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Garland tells senators his first priority will be prosecuting Capitol insurrection

uschools/iStockBy ALEXANDER MALLIN and LUKE BARR, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden’s nominee for attorney general, Merrick Garland, at his confirmation hearing Monday, told senators his first briefing once he takes office at the Justice Department will be on the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Garland, currently a federal appeals court judge who worked previously in the Clinton Justice Department overseeing the prosecution of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in the 1990s, said the threat from domestic terrorism is even greater now.

“It looks like an extremely aggressive and perfectly appropriate beginning to an investigation, all across the country in the same way our original Oklahoma City investigation was. Many times more,” Garland told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I certainly agree that we are facing a more dangerous period than we faced in Oklahoma City at the end at that time.”

He called the attack on the Capitol the most “heinous attack on a democratic process” that he’s ever seen and said that he will pursue all leads in the investigation.

“We begin with the people on the ground and we work our way up to those who are involved and further involved and we will pursue these leads, wherever they take us,” he said.

Besides overseeing the prosecution into the Oklahoma City bombing, Garland later played a key role in prosecuting domestic terror cases involving Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and the bombing at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

When asked by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa about the investigation into President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden, Garland says he hasn’t discussed it with the resident.

“The president made abundantly clear in every public statement before and after my nomination that decisions about investigations and prosecutions will be left at the Justice Department,” Garland told Grassley.

Hunter Biden, the president’s son, announced in December that federal prosecutors in Delaware are investigating his “tax affairs.”

Garland also was asked about the Trump administration policy on family separation at the southern border.

“I think that the policy was shameful,” he said. “I can’t imagine anything worse than separating parents from their children.”

Asked whether he will let special counsel John Durham finish his investigation into the origins of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Garland said he knows of no reason to think Durham should be removed.

Durham was named special counsel in the waning days of former Attorney General William Barr’s tenure.

“I don’t have any information about the investigation. As I sit here today and another one of the very first things I’m going to have to do to speak with Mister Durham and speak about how his investigation is going. I understand he has been permitted to remain in his position, and sitting here today, I have no reason to think that that was not the correct decision,” Garland said. “I don’t have any reason to think that he should not remain in place.”

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