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Biden picks former Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland for attorney general

President-elect Joe Biden has decided to nominate Judge Merrick Garland for attorney general, seeking to place in the nation's top law enforcement job a respected federal appeals judge whose Supreme Court nomination Republicans blocked four years ago, Politico first reported.

Why it matters: News of the announcement came just hours after the nation learned that Democrats would likely win both Senate runoffs in Georgia and take control of the Senate, making it harder for Republicans to block nominations.

  • That applies not just the attorney general nominee himself, but also whomever Biden nominates to replace Garland as an appellant judge in a crucial circuit.

Between the lines: By selecting Garland, Biden is sending a message about fairness and redemption, after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denied hearings to President Obama's pick to replace the late Antonin Scalia.

  • It's unclear whether McConnell and his fellow Republicans will fight this nomination.
  • Speculation and jockeying for AG also focused around other contenders, including former Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama and former deputy attorney general Sally Yates.

Background: Garland, 68, is a Chicago native and graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School.

  • He has served on United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since 1997.
  • Before that, he supervised high-profile cases of domestic terrorism including the Oklahoma City bombing and Unabomber cases in the 1990s. It's experience he could be called to draw on following a Department of Homeland Security assessment this year that violent while supremacy is the most persistent lethal domestic threat.
  • McConnell never explicitly said he opposed Garland's appointment to the Supreme Court, only that Democrats should not get to fill the seat in the final year of Obama's presidency when Republicans controlled the Senate.
  • This fall, McConnell again frustrated Democrats when he maneuvered to let President Trump fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat with Amy Coney Barrett.

Russian police arrest over 3,000 protesters demanding Navalny's release

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Details: Demonstrations that began in the eastern regions of Russia spread west to more than 60 cities. At least 3,324 of people were detained and tens of thousands of others protested into the night despite the presence of law enforcement and extremely low temperatures, per the OVD-Info group, which monitors political arrests.

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Why it matters: Although the resolution is symbolic, this move plus the re-election of Trump loyalist Kelli Ward as state GOP chair shows the strong hold the former president has on the party in Arizona, despite President Biden winning the state in the 2020 election.

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The big picture: Garret Miller faces five charges in connection to the riot by supporters of former President Trump, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and making threats. According to court documents, Miller posted violent threats online the day of the siege, including tweeting “Assassinate AOC.”

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Driving the news: The New York Times first reported Friday that the lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, allegedly devised "ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. [Jeffrey] Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark."

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Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine

Brazil on Saturday began distributing the 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine that arrived from India Friday, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Brazil has the third highest COVID-19 case-count in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The 2 million doses "only scratch the surface of the shortfall," Brazilian public health experts told the AP.

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U.S. national security adviser speaks with Israeli counterpart for the first time

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke on the phone Saturday with his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben Shabbat, Israeli officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: This is the first contact between the Biden White House and Israeli prime minister's office. During the transition, the Biden team refrained from speaking to foreign governments.

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Biden speaks to Mexican president about reversing Trump's "draconian immigration policies"

President Biden told his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, on a phone call Friday that he plans to reverse former President Trump’s “draconian immigration policies.”

The big picture: The Biden administration has already started repealing several of Trump’s immigration policies, including ordering a 100-day freeze on deporting many unauthorized immigrants, halting work on the southern border wall, and reversing plans to exclude undocumented people from being included in the 2020 census.

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Muslim families hope to reunite following Biden's travel ban repeal

Muslim Americans across the U.S. are celebrating President Biden's day-1 reversal of former President Trump's travel ban that targeted several Muslim-majority countries.

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