Joe Biden has chosen Merrick Garland, the federal appeals court judge whose nomination to the US Supreme Court was blocked by Republicans in 2016, to be attorney-general in his incoming administration.
If confirmed, Mr Garland, who sits on the US Court of Appeals in Washington DC, will head up the justice department, in what has become one of the most politically charged government roles under the Trump administration.
Mr Garland was nominated by former president Barack Obama as a Supreme Court justice in 2016 after the death of the conservative judge Antonin Scalia. Even though Mr Garland was considered a centrist choice likely to win bipartisan support, his nomination was blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate, leaving the position open for Donald Trump to replace Mr Scalia with another conservative, Neil Gorsuch, instead.
Mr Biden is likely to find it far easier to secure Mr Garland’s nomination as attorney-general however, following Democratic victories in both Georgia Senate races earlier this week, which will give the party effective control of the upper chamber.
Lindsey Graham, the Republican head of the Senate judiciary committee, has also said he would support Mr Garland’s nomination as attorney-general.
Mr Biden also announced three other nominations to lead the justice department alongside Mr Garland. He has chosen Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney-general, and Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke as associate attorneys-general. All three have previously worked in the justice department, another sign of Mr Biden’s preference for people with political experience to serve in senior posts in his administration.
Mr Biden’s office said in a statement: “These nominees reflect the president-elect’s deeply held commitment to reaffirming the Department of Justice as a pillar of independence and integrity, and ensuring that the attorney-general and his senior leadership team are the American people’s lawyers — not the president’s law firm.
“These leaders, all of whom are justice department veterans, will renew Americans’ faith in the rule of law and work tirelessly to build a more equitable justice system.”
The justice department has become one of the most politicised organisations in the Trump administration. William Barr, Mr Trump’s former attorney-general, was criticised for his loyalty to the outgoing president, and was accused of selectively releasing parts of Robert Mueller’s report about Russian interference in the 2016 election to help Mr Trump.