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Sen. Lee “inclined to support” Merrick Garland as AG

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, speaks during a hearing for Judge Merrick Garland, nominee to be Attorney General, before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

Almost five years after his Supreme Court nomination fell through, Judge Merrick Garland made it to the Senate Judiciary Committee, this time as nominee for U.S. Attorney General.

Watching him at the witness table, it’s hard to not imagine how he must feel. “What would have been?”

Lee on Merrick Garland

My partner on Utah’s Morning News, Tim Hughes, and I had the chance to interview a member of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah.

I asked him if the thought ever occurred to him during the hearing, “Ya know – he would have made a good Supreme Court justice.”

Senator Lee: “That exact thought didn’t occurred to me, but he did perform, with a few exceptions, quite well during the hearing, and it occurred to me that he would have performed quite well had he had the benefit of a hearing during that circumstance.”

A tense question

It was clear from the senator’s questioning during the hearing and our conversation that he has respect for Judge Garland, but there was one point of dissension. Senator Lee wanted Judge Garland to admit that Kristin Clarke, Judge Garland’s pick to lead the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, said something terrible in 1994.

While a student at Harvard 27 years ago, she invited a controversial professor to speak, something she has since expressed regret for.

Following the professor’s remarks, she spoke with the student newspaper.

“Professor Martin is an intelligent, well-versed black intellectual who bases his information on indisputable fact,” she said at the time.

Senator Lee wanted Judge Garland to denounce that comment. He told us on KSL NewsRadio: “It was an unremarkable question that called for an unremarkable answer.”

Judge Garland seemed to take offense to Senator Lee’s gotcha question, responding, “I’m a pretty good judge of what an anti-Semite is and I do not believe that she is an anti-Semite and I do not believe that she is discriminatory in any sense.”

Lee likely to support Garland

We spoke before the second session of the hearing began. But I wondered if Senator Lee had made up his mind about whether he would vote to confirm Judge Garland for Attorney General.

Senator Lee: “My inclination is to support him. He’s a good person. He’s a decent person. I believe he’s someone who probably should be confirmed.”

Amanda Dickson is the co-host of Utah’s Morning News and the host of A Woman’s View on KSL NewsRadio. You can hear her weekday mornings on 102.7 FM and 1160 AM, as well as catch her talk show on Sundays. 

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