Garland gets emotional at hearing, chokes up talking about his family and anti-Semitism

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Attorney general nominee Judge Merrick Garland became emotional at his confirmation hearing on Monday when asked about the motivation behind his desire to tackle “hate and discrimination” as the nation’s top law enforcement officer. 

“My grandparents fled anti-Semitism and persecution. The country took us in and protected us,” Garland said, visibly emotional. “And I feel an obligation to the country to pay back and this is the highest best use of my own set of skills to pay back.”

He added: “And so I want very much want to be the kind of attorney general that you’re saying I could become. I’ll do my best to be that kind of attorney general.”

Judge Merrick Garland, President Joe Biden’s pick to be attorney general, arrives on Capitol Hill for his confirmation hearing, in Washington, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Garland said in his opening statement that the mission to uphold all Americans’ civil rights “remains urgent because we do not yet have equal justice. Communities of color and other minorities still face discrimination in housing, education, employment, and the criminal justice system; and bear the brunt of the harm caused by pandemic, pollution, and climate change.” 

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., asked Garland about “your motivation …  in confronting hate and discrimination in American history,” which elicited Garland’s emotional response about his family. 


Garland, who was nominated to be the attorney general by President Biden after his nomination to the Supreme Court by former President Barack Obama was blocked in 2016, made the comment just before the lunch break of his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Monday. 

The hearing had been relatively tame compared to other hearings for similarly high-profile positions under former President Donald Trump. Garland’s reputation as a highly-respected federal judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals led many Republicans to indicate they will vote to confirm him even if they asked him some tough questions. 

“I think you’re a very good pick for this job,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in between grilling Garland on Section 230, the Southern border, rioters in Portland, the Horowitz report on alleged misconduct during the Crossfire Hurricane investigation and more. 


Garland was also asked about the federal investigation into Hunter Biden, whether he considers himself a “wingman” of Biden as former Attorney General Eric Holder said of the relationship between himself and Obama (Garland said he does not) and much more.

The hearing Monday is expected to continue into the evening. A second day is scheduled for Tuesday, though that will likely only have outside testimony and not involve Garland himself. 

Later this week there will also be hearings on Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., to be the secretary of the Interior; California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be the secretary of Health and Human Services; and William Joseph Burns to be the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

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