Press Releases

Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today questioned Judge Merrick Garland during his Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing to be the Attorney General.

The full transcript of their exchange follows:

Senator Feinstein: “Throughout your career, you have been praised by people on both sides of the aisle. When you were nominated to the Supreme Court, President Obama said you were ‘Someone who would bring a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness and excellence.’ Similarly, Senator Orrin Hatch called you ‘a fine man’ who would be a ‘moderate choice’ for the court. Even Carrie Severino of the conservative Judicial Crisis Network once called you ‘the best scenario we could hope for to bring the tension and politics in the city down a notch.’ At a time when America feels more polarized than ever before, this sort of bipartisanship is truly rare. So I ask this question: Can all Americans, regardless of their political affiliation, count on you to faithfully and fairly enforce our laws?”

Judge Garland: “Yes, senator, that is my personality. That is everything I’ve done in my career and that is my vision for the Justice Department. To dispense the law, fairly and impartially, without respect to persons or political parties.”

Senator Feinstein: “Thank you for that statement. On January 6, a group of white supremacists launched a terrorist attack on our capitol in an attempt to overturn the results of a democratic election. Their attempt failed and resulted in at least five fatalities including a Capitol Police officer. It also led federal prosecutors to file over 180 charges and initiate 25 domestic terrorism cases. So this is not the first time the Justice Department has been forced to investigate and prosecute white supremacists for an act of terrorism. You received high praise for investigating and supervising the prosecution of the Oklahoma City bombing perpetrators in 1995. So here’s the question: What steps will you take to ensure the perpetrators of the attack on our capitol are brought to justice?”

Judge Garland: “Senator, 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. One of the very first things I will do is get a briefing on the progress of this investigation. I intend to give the career prosecutors who are working on this matter 24/7, all the resources they could possibly require to do this. And at the same time, I intend to make sure that we look more broadly, to look at where this is coming from, what other groups there might be that could raise the same problem in the future. And that we protect the American people. And I know the FBI director has made the same commitment.”

Senator Feinstein: “Thank you for that answer. Over the last four years, the independence of the attorney general has been repeatedly attacked. For example, President Trump once told the New York Times, ‘I have the absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department.’ Do you believe that in fact the president does have the absolute right to do what he wants with the Justice Department?”

Judge Garland: “The president is constrained by the Constitution, as are all government officials. The issue here is for us are the set of norms and standards to which this president, President Biden, has agreed. That he will not interfere with the Justice Department with respect to its prosecutions and investigations. Those decisions will be made by the department itself and led by the attorney general. And that they will without respect to partisanship, without respect to the power of the perpetrator or lack of power, without respect to the influence of the perpetrator or the lack of influence. In all those respects, the department will be independent. The department is a part of the executive branch and for that reason on policy matters, we follow the lead of the president of the administration as long as it’s consistent with the law. And the role of the department is to advise the president and the administration and the other agencies about what is consistent with the law. That is our obligation and we will do so objectively based only on our reading of the law.”

Senator Feinstein: “Well thank you for that. I think you’ve laid it out clearly and directly and it’s very much appreciated. If the president’s interests and the public’s interests are in conflict, which interest does the attorney general represent?”

Judge Garland: “The attorney general represents the public interest. Particularly and specifically as defined by the Constitution and the statutes of the United States.”

Senator Feinstein: “Do you believe the president has the authority to order the attorney general to open or close an investigation or prosecution.”

Judge Garland: “This is a hard question of constitutional law, but I don’t expect it to be a question for me. As I just said to you, the president has promised that those decisions will only be made by the attorney general and that is what I plan to do. I don’t plan to be interfered with by anyone. I expect the Justice Department will make its own decisions in this regard.”