NOEL KING, HOST:
During the Trump administration, morale suffered at the Justice Department. President-elect Joe Biden seems to be hoping to appoint some DOJ veterans to change that, starting with Merrick Garland, the appeals court judge who's in line to serve as attorney general. NPR's Carrie Johnson first reported on Biden's interest in Garland. Good morning, Carrie.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.
KING: You were early to this one. What, to Joe Biden, is the appeal of Merrick Garland?
JOHNSON: You know, Merrick Garland cut his teeth at the Justice Department. He worked as a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office here in D.C. And later on, he supervised the investigation of the Unabomber and the Oklahoma City bombing. He developed a reputation for having, really, a level head and an even temperament. Most people know Merrick Garland because president - then-President Barack Obama nominated him to the Supreme Court. Of course, Republicans did not act on that nomination. But Garland's former law clerk, David Pozen, told me the judge has always had his heart at the Justice Department. Let's listen.
DAVID POZEN: Well, as good a judge as Merrick Garland was, his true professional passion was always the Justice Department. He spoke with the utmost fondness, respect and appreciation for the work of the DOJ.
KING: I mean, that sounds like some good news because we have talked over the past four years a lot about chaos at the Justice Department. What could Merrick Garland do to fix that?
JOHNSON: Yeah, the thinking is that Garland can help restore confidence among the work force of 108,000 people and restore some public confidence that the Justice Department is not acting to shield the president or acting to go after the president's enemies. The Biden team seems to be wanting to follow an example after Watergate. And that's when former University of Chicago President Ed Levi came in to help shore up the Justice Department after some bleak years under President Richard Nixon. Max Stier is president of the Partnership for Public Service. He says there's a lot of work to do at Justice.
MAX STIER: There is a lot of harm that's been done to the institutional capability of our government. And no agency has seen more challenge and turmoil than the Department of Justice.
KING: And so who else is Biden considering?
JOHNSON: Yeah, Lisa Monaco is in line to serve as deputy attorney general. She's done almost every job at Justice - a line prosecutor in D.C., worked on the Enron task force, that major white-collar crime investigation. She led the national security division in the Obama years. She also was a top adviser to former FBI Director Bob Mueller. Civil rights lawyer Vanita Gupta is the pick for associate attorney general. She'd be the first Asian American woman to fill that job. She managed a lot of crises in civil rights during the Obama years, helped to investigate the police in Ferguson and Baltimore and Chicago. And she cut her teeth at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the ACLU, which has called her an inspired choice for this job. Last but not least, Noel, is Kristen Clarke, who leads a civil rights organization in Washington. She'll be nominated to run the Civil Rights Division at Justice, and that's going to be a big job for the next four years.
KING: Now, all these people would need to be confirmed by the Senate. How good or not so good are their prospects?
JOHNSON: Looking pretty good. The math is good for the Democrats, given the results in the Georgia Senate races. But even before then, Republicans like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Charles Grassley of Iowa had voiced their support for Merrick Garland. So things could be a little bit different for him in 2021.
KING: NPR's Carrie Johnson. Thanks so much, Carrie.
JOHNSON: Happy to do it.
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