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Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks at Meeting with Justice Department Component Heads


Washington, DC
United States

Remarks as Delivered

Good morning.

It's great to see everybody, including the people on the screen, but particularly nice to see so many more people than I’ve been able to see before in person. And so, we’ll continue these meetings hopefully in person from now on. That will be better than seeing all of you on a screen.

Before we get started, I want to say a few words since this is my first anniversary, can’t tell whether officially it’s tomorrow or today – one of the two is my anniversary.

I first came to this building when I was 26 years old, and I still remember the reverence I felt walking into the building. I had a sense of awe about coming to a building where everybody in the building has only one task, which is to do the right thing and serve the country in the pursuit of justice. I still feel that way, every day. And I know all of you do too. That's why this team is so great, because all of you have the same sense of public purpose.

From people like Lee [Lofthus], who have been here, I don’t know, forever. [Laughter]

To many others who have done many other tours. And some like Jonathan [Kanter], who this is his first tour. We all have the same energy and excitement about the kind of work that we are doing.

On the first day, when I spoke to all 115,000 employees, I said that we had three priorities: the first being to ensure rule of law; the second being to do everything we can to protect the American people from all threats, foreign and domestic; and the third to protect civil rights. Those are our priorities; those will continue to be the priorities of this Department during my term of office. I know those are your priorities, and I’m really grateful for everything you guys have done over the last week, over the last year, to ensure those priorities.

With respect to the rule of law, we have re-established the norms of the Department, our independence.

With respect to our investigations, civil and criminal, in the area of law enforcement, we have worked to protect the institutions of our democracy – the enormous investigation we are doing with respect to the January 6th attack on the fundamental basis of our democracy: the peaceful transfer from one administration to another. The work we are doing to counter threats against public servants of all kinds who make our democracy work every day – at everything from the national level to the very local, community level. This is what we’ve done in that area.

With respect to protecting the American people, we work every day on countering threats from nation-states, from foreign terrorists, from domestic terrorists, and from violent extremists of all kinds. This is an enormous part of our job.

Equally important is our priority of working against violent crime, so that the people of our country and our communities can feel safe in the way in which they go about their everyday lives. Part of that work is to help develop and reaffirm trust between communities and police departments, because that is the only way, in the end, that we are gonna ensure public safety.

We are reinvigorating our effort to protect the country's economic institutions. By reinvigorating our antitrust enforcement, by reinvigorating our white collar crime enforcement, by reinvigorating our environmental crime enforcement. All of these are necessary to ensure the economic foundations of the country are secure.

And third and co-equal, is our obligation to protect the civil rights of the American people. All of you have heard me say, many times before, that the founding purpose of the Department of Justice was to protect the civil rights that were guaranteed by the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. That is our legacy.

That is something that every single day we work on. We work on that when we investigate and prosecute hate crimes – crimes that occur because of the way people look, or of who they are, or of what they believe. We counter those, that’s part of our protection of civil rights.

We file cases to protect the right to vote to ensure that there’s not discrimination against people's right to vote.

We do pattern or practice investigations to ensure that constitutional policing occurs in the country.

And we do the kinds of cases that all of you have seen in the last week or two weeks, the convictions that we successfully obtained with respect to the George Floyd case and the Ahmaud Arbery case.

All of this is necessary to ensure that people's constitutional rights are guaranteed.

All of you have been an enormous part of this team – it’s what's responsible for these priorities being successfully pursued over this last year. I know we have so much more to do in all these areas, and we will continue to do that. So, we will get to work on this right away, as soon as I answer a few questions. [Laughter]

Updated March 10, 2022