President-elect Joe Biden has selected Merrick Garland, a federal appeals court judge who in 2016 was snubbed by Republicans for a seat on the Supreme Court, as his attorney general, sources said.
Mr Biden has turned to an experienced judge who held senior positions at the Justice Department decades ago, including as a supervisor of the prosecution of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
The pick will force Senate Republicans to contend with the nomination of someone they spurned in 2016 — refusing even to hold hearings when a Supreme Court vacancy arose — but Mr Biden may be banking on Mr Garland’s credentials and reputation for moderation to ensure confirmation.
Mr Biden is expected to announce Mr Garland’s appointment on Thursday, along with other senior leaders of the department, including former homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general and former Justice Department civil rights chief Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general.
He will also name an assistant attorney general for civil rights, Kristen Clarke, the founder of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an advocacy group.
Mr Garland was selected over other finalists including Alabama Senator Doug Jones and former deputy attorney general Sally Yates.
Sources said Mr Biden regards Mr Garland as an attorney general who can restore integrity to the Justice Department and as someone who, having served in the Justice Department under presidents of both political parties, will be respected by non-partisan career staff.
If confirmed, Mr Garland would confront immediate challenges, including an ongoing criminal tax investigation into Mr Biden’s son, Hunter, as well as calls from many Democrats to pursue inquiries into Mr Trump after he leaves office.
A special counsel investigation into the origins of the Russia probe also remains open, forcing a new attorney general to decide how to handle it and what to make public.
Mr Garland would also inherit a Justice Department that has endured a tumultuous four years and would likely need to focus on not only civil rights issues and an overhaul of national policing policies after months of mass protests over the deaths of Black Americans at the hand of law enforcement.