Douglas Andrews / Feb. 23, 2021

Merrick Garland Gets a Grilling

The former Supreme Court nominee has strong views on certain kinds of domestic extremism, but says he hasn’t thought about much else.

It’s a consolation prize, and we get the feeling Merrick Garland knows it.

Joe Biden’s 68-year-old attorney general nominee was, just five years ago, nominated by Barack Obama to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court — an appointment that would’ve swung the High Court’s then-delicate 5-4 balance from right to left. Thankfully, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had other ideas. He refused to hold hearings for Garland prior to the 2016 presidential election, and his bold gamble paid off: Donald Trump won the election and ultimately tabbed Neil Gorsuch to replace Scalia.

Because of this, and because at 68 his chances of ever being appointed to the Supreme Court have all but vanished, we can understand if the man feels some bitterness toward McConnell and his fellow Republicans. And this might help explain Judge Garland’s apparent zeal when he responded to a question about the January 6 Capitol riot. As The Wall Street Journal reports, Garland “promised to combat the threat of domestic extremism, saying that a sprawling federal investigation … would be his first priority if confirmed for the job.”

“‘I think this was the most heinous attack on the democratic processes that I’ve ever seen, and one that I never expected to see in my lifetime,’ Judge Garland told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. He added that the current investigation into the riot by former President Donald Trump’s supporters — which has led to around 250 people facing criminal charges to date — appeared to be ‘extremely aggressive and perfectly appropriate.’”

Setting aside the strong likelihood of a rigged investigation, we wonder: When was the last time an attorney general nominee — or any sitting judge, for that matter — used the terms “extremely aggressive” and “perfectly appropriate” in the same sentence?

Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley tried to drill down into Garland’s definition of domestic extremism. “Let me ask you about assaults on federal property in places other than Washington, DC — Portland, for instance, Seattle. Do you regard assaults on federal courthouses or other federal property as acts of domestic extremism, domestic terrorism?”

Credit to Matt Margolis at PJ Media for capturing the, uh, nuance in Garland’s response: “An attack on a courthouse while in operation — trying to prevent judges from actually deciding cases — that plainly is domestic uh uh um um uh uh extremism uh uh um um uh uh um domestic terrorism. An attack simply on government property at night, or under any other kind of circumstances, is a clear crime and a serious one, and should be punished.”

Then came the equivocation: “I don’t mean — I don’t know enough of the facts of the example you were talking about, but that’s where I draw the line. One is, uh, both are criminal, um uh uh, but one is, uh, a core attack on our democratic institutions.”

So when a 60-year-old Trump supporter with no priors puts his foot on a desk in Nancy Pelosi’s office as a tit-for-tat show of disrespect for her having torn up President Trump’s State of the Union speech, let’s deny him bail and hold him in a federal prison 1,000 miles from home. But when antifa thugs try to burn down a federal courthouse in Portland, well, that’s not “a core attack on our democratic institutions.”

Got it.

“It is disturbing,” writes Miranda Devine in the New York Post, “that Garland is embracing the rancid lie that the Capitol riot was racially motivated, an uprising by white supremacists’ which rivaled the Islamist terror attack of 9/11 in which 3,000 people were slaughtered. This is Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s narrative, which she has driven with escalating hyperbole until it no longer resembles anything that happened on January 6.”

Too bad Ms. Devine wasn’t able to question Judge Garland. Maybe she’d have grilled him about our two-tier justice system — one for the Left and one for the Right. Maybe she’d have asked him why almost everyone arrested for their role in the January 6 riot remains in jail — even nonviolent offenders, even those without criminal records, even those with stable jobs, even retirees and mother-son duos.

Everyone. Still in jail. More than six weeks after the riot. Everyone, that is, except an anti-Trump leftist named John Sullivan, “who prosecutors say encouraged the violence that day” yet who “was rewarded with $75,000 by CNN and NBC for his video footage.”

There were plenty of other uncomfortable moments for Judge Garland yesterday; plenty of moments like the one where Hawley asked him about whether illegal border crossings should remain, well, illegal. “I haven’t thought about that question. I just haven’t thought about that question,” Garland said. “The president has made clear that we are a nation with borders, with national security. I don’t know of a proposal to decriminalize but still make it unlawful to answer. I just haven’t thought about it.”

Garland also dodged questions about John Durham’s probe, the Hunter Biden probe, and whether biological males should be allowed to compete against our daughters in sports — among many other things.

Unfortunately for us, there are a lot of important things that Merrick Garland just hasn’t thought about.

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