WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Five years after being denied a hearing for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland attended a confirmation hearing Monday to become President Joe Biden’s attorney general.

“The president nominates the attorney general to be the lawyer not for any individual, but for the people of the United States,” Garland said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., calling Garland’s nomination “one of the most critical in department history” and called on him to confront rising threats of white supremacy.

“I plan … to do everything in my power to ensure that we are protected,” Garland said. “This will be my first priority.”

Durbin also asked Garland about the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policies and much-maligned separation of children and parents at the southern border.

“The policy was shameful,” Garland said. “I couldn’t imagine anything worse than tearing parents from their children.”

Though several Republicans praised Garland’s record, some said they are still concerned he could be influenced by liberal politics.

Asked by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., if he supports pushes to defund police, Garland said Biden does not and neither does he.

Hawley and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also insisted Garland continue investigations into origins of the special investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“One of the very first things I’m going to have to do is speak with Mr. (John) Durham (the prosecutor looking into the matter), figure out how his investigation is going,” Garland said.

Asked by Grassley if he has spoken with Biden about the president’s son Hunter Biden’s financial dealings, Garland said he had not.

The hearing continues Tuesday. A final confirmation vote is expected next week.