Tag Archives: Merrick Garland

Garland: an impressive presence

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Surely I am not the only red-blooded American patriot who watched U.S. Attorney General-designate Merrick Garland’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee to have this thought.

It was that he would make a terrific U.S. Supreme Court justice.

Oh, but wait … he could’ve gotten there had the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate not blocked his confirmation in 2016 after President Barack Obama nominated him to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Oh well. Garland will make a stellar AG by employing the same temperament that would have served him well as a SCOTUS justice.

AG pick vows to take aim at domestic terror

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

America’s greatest enemy well might live, work and play within our own borders.

That potential enemy is going to be the No. 1 focus of the man picked to be the next attorney general. Merrick Garland, a federal judge selected by President Biden to lead the Justice Department, today vowed to battle domestic terrorists wherever they seek to do their evil deeds.

He also vowed to pursue those on extreme left as well as on the extreme right. More to the point, Garland told the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that he considers the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill by the riotous mob be the most heinous attack on our government in our nation’s history.

The Wall Street Journal reported: “I think this was the most heinous attack on the democratic processes that I’ve ever seen, and one that I never expected to see in my lifetime,” Judge Garland told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. He added that the current investigation into the riot—which has led to around 250 people facing criminal charges to date—appeared to be “extremely aggressive and perfectly appropriate.”

Merrick Garland Puts Focus on Domestic Extremism (msn.com)

Garland spoke to the Judiciary panel; he is likely to be approved strongly by the committee and confirmed with a significant bipartisan vote by the full Senate. Then he can get to work.

Indeed, there must be plenty of work done. The nation witnessed a horrific attack on our democratic system of government on Jan. 6. The House of Representatives impeached Donald Trump just as he was preparing to leave office a week after the attack. He incited the insurrection, but a Senate trial ended with his acquittal when senators fell 10 votes short of convicting him.

The probe must go on. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has declared the need for a bipartisan investigation into the events leading up to the attack. Now we hear from the presumptive attorney general, declaring that he considers domestic terrorism to be his top priority. That, too, is welcome news.

What’s more — and this is critical — Garland told senators that he won’t be cowed by political pressure from anyone, including the president.

“I do not plan to be interfered with by anyone. I expect the Justice Department will make its own decisions in this regard,” Judge Garland said. “I would not have taken this job if I thought that politics would have any influence over prosecutions and investigations,” he said.

William Barr made a similar pledge as well, but it didn’t turn out that way while he ran the DOJ. Merrick Garland’s reputation commends him for the task he has been asked to undertake.

Rest assured, there will be plenty of American who are watching to ensure he makes good on his pledge to pursue the truth behind the heinous attack on Capitol Hill.

Confirm a new AG, now!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Hey, this message goes to U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Durbin.

We have a distinguished legal genius waiting to be confirmed as U.S. attorney general. Merrick Garland got the nod from President Biden to lead the Justice Department. The former chairman of the Judiciary panel, Republican Lindsey Graham, decided — no surprise there! — to drag his feet on a confirmation hearing.

Well, Graham has surrendered the gavel to the Democrat Durbin.

We’ve got some judicial/legal matters that need a full DOJ complement of officials on board. That begins with the attorney general.

The hate crimes being committed against Asian-Americans comes to mind right away. Donald Trump seemed to take great glee in referring to the pandemic as the “China virus” and called it the “kung flu.” One consequence of that has been a rash of crimes committed against Asian-Americans.

Garland vows to take aim at hate crimes of all types.

He needs to be installed as attorney general. This man, nominated by former President Obama to the Supreme Court after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in early 2016, was denied a hearing by the Senate; so he went back to work as a judge on the D.C. circuit court.

Now he’s agreed to become attorney general. The task now rests with the Senate to confirm him.

Get busy, Chairman Durbin.

Content of character: does it still count?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Make no mistake that I likely would feel differently were I of African-American or Latino or Asian descent. I am none of those.

Having laid that predicate down, I want to engage in the discussion over who President-elect Biden should select as the nation’s next attorney general.

I practically jumped out of my shoes the other day when I heard an African-American commentator, Jonathan Capehart, say out loud that the three individuals Biden is believed to be considering as AG are too white for his taste. Capehart wants more “diversity” among the finalists.

Hmm. Let’s examine this briefly. The three people Biden reportedly is pondering are U.S. District Judge Merrick Garland, former deputy U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates and U.S. Sen. Doug Jones. They all possess exemplary legal credentials. They also all have committed through their careers to advancing the cause of civil rights.

Their only “shortcoming” is that they aren’t people of color.

President-elect Biden has kept his pledge to nominate executive branch team members who reflect the nation. Has loaded the Cabinet with and top-level staffers with African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, women; my goodness, he even has selected an openly gay man to serve in the Cabinet.

President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, only to have his nomination blocked in 2016 by Senate Republicans who wanted to wait for the presidential election outcome that year. Garland has been a champion for minority rights, for gay rights and has staked out a center-left course while serving on the federal bench.

Sally Yates has demonstrated her own commitment to fair and impartial justice as a deputy AG, striving to be sensitive to minority Americans’ concerns over whether the justice system was loaded against them.

Doug Jones, who lost his bid for re-election to the Senate from Alabama in 2020, served as a federal prosecutor and obtained the conviction of the Klansmen who blew up the Birmingham, Ala., church in 1963 that killed four precious African-American girls; it was one of the most notorious hate crimes of the 20th century. He, too, has earned his spurs in fighting for minority rights.

Is it essential that the next AG be a person of color? No. It isn’t. It is essential that the next attorney general refrain from engaging in partisan politics and administer justice dispassionately and in accordance with the law.

I want to remind everyone of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that day in 1963. He spoke of his “dream” that one day black Americans can be judged by “content of their character” rather than “the color of their skin.”

Shouldn’t that noble goal apply to any American?

Merrick Garland haunts this hearing

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Merrick Garland is very much alive and well but his “ghost” floated throughout the hearing room today as a congressional hearing commenced on an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee welcomed another federal judge, Amy Coney Barrett, as she began her confirmation hearing to the U.S. Supreme Court. She would take the seat occupied by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September.

Garland’s role in this drama? Well, he once got nominated to the high court by President Barack Obama. Another justice, Antonin Scalia, died in February 2016 while on vacation in Texas. President Obama wanted to nominate a successor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wasted no time in declaring his intention to block that effort. Why? Because the voters had a right to be heard before a SCOTUS nomination would be considered by the Senate.

We had a presidential election in 2016. Obama couldn’t run again. It turned out that Donald Trump would win the election. So, Trump got to select someone to succeed Scalia; he chose Neil Gorsuch.

The hypocrisy between then and now is stunning in its scope.

We were 10 months away from the previous election when a vacancy occurred. Now, we’re just 22 days before the next election. Don’t Americans have a right to have their voices heard before the Senate considers a nominee to succeed Ginsburg? Of course we do.

Except that Republicans who at the moment hold the majority of Senate seats are pushing full speed with the Barrett hearing.

Most astonishing of all is the comment that Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham made in 2018. He said then that if an opening occurs during Donald Trump’s term as president and the “primary season has begun,” the Senate should hold off until after the election before considering a possible replacement.

Graham said we could hold his words against him. Fine. Many of us are doing that, Mr. Chairman.

Amy Coney Barrett wouldn’t be my choice to join the court. I much prefer a jurist in the Merrick Garland mold: moderate, center-left in philosophical judicial outlook. Garland, though, never got the courtesy of a hearing, let alone a Senate vote, that appears to be in store for Judge Barrett.

It’s all because the Senate GOP majority played politics with the judicial nomination process in 2016 … and is doing so once again right now.


How to fill a SCOTUS post

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

OK, how might the unfolding drama surrounding the selection of a Supreme Court justice play out?

I want to offer something of a best-case scenario for you to ponder. Ready? Here goes …

Congress stymies Donald Trump’s nominee, which he is going to announce in the next day or two or three. Democrats could pull off some political hocus-pocus to prevent the Senate from voting on a nominee prior to the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Then we elect Joe Biden president of the United States. The president-elect demands that the nominee withdraw. We go back to Square One.

Meanwhile, Democrats take control of the next Senate, possibly ousting the leading obstructionist in that body, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Mitch is out. Still following me? Good!

Then we swear in President Biden, who then gets to make a selection to succeed the legendary Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the high court. Is he obligated to select a woman? No. He hasn’t committed to anything in that regard. I mean, he did select a woman as vice president.

So, why not roll the dice and ask a highly regarded federal judge who once got tapped by President Obama. Yep, I refer to Merrick Garland, whom the Senate GOP stiffed when they refused to grant Obama’s selection a hearing, let alone an up/down vote to join the court after Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016.

I might be willing to bet real American money that Judge Garland would be up for a hearing before a Senate controlled by Democrats.

Is any of this likely? I have no idea. First things first: Democrats need to find a way to prevent Trump and McConnell from shoving the pending nominee down our throats and pushing the court so far to the right that it is in danger of destroying health care legislation, women’s reproductive rights and a host of other protections that prior courts have ruled to be constitutional.

A new president deserves the opportunity to make this call. Not one who well might get defeated, and certainly not a Senate that well could see control shift from one party to the other.

I am hopeful.

Politics intersects with principle

I hate it when this happens, when principle runs headlong into partisan political interests … such as when presidents might be handed an opportunity to make a key appointment.

I refer to the U.S. Supreme Court and to Donald J. Trump.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly in early 2016, creating a vacancy on the high court. President Obama, serving his final full year in office, then nominated Merrick Garland to succeed the brilliant conservative jurist. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed the brakes on that effort, saying that the Senate wouldn’t confirm an appointment from a lame-duck president in an election year.

Many of us — including me — raised holy hell. We argued that presidential prerogative allowed Obama to make that appointment. We argued on the principle that the Constitution granted him the authority to act. I also argued that McConnell was playing a shameful game of politics with this principle. The 2016 election occurred, Trump got elected, Garland’s nomination was tossed aside.

Here we are, four years later. Another Supreme Court justice, liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, revealed recently she is battling liver cancer. I now am asking myself: What happens if she can no longer serve on the court? Does Donald Trump deserve the same sort of presidential deference many of us in the peanut gallery said was due Barack Obama?

With gritted teeth and a tight jaw, I have to say: yes, he does.

Let me be crystal clear. I do not want Justice Ginsburg to leave the court until well after the November election. There’s a decent chance at this moment that Trump is going to lose to Democratic nominee Joe Biden. It is my fondest political hope that Justice Ginsburg can continue to serve on the court, can continue to write opinions and can be a full partner in the court’s deliberations. It also is my hope that should she decide to retire from the court that she can wait until after President Biden takes his oath of office in January and then is free to nominate someone of his choice.

However, if fate takes the court in another direction, I will be saddened beyond measure at what is likely to transpire as Trump wages war against those in the Senate who will fight to stall any confirmation process until after the voters have their say at the ballot box.

Yes, occasionally politics can be based on high principle. I fear that politics and principle might be pointed in opposite directions in this most volatile election year.

McConnell exhibits stunning lack of self-awareness

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Of all the statements, assertions, pronouncements and declarations I keep hearing while we watch this impeachment drama unfold, I keep circling back to what keeps coming out of the mouth of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Kentucky Republican keeps hurling “partisan political” accusations at his Democratic colleagues in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. When I hear him accuse House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of acting as a purely partisan politician, I find myself thinking: Dude, do you not remember your own political history? 

Of course he does!

I harken back to the Mother of All Partisan Acts when in early 2016 he declared that President Obama would not be able to select someone to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly that year; Obama sought to nominate Merrick Garland to succeed him; McConnell put the brakes on it, declaring that the president’s nominee would not get a Senate hearing in an election year.

Democrats were rightfully outraged. It was an act of supreme partisanship, just as he has continued to exhibit his partisan bona fides during the run-up to the Senate impeachment trial that has commenced.

Speaking of that … for the Senate majority leader to accuse anyone else of partisan game-playing is akin to getting a lecture on marital fidelity from, oh, you know who.

Principled stands occasionally rub us the wrong way

If one is going to argue a point on principle, then fairness dictates that the principle must stand no matter whose policy is the subject of the discussion of the moment.

With that, I have to declare that my vigorous opposition to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to play politics with President Obama’s authority to appoint a Supreme Court justice compels me to make a declaration that is going to anger some readers of this blog.

It is that Donald Trump deserves to be treated fairly if the time comes for him to make a SCOTUS nomination during the heat of a presidential campaign.

I heard the news about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s hospitalization over a fever and thought what many of you thought as well: What if she can no longer serve on the nation’s highest court? I hate harboring macabre thoughts, but realism requires us to recognize that the justice is 86 years of age and has been battling cancer.

OK, that said, she also is a noted progressive jurist appointed to the high court in 1993 by President Clinton. She is the second-most senior tenured justice on the court, behind archconservative Justice Clarence Thomas, appointed in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush.

The politics gets stickier than pine bar on a baseball bat.

Conservative icon Antonin Scalia died suddenly in early 2016. President Obama wanted to nominate Merrick Garland to succeed him. Garland is known as a judicial moderate who tilts a bit to the left. McConnell intervened. He said under no circumstances should Obama, a lame duck, should be allowed to fill that vacancy. He blocked Obama’s choice in the Senate, which has confirmation power.

Many of us went ballistic. I was one of millions of Americans who were enraged at McConnell’s power play. How dare he interfere with the president’s constitutionally granted authority? He wanted to wait for the 2016 election to play out before handing the matter over to the next president. It was a raw partisan act and it was wrong.

I argued the point on the principle of presidential authority taking precedence.

So, here we are today.

Another president is in office. Donald Trump has selected two high court justices already. If he gets a chance to select a third one in the event that Justice Ginsburg retires or … well, you know … then he gets to nominate a justice to succeed this progressive icon.

We all know what the reaction will be. It will mirror the reaction that erupted in progressive circles when Scalia died and Garland got the nomination. Only this time conservatives will argue that the president deserves to have his nominee seated; progressives will seek to block it, perhaps in the manner that McConnell did.

It would be as wrong to block Trump as it was to block Obama.

The more reasonable — and principled — option would be for Democrats to regain control of the Senate after the 2020 election. Then the Senate could exercise its appointment power when a conservative justice’s spot on the court is vacated. Voters also can kick Trump out of office, presuming he survives the pending impeachment and Senate trial, and elect someone who will forgo the ultra-right-wing agenda favored by the incumbent.

Given my own often-stated bias, I take no pleasure in making this declaration. I feel I must … in the name of principle.

In the meantime, I intend to pray real hard for Justice Ginsburg’s good health.

Mitch McConnell: Partisan hack demonstrates his hypocrisy

There well might be no more demonstrably partisan political hack in the U.S. Senate than the man who runs the place … and who has the gall to accuse politicians on the other side of playing politics.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blocked a bill that would seek to make our electoral system more secure and to prevent foreign hostile powers from hacking into our system.

Why did he do that? Because he says Senate Democrats have made it too “partisan.” They are “playing politics” with the legislation.

Wow, man!

Hmm. Let’s see how this works. Requiring paper ballots to back up the electronic ballots is “partisan”? Mandating that political candidates report to the FBI any suspected foreign-power interference is “partisan”?

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has stood with the Russians who did attack our election in 2016 and are likely to do so again in 2020. Trump’s partner in the Senate now is standing with him, declaring that Democrats are the partisan hacks.

Let’s flash back for a moment to 2016.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died while vacationing in Texas. The conservative icon’s body barely had gotten cold before McConnell declared that President Obama — serving his final full year in office — would not be allowed to seat a justice to replace the conservative icon, Scalia.

Obama ended up nominating Merrick Garland, an eminently qualified jurist. Garland didn’t get a hearing. McConnell was at his obstructionist worst in blocking Garland’s nomination and in denying President Obama the opportunity to fulfill his constitutional responsibility.

So now the majority leader calls Democrats the partisans? He says Democrats are playing politics with an electoral security bill?

The man’s hypocrisy takes my breath away.