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Merrick Garland confirmed as U.S. Attorney General

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On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Judge Merrick Garland to the role of U.S. attorney general.

President Joe Biden‘s nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) received overwhelming bipartisan support, with the Senate voting 70-30 in favor of confirming Garland, a federal appeals court judge.

RELATED: Merrick Garland dodges questions over allowing for completion of Durham probe

Previously, Garland was put forward by then-President Barack Obama as a moderate nominee to fill the U.S. Supreme Court seat left vacant after conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died in early 2016. However, Senate Republicans led by then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) controversially blocked hearings on his nomination, arguing that no appointments should be made to the Supreme Court during a presidential election year.

“After Donald Trump spent four years—four long years—subverting the powers of the Justice Department for his own political benefit, treating the attorney general like his own personal defense lawyer, America can breathe a sigh of relief that we’re going to have someone like Merrick Garland leading the Justice Department,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) before the vote, per the Associated Press. “Someone with integrity, independence, respect for the rule of law and credibility on both sides of the aisle.”

Even Minority Leader McConnell—despite blocking Garland’s 2016 nomination—said he was voting to confirm the judge due to “his long reputation as a straight shooter and a legal expert” and that his “left-of-center perspective” was still within the legal mainstream, per the AP.

“Let’s hope our incoming attorney general applies that no-nonsense approach to the serious challenges facing the Department of Justice and our nation,” the Kentucky Republican added.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Is the FBI ‘purging’ agents with Conservative views?

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On Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan formally requested that the Justice Department’s Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, open an investigation into the FBI’s alleged use of political litmus tests to sideline or remove agents and employees with conservative viewpoints. This request also included a direct warning to FBI Director Christopher Wray about these practices.

Jordan’s action follows a report by Just the News detailing how an FBI security clearance review involved inquiries about an employee’s political beliefs. Specifically, the review asked whether the employee had expressed support for former President Donald Trump, attended a Second Amendment rally, or voiced skepticism about COVID-19 vaccines.

In a letter to Director Wray, Jordan expressed wrote, “The FBI appears to be purging itself of employees who do not share its preferred political views.” He emphasized the troubling nature of these practices, especially when they impinge on fundamental liberties and constitutional rights.

Speaking on the “John Solomon Reports” podcast, Jordan highlighted the severity of the situation: “Particularly when they’re asking about fundamental liberties, your constitutional rights, I mean, that is that is frightening stuff.” He further noted the retaliatory actions taken against whistleblowers who bring such issues to light, adding, “You put all that together, and you talk about politics driving what happens there.”

Jordan’s inquiry into the political weaponization of law enforcement has been ongoing, with a particular focus on the FBI’s conduct. In his communication with Inspector General Horowitz, Jordan underscored that the targeting of an employee’s political beliefs and First Amendment activities was deeply concerning and seemingly unrelated to legitimate security risk assessments. “These actions only serve to further erode the dwindling public trust in the FBI and reinforce the Committee and Select Subcommittee’s concerns about political bias within the FBI,” he wrote.

Jordan also referenced evidence uncovered by Judicial Watch, which suggested political retaliation against FBI whistleblowers aiding Congress. He pointed out that an FBI official allegedly disclosed nonpublic information about these whistleblowers to a Democrat member of the Select Subcommittee, ostensibly to discredit their testimonies about FBI misconduct. “It appears from the documents that the FBI sought to selectively disclose this nonpublic information so that it would be used to impugn the credibility of the whistleblowers,” Jordan stated.

In his separate letter to Wray, Jordan questioned the relevance of political viewpoints to security clearance determinations. He argued that while assessing the legality of employees’ actions is legitimate, questions about political beliefs are “completely irrelevant to any legitimate security risk determination” and infringe upon First Amendment rights.

Following the release of internal FBI memos showing that bureau officials had inquired about an employee’s support for Trump, stance on COVID-19 vaccines, and participation in a Second Amendment rally, concerns about political bias have intensified. These memos indicated that the employee’s security clearance was revoked months after confirming his conservative views and vaccine skepticism.

Tristan Leavitt, the lawyer representing the affected FBI employee, commended the congressional oversight, stating, “It’s good to see Congress holding the FBI’s feet to the fire.” He emphasized the need for a thorough investigation into how these questions were used to justify purging conservative employees from the FBI.

 Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton echoed this sentiment on the “Just the News, No Noise” TV show, predicting that the FBI would attempt to deflect criticism despite clear evidence of misconduct. “I’m sure we’ll get some distraction and noise from Chris Wray and a reaffirmation that the FBI never does anything wrong, even when it’s caught red-handed,” Fitton remarked.

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