President-elect Joe Biden will nominate federal appeals judge Merrick Garland to be the next US attorney-general, a Biden transition official has said, a choice most Americans know as the Supreme Court nominee of President Barack Obama memorably blocked by Republicans.
Garland, 68, serves as a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, one of 13 federal appeals courts. Obama, a Democrat, nominated him to the Supreme Court in 2016 while Biden was vice president, but the Republican-controlled US Senate refused to hold hearings on the nomination.
Biden, who takes office in two weeks, also intends to nominate Justice Department veterans Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney-general and Kristen Clarke as the assistant attorney-general to the Civil Rights Division, the official said.
Vanita Gupta, the head of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, will be nominated by Biden as the associate attorney-general, the No.3 person in the department, a second source familiar with the matter said.
The news broke as Democrats looked set to win two US Senate seats in Georgia runoff elections held on Tuesday. That would give the party control of both houses of Congress, give Biden more leeway to enact his agenda and all but assure Garland's appointment, which requires Senate approval.
During his election campaign, Biden pledged to take steps to end racial disparities in sentencing by eliminating mandatory minimum sentences, ending the use of the federal death penalty and restoring the Justice Department's role of investigating and holding police departments accountable for "systemic misconduct".
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the current chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on Twitter that Garland "would be a sound choice" for attorney-general.
"He is a man of great character, integrity, and tremendous competency in the law," wrote Graham, who would lose his chairmanship if Democrats prevail in Georgia.