Joe Biden has restored hope in the US Department of Justice - opinion

Merrick Garland’s nomination underscores US President Joe Biden’s commitment to restore integrity and the rule of law.

GEORGIA DEMOCRATIC Sen. Raphael Warnock departs following a vote in the basement of the US Capitol last month. (photo credit: AL DRAGO/REUTERS)
GEORGIA DEMOCRATIC Sen. Raphael Warnock departs following a vote in the basement of the US Capitol last month.
(photo credit: AL DRAGO/REUTERS)
The people of the State of Georgia elected an African-American senior pastor and a Jewish investigative journalist and documentary producer. We should have been celebrating such a moment of progress in what historically has been a cradle of racism. This was a watershed moment for our electorate and for our country. And yet, this month, we have been the laughingstock of the world.
World leaders are looking at our country saying either: “See, this is why you need to crack skulls and have a dictator” or “They call this a respectful, glorified City on the Hill, a beacon of democracy?” We have taken a step back as a country. The hallowed halls of our Capitol have been stained by the disrespect and malice of those looking to besmirch both the history and future of this great nation.
Former president of these United States, Donald Trump, sought time and again to divide these states. He continued to foment lies and hatred, and sow mistrust. He venerated trespassers and hooligans as patriots. He is guilty of sedition, which has now cost yet another life or two – this time in the halls of our Capitol.
There is no conspiracy. There is no evil plot. The only fraud is found in the fraudulent words put out into the ether from our former president. The only attempts to steal the election(s) are the lies our president spewed and the terrorists marching on and into our Capitol this month.
How is it that has our president neither truly criticized, nor decried any of these actions? Not those of the terrorist who left a pipe bomb outside Republican National Committee Headquarters; not of those who stormed the Capitol building; not of those who erected gallows, vandalized property, trespassed offices of elected officials and occupied the chambers.
About 2,700 years ago the Prophet Jeremiah implored the Babylonian exiles: “Seek the peace of the city to which I have exiled you and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in the peace thereof you shall have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7). He foresaw and lamented destruction. He prophesied against those bent on anarchy, depravity, and disorder. January 6 was not the pursuit of peace. It was an insurrection.
Guns drawn at the doors of our House, protecting those inside – we need our prophets yet again. Our former president was a false prophet, charging his followers that they “can’t take back our country with weakness – [they need to] show strength and stay strong.”
Predicated on Jeremiah’s prophetic entreaty is the rabbinic concept of dina d’malkhuta dina – Shmuel’s teaching that the law of the land is the law. So important is this concept that the 16th century Jewish legal code, the Shulhan Aruch, invokes it 25 times.
The law of the land is the law. We must honor it. We must behold it. We must respect it. That is our moral imperative and what it means to be part of the US. It is not our charge to tear apart these United States.
Further, this is also what results from four years of a nonfunctional Justice Department, which has been complicit and done nothing in the face of the proliferation of white nationalism and extremism. And yet, I have hope.
JUDGE MERRICK GARLAND, a Department of Justice (DOJ) veteran, and an independent jurist on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, is nominated to serve as US attorney general. A consensus-building voice, Garland has worked under Democratic and Republican administrations. He led investigations into some of the most high-profile cases and crises in modern history, including the Atlanta Olympics bombings, the “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski and coordinated the government’s response to the Oklahoma City bombing. Garland’s nomination underscores US President Joe Biden’s commitment to restore integrity and the rule of law, boost morale of the dedicated career professionals at the DOJ and build a more equitable justice system that serves all Americans. He is very likely to be confirmed in the coming days.
Lisa Monaco, a veteran prosecutor and dedicated public servant, is nominated to serve as deputy attorney general. She served in the DOJ for 15 years, always putting service to the American people above politics, successfully prosecuting a range of cases from violent crime to fraud and public corruption. She, too, will be approved soon.
Vanita Gupta, former acting assistant attorney general and one of the most respected civil rights attorneys in America, is nominated to serve as associate attorney general. During the Obama-Biden administration, she served as acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division – the chief civil rights prosecutor for the US. As the Indian-American daughter of immigrants, she will be the first woman of color to serve in this role.
And Kristen Clarke, a veteran of the DOJ, is nominated to serve as assistant attorney general for civil rights. She has extensive law enforcement and civil rights experience, handling cases of police misconduct, hate crimes, human trafficking, voting rights and redistricting. She has been a champion of systemic equity and equal justice throughout her career, including in her current role as president and executive director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
I have hope because Biden named nominees for the DOJ who will do the opposite of its predecessor department. These leaders, all of whom are Justice Department veterans, will restore independence and integrity to the highest levels of the Department, renew Americans’ faith in the rule of law, and work tirelessly to build a more equitable justice system.
They will fight discrimination, ensure equity, and safeguard all Americans, no matter their race nor religion, their sexual orientation nor gender identity, their class nor disability, their zip code, immigration status or their country of origin.
They will begin to remove the fresh stain on our nation. They will prioritize prosecuting hate crimes and enforcing civil and voting rights, using all its authority under the law. They will serve as one of the pillars of our national security apparatus to defend the homeland from threats, especially akin to those we witnessed just weeks ago. The DOJ will use all its tools and resources to ensure Americans in every community are safe and secure.
I was embarrassed January 9th. I was saddened that awful day. But I am heartened now knowing that we are once again returning to the path of the law of the land remaining among the law. And I wait with pained anticipation for that too-recent chapter, God-willing, to be fully adjudicated, rightfully and justly, and put behind us, speedily, in our days.
The writer is a senior rabbi in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. These views are his own and do not represent his congregation nor any organization with which he is affiliated.