Merrick Garland Faces Resurgent Peril After Years Fighting Extremism

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Judge Garland and his wife of 33 years, Lynn Garland, live in the Washington suburb of Bethesda, Md. His financial disclosure forms from 2020 list assets of $8.6 million to $32.9 million, including trust funds established by Ms. Garland’s parents. He maintains a wide collection of friends, is a familiar presence at Washington dinners and parties, and dotes on his former clerks.

One former clerk, Karen Dunn, now a lawyer in Washington, recalls how the Garlands descended unexpectedly on her with a fully prepared dinner when she came home from the hospital after the birth of her first child. “They brought food, sat down and ate it with us, cleaned everything up and then left,” Ms. Dunn recalled.

Judge Garland is now awaiting Senate confirmation, likely not his favorite combination of words, given the history. But his nomination is not expected to face serious opposition. Several Republican senators made a point at the time of saying their blockade of Judge Garland’s Supreme Court nomination in 2016 was “not personal,” for whatever that is worth. (Not much, per friends.)

On Friday, a large and bipartisan group of former Justice Department officials and former federal judges sent two letters to Senate leaders urging Judge Garland’s swift confirmation. Among them were four former attorneys general: Alberto R. Gonzales and Michael B. Mukasey, who served in the George W. Bush administration, and Eric H. Holder Jr. and Loretta Lynch, who served in the Obama administration. The group also included Ken Starr, the independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation.

At the very least, friends said, becoming attorney general would free Judge Garland from the reputational purgatory of being defined by his Supreme Court ordeal. “It’s interesting how fate works out sometimes,” said J. Gilmore Childers, a Justice Department lawyer and colleague in Oklahoma City. “Merrick Garland might be the perfect person to do this job, at this particular moment.”

Whatever his qualifications, no one disputes that the moment is daunting. In a statement last week, Mr. Biden said that despite the Senate acquittal, the substance of the House impeachment charge against Mr. Trump — incitement of insurrection — “is not in dispute,” leading reporters to ask the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, whether Mr. Biden supported a criminal prosecution of his predecessor.

Ms. Psaki referred the question to the next attorney general.

“That will be up to the Department of Justice to determine,” she said.

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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