge Barrett, whom he had seen since the spring as the next candidate and now considered the best candidate to get through a fast-track schedule. Despite the White House’s interest in others, such as Judge Barbara Lagoa in Florida and Judge Allison Jones Rushing in North Carolina, Mr McConnell insisted on Judge Barrett, arguing that she was a famous figure. due to its previous confirmation for the United States Court of Appeals. for the Seventh Circuit and that it was very popular in conservative legal circles. Mr McConnell has vowed to have another chance to defend Judge Barrett if the president favors another candidate.

Mr McConnell wanted a pre-election vote because he feared that the wait after the ballot – when it could potentially energize Republican voters – could also make confirmation more precarious if his party lost the Senate or the White House.

“I wanted to make sure we had enough time to adjust the average time between appointment and confirmation, so that we could deal with the argument that we were somehow outside the realm of how these appointments have. been treated in the past, ”he said.

Despite the animosity from Democrats and their allies, Mr McConnell said he did not expect the rushed confirmation to significantly influence the election. And while expressing concern about potential changes from the Democrats in retaliation – such as removing filibuster and adding court seats – he said they were being considered even before Judge Barrett was considered. .

“They no longer need provocation over what they already threatened to do,” said McConnell.

Whatever happened, his mark on the justice system was, he said, “the most important achievement of my career. I am proud of it and I feel good. “

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Video: Republicans cut off Barrett debate and hold final confirmation vote

new video loaded: Republicans cut Barrett debate, hold final confirmation vote



Republicans cut Barrett debate, hold final confirmation vote

Senate Republicans won a 51-to-48 vote to limit debate on the nomination of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, holding the final confirmation vote for Monday, eight days before the election.

“The yeas are 51, the nays are 48. The motion is carried.” “We have made an important contribution to the future of this country. Much of what we have done over the past four years will sooner or later be undone in the next election. They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time. “” The Senate is doing the right thing. We are moving this appointment forward, and colleagues, by tomorrow night we will have a new member of the Supreme Court of the United States. “Republicans are rushing to hold a confirmation vote tomorrow night, eight days, eight days before the election. And after more than 50 million Americans have voted. We’re talking about the lives and freedoms of the American people, the right to affordable health care, making their own private medical decisions, joining a union, voting unhindered, marrying whoever they love. And Judge Amy Coney Barrett will play a role in deciding whether these rights will be maintained or reduced for the next generation of Americans. So I want to be very clear with the American people about what is going on here. The Republican Senate majority America is breaking trust with you, doing the exact opposite of what it promised just four years ago to consolidate a majority in the Supreme Court that threatens your basic rights.

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Amid Democratic fury, Republicans push Barrett to the brink of confirmation

Struggles between supporters over the direction of federal courts have escalated rapidly in recent years, as Congress has stopped legislating regularly and both sides have increasingly turned to the courts to enforce their visions for the country.

But the Confirmation Wars appeared to be heading for a new bitter low on Monday. For the first time in recent memory, no member of the minority party, in this case the Democrats, was to vote for confirmation. Only one Democrat, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, supported Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh in 2018.

Democrats ideologically oppose Judge Barrett, but their opposition has little to do with the candidate herself. With more than 50 million votes already cast, Democrats have insisted the election winner should be allowed to take the seat. They accused Republicans of rank hypocrisy for rushing to fill him despite prior assurances from several senior Republicans that they would not do so if a post became vacant in an election year and despite Republicans’ insistence in 2016 so that voters have a say in who sits.

Ms Collins and Ms Murkowski, two moderates who have frequently resisted their party, shared the concerns, warning that filling the seat now will erode the legitimacy of the court and the Senate.

At 48, Judge Barrett would be the youngest judge on the bench, set to make his mark on the law for decades to come. A Chicago Court of Appeals judge and Notre Dame law professor, she has been presented as the heir to former Judge Antonin Scalia, a dominant figure in the court’s conservative wing for decades. Judge Barrett was commissioned for Judge Scalia and shares his strict judicial philosophy.

In her confirmation hearings this month, Judge Barrett repeatedly described herself as a true independent with “no agenda.” None of the parties in the Senate, however, appear to believe she will be anything more than a reliable Conservative vote based on her academic writings and court appeals rulings. If this holds true, Justice Barrett would be the ideological opposite of her predecessor, Justice Ginsburg, who was the leader of the now-diminished Liberal wing of the Court.

Democrats used this prospect to ignite their Liberal base ahead of election day. In addition to their concern over the fate of the Affordable Care Act, they spent weeks warning that Judge Barrett was going to cut or nullify abortion rights enshrined in Roe v. Wade.