Merrick Garland tried scores of cases throughout his tenure as a federal prosecutor, ranging from street crimes to the Oklahoma City bombing. He made hundreds of decisions over his more than twenty years as a federal judge, on everything from national security to tax law.
As Attorney General, he is responsible for managing the work of 116 000 Justice Department personnel, including F.B.I. agents and those from a number of other federal law enforcement organizations.
But Garland's judgments on Donald Trump's behavior, particularly those pertaining to an F.B.I. raid on Mar-a-Lago on Monday morning, will determine his legacy and either increase or decrease public confidence in the Justice Department, the institution he is working to restore.
The raid on Trump's Florida property, an unusual step against a former President, has received a lot of attention from the media and Trump himself, although Garland was virtually likely involved in its approval.
The soft-spoken Attorney General, who is 69 years old and is known for his deliberate approach, prudence, and reserve, is currently faced with a serious political conundrum.
Garland runs the danger of encouraging the lawlessness of the former President and his followers on the far right if he does not prosecute Trump and declare there is convincing evidence that he committed a potential crime.
It may turn out that the raid was only intended to gather sensitive government records that should have been kept in safe places.
However, Trump and his allies swiftly portrayed the former President as the victim of a "deep state" plot, a false claim that Trump used throughout his Presidency to erode public confidence in inquiries into his misconduct and, ultimately, in the result of the 2020 election.
They also made it clear that it would be a key issue in the November midterm elections.