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Senate confirms Merrick Garland as attorney general in strong bipartisan vote

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has confirmed Merrick Garland to be the next U.S. attorney general with a strong bipartisan vote, placing the widely-respected, veteran judge in the post as President Joe Biden has vowed to restore the Justice Department’s reputation for independence.

Democrats have praised Garland, a federal appeals court judge who was snubbed by Republicans for a seat on the Supreme Court in 2016, as a highly qualified and honorable jurist who is uniquely qualified to lead the department after a tumultuous four years under former President Donald Trump. Many Republicans praised him as well, saying he has the right record and temperament for the moment. The vote was 70-30, with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had blocked Garland from receiving consideration on the Senate floor after his nomination to the Supreme Court by President Barack Obama in early 2016, among the GOP votes to confirm.

From the archives (Sept. 18, 2020): McConnell announces after Justice Ginsburg’s death that Supreme Court opening would be filled immediately, arguing situation was different from that after Scalia death in 2016

Garland will now inherit a Justice Department embattled by a turbulent era under Trump, who insisted that the attorney general must be loyal to him personally, a position that battered the department’s reputation. In the last month of Trump’s presidency, Attorney General William Barr resigned after refuting Trump’s false claims that widespread electoral fraud had led to his defeat.

Trump’s pressure on officials, including on Barr and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions over the department’s probe into his campaign’s ties to Russia, prompted abundant criticism from Democrats over what they saw as the politicizing of the nation’s top law-enforcement agencies.

MarketWatch contributed.

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