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Merrick Garland: Ex-Facebook Lawyer Not Up for Antitrust Chief

Merrick Garland
(Image credit: N/A)

Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland said Monday that reports that Susan Davies, a lawyer who has defended Facebook against antitrust charges, is being considered as head of the antitrust division are inaccurate.

That came during day one of the planned two-day nomination hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Also Read: House Dems Press Garland to Drop Net Neutrality Suit

Justice has filed suit against Facebook for its purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp? over the issue of buying startups before they can become competitors.

Asked by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) how a lawyer who had defended Facebook could be put in charge of the Antitrust Division, he said he knew Davies, was confident she would be fair in whatever role she had, that he would be eager for her counsel, but that the press reports were "completely incorrect" and as far as he knew she was not under consideration to head the department. 

He said he did not think either he or Davies had any aspirations that she head up the division. But he also pointed out that the department has recusal rules that would prevent someone in that post from taking a role in a cast like that. 

He called Davies a fantastic lawyer and woman of "enormous integrity" and remarkable ability. He said if she were in any role in the department she would know when to recuse herself. 

Also Read: Merrick Garland Stresses Strong Antitrust Enforcement

He pointed out that "unfortunately or fortunately, some of the best antitrust lawyers in the country have some involvement in some part of high tech and we can't exclude ever single good lawyer from being in the division. "But that is not an issue and nothing to be concerned about," he told Hawley, who appeared to accept that answer, and with some relief.