Newly confirmed Attorney General Merrick Garland delivered his first virtual address Thursday to the Justice Department's more than 115,000 employees, using his remarks to express solidarity with career officials and what he described as their united pursuit of equal justice for all Americans.
"The only way we can succeed and retain the trust of the American people, is to adhere to the norms that have become part of the DNA of every Justice Department employee," Garland said. "Those norms require that like cases be treated alike -- that there not be one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans, one rule for friends and another for foes, one rule for the powerful and another for the powerless, one rule for the rich and another for the poor, or different rules depending upon one's race or ethnicity."
Standing in front of a socially distanced crowd in the department's Great Hall, Garland reflected on his return to the department after two decades in the federal judiciary -- noting prior to his judgeship he had served in DOJ under five different attorneys general and four U.S. Presidents.
"I have to tell you that when I walked in the door of Main Justice this morning, it really did feel like I was coming home," Garland said.
Garland kept his remarks brief, with no mention of specific issues or cases that his department will oversee during his tenure like the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol or the domestic terrorism crisis facing the country -- but told employees they are "united by our commitment to protecting our country, as our oath says, from all enemies, foreign and domestic."
When Garland first arrived in the department's courtyard, he was greeted by a gathering of masked DOJ employees who clapped and cheered as he walked into the building.
Assistant Attorney General for Administration Lee Lofthus then swore Garland in during a private ceremony prior to his virtual remarks to DOJ employees.
The rest of Garland's first day as attorney general was largely centered on getting up to speed on the department's sprawling investigation into the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.
More than 315 individuals have so far been charged related the attack with more than 285 individuals arrested. The FBI is still seeking tips on the identities of dozens more, including a suspect who planted pipe bombs outside the RNC and DNC.
During his confirmation hearing, Garland described the Jan. 6 insurrection as the most "heinous attack" on American democracy he's seen and pledged to provide career prosecutors with all resources they need to bring those involved to justice.
According to a department spokesperson, Garland would participate in "a series of briefings" related to the Capitol breach with FBI Director Christopher Wray and leaders from DOJ's National Security Division. Later in the afternoon he was scheduled to visit the U.S. Attorney's Office in D.C. to meet with prosecutors and investigators.
Vice President Kamala Harris ceremonially swore Garland in at 5:15 p.m.