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Garland says politics won't influence DOJ probes

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President Joe Biden's attorney general nominee, Merrick Garland, vowed on Monday to protect the integrity of the Justice Department from partisan influence, in an effort to restore confidence after President Donald Trump repeatedly sought to bend the department to his will. Lisa Bernhard produced this report.

Video Transcript

MERRICK GARLAND: To dispense the law fairly and impartially without respect to persons and without respect to political parties--

LISA BERNHARD: Merrick Garland, President Joe Biden's Attorney General nominee, vowed on Monday to protect the integrity of the Justice Department from partisan influence in an effort to restore confidence after President Donald Trump repeatedly sought to bend the Department to his will, a point made by Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin, a Democrat, during Garland's confirmation hearing.

DICK DURBIN: After four tumultuous years of intrigue, controversy, and brute political force, the future of the Department is clearly in the hands of the next Attorney General. Under Attorney General Sessions and his successor, Bill Barr, the Justice Department literally became an arm of the White House.

LISA BERNHARD: Trump for years attacked Justice Department investigations of his 2016 campaign and Russian election interference as a "witch hunt" or a "hoax." Garland, if confirmed, will inherit an investigation into the origin of those probes, and also one into Biden's son, Hunter.

- So have you discussed this Hunter Biden case with the president or anyone else?

MERRICK GARLAND: I have not. The president made abundantly clear in every public statement before and after my nomination that decisions about investigations and prosecutions will be left to the Justice Department.

LISA BERNHARD: Garland also vowed to make the investigation of the January 6 riots at the US Capitol a top priority, saying he feared the attack was "not necessarily a one-off." Garland has experience in tackling such threats, having managed the sprawling investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing by anti-government extremists and supervising the prosecution of the so-called "Unabomber," Theodore Kaczynski, after a deadly bombing spree.

Garland was President Barack Obama's pick to be a Supreme Court justice in 2016, but was famously denied the chance after Republican Mitch McConnell refused to hold a Senate confirmation hearing for him. At his confirmation hearing for Attorney General on Monday, Garland also said he intends to prioritize enforcing civil rights laws and became emotional when speaking about his own family's history confronting hate and discrimination.

MERRICK GARLAND: So, you know, I come from a family where my grandparents fled anti-Semitism and persecution. A 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.

LISA BERNHARD: A federal appellate judge and former prosecutor, Garland is widely expected to be confirmed as the nation's top US law enforcement official.