CNN's John Avlon explains why Merrick Garland is the right person to lead the Justice Department at this time.
"So you probably know attorney general nominee Merrick Garland as Obama's ill-fated pick to the Supreme Court. But you might not know why Garland was considered so qualified and why it's so relevant today," he said.
"So the connection between the two is key. As the top official at the DoJ back in the Clinton administration, Garland led the investigation into Timothy McVeigh, who set off a bomb at the Murrow Federal Building on April 19th, 1995 that killed 168 people, including many children. McVeigh was a disaffected Army veteran who attended meetings with the self styled Michigan Militia and was arrested wearing a T-shirt with a quote from Thomas Jefferson popular with many so-called patriot groups: 'The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.' Now, this was an outer expression of the anti-government Kool-Aid he had been drinking, but there was a deeper strain of hate at work.
"That's right. Founded after the Civil War, the DoJ's first mission was to combat the KKK. So the virus of white vigilante violence, trying to overturn elections and disenfranchise black voters dates back to Reconstruction. Their inheritors found new recruits in the reaction to the Civil Rights movements with the 1960s movement with groups like Posse Comitatus and the sovereign citizens movement that basically denied federal authority this side of the Civil War.
"Now for some of these folks, the 14th Amendment, not slavery, was America's original sin. Others pointed to the 16th Amendment, which allowed the federal income tax, and most of them thought that freedom meant the Second Amendment almost exclusively. In the 1990s, these anti-government militia groups rose in reaction to confrontations at Ruby Ridge in Waco, but the carnage of the Oklahoma City attack was so horrific that it caused a backlash and the number of self-styled patriot groups declined for a time.
"But they reconstituted in reaction to President Obama, and many saw an ally in President Trump. Now compare what McVeigh once said, quote, 'Is civil war imminent? Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system?' to the kind of talk we've heard from the Oath Keepers whose members were charged in the Capitol attack. Quote, 'We're on the verge of a hot Civil War like in 1859.' And consider an ABC news report that McVeigh had been showing up in multiple FBI documents since 2017, invoked by would-be domestic terrorists. It's all too clear why Merrick Garland's experience prosecuting Tim McVeigh is relevant to the troubles we're dealing with today. Still, it's sobering to hear him say this --"
"And that's your reality check."