Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday indicated he would back Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination for attorney general.
McConnell told Politico on Tuesday afternoon that he plans to support Garland’s nomination. He did not elaborate on his decision to back the nominee, the media outlet reported.
McConnell’s office did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ request to comment about his support for Garland’s nomination.
This comes after the judge was grilled by lawmakers from the Senate Judiciary Committee during the first day of his two-day confirmation hearing this week. Outside witnesses were invited to testify about Garland for the second day of the hearing.
The vote for Garland’s nomination is scheduled to take place on March 1.
McConnell is the latest senior Republican member to express support for Garland’s nomination. Republicans in 2016 blocked Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia 11 months before the election.
McConnell famously declined to hold hearings for Garland, setting a precedent. The Republican leader drew outrage in 2019 when he appeared to soften his stance, saying that he would fill the vacancy if one came up. Democrats quickly accused him of being hypocritical, but, a spokesperson for McConnell said at the time the Kentucky senator was consistent with his 2016 comments because he had said that vacancies that occur when the White House and Senate are held by different parties should not be acted upon.
He again garnered scrutiny when Republicans pushed ahead with Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 2020 despite intense opposition by Democrats.
In his testimony presented on Monday, Garland pledged to serve the rule of law and ensure equal justice under the law, according to his prepared remarks. He also vowed to oversee the prosecution of protesters who breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Senators on the Judiciary Committee questioned Garland over a range of topics including illegal border crossings, gun control, special counsel John Durham, and domestic terrorism.
In his exchange with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Garland gave an evasive answer about whether illegal border crossings should continue be treated as a crime.
Garland replied that he had not “thought about that question.”
“I think the president has made clear that we are a country with borders and with a concern about national security,” Garland continued, adding that he is not aware of any proposal “to decriminalize but still make it unlawful to enter.”
“I just don’t know the answer to that question, I haven’t thought about it,” Garland said.
He also told Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah.) that the Justice Department would align its policies on gun restrictions with the White House’s push to control the ownership of firearms.
“The president is a strong supporter of gun control and has been an advocate all his professional life on this question,” Garland told Lee.
“The role of the Justice Department is to advance the policy program of the administration as long as it is consistent with the law,” Garland continued. “Where there is room under the law for the president’s policies to be pursued, I think the president is entitled to pursue them.”
He also attempted to distinguish between the left-extremist attacks on federal property in Portland, Oregon, and the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol. He indicated that he may not think those violent riots, which caused significant property damage, injuries, and deaths over the summer, are included in the definition of “domestic terrorism.”
“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?” Hawley asked Garland.
Garland responded, “Well, Senator, my own definition, which is about the same as the statutory definition, is the use of violence or threats of violence in attempt to disrupt the democratic processes. So an attack on a courthouse, while in operation, trying to prevent judges from actually deciding cases, that plainly is domestic extremism, domestic terrorism.”
“An attack simply on a government property at night, or any other kind of circumstances, is a clear crime and a serious one, and should be punished. I don’t know enough about the facts of the example you’re talking about. But that’s where I draw the line. One is—both are criminal, but one is a core attack on our democratic institutions,” he said.
Former Attorney General William Barr has repeatedly condemned the violent attacks against the federal courthouse in Portland.
“Shielded by the crowds, which make it difficult for law enforcement to detect or reach them, violent opportunists in Portland have attacked the courthouse and federal officers with explosives, lasers, projectiles, and other dangerous devices. In some cases, purported ‘journalists’ or ‘legal observers’ have provided cover for the violent offenders; in others, individuals wearing supposed press badges have themselves attacked law enforcement or trespassed on federal property. More than 200 federal officers have been injured in Portland alone,” he said last year.
In May 2020, Barr characterized the “violence instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting” as domestic terrorism.