WASHINGTON– Democrats grilled Attorney general of the United States William Barr at a contentious daylong congressional hearing Tuesday over the Justice Department’s handling of politically delicate cases, federal intervention in major cities throughout this summer season’s social discontent and President Donald Trump’s mail-in ballot conspiracy theories.
In his opening statement at his very first look before the House Judiciary Committee, Barr said George Floyd’s death in cops custody in May “naturally rattled the whole country and forced us to assess longstanding issues in our nation.”
And while it was a “shocking event,” Barr stated, “the reality is that these events are fortunately rather unusual.”
” According to stats assembled by The Washington Post, the variety of unarmed Black guys killed by authorities so far this year is 8. The number of unarmed white males killed by police over the same period is 11,” he testified.
Barr added: “The danger to Black lives postured by criminal offense on the streets is massively greater than any risk postured by cops misbehavior. The leading cause of death for young Black males is homicide.”
Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., who stated he had to delay the hearing for an hour because he entered a minor cars and truck mishap on his method to Washington from New york city, stated in his opening remarks that Barr has “assisted and abetted the worst failings of this president.” Nadler added, “The message these actions send is clear: In this Justice Department, the president’s enemies will be penalized and his good friends will be safeguarded, no matter the cost.”
On The Other Hand, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, defended Barr and said Democrats were attacking him because of “spying.”
” That one word, that’s why they seek you,” he stated.
Jordan played a mashup of video of violence throughout demonstrations around the nation, which left out images of federal police officers and members of the military taking aggressive action against protesters.
Barr defended the administration’s actions in Lafayette Square in Washington in early June, when officers dispersed a crowd of serene protesters with tear gas and flash-bang grenades. In the days leading up to the crackdown, protests in the area had emerged into violence, with officers being hurt and a neighboring church’s being set on fire– a situation that ended up being “so bad” that Trump was hurried to the White Home bunker, the attorney general said.
Barr’s prepared declaration, which he summarized for the committee, said the decision to deploy federal representatives to several cities where demonstrations are occurring “has absolutely nothing to do with the issue of violent mob rioting” and instead is “created to assist state and local law enforcement to meet their basic responsibility to fix crimes and keep their communities safe.”
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Barr then addressed the scenario in Portland, Oregon, saying: “In the wake of George Floyd’s death, violent rioters and anarchists have actually pirated legitimate demonstrations to wreak senseless havoc and damage on innocent victims. The existing circumstance in Portland is a telling example.”
The administration is “attempting to protect federal functions and federal buildings” in Portland, he stated later, stating it has actually needed to increase the federal presence there because, he stated, rioters have actually been pursuing those facilities.
At one point, Barr said federal agents are “under attack” and are being “hurt.”
” It has actually been constant for 60 days,” he said.
Nadler scolded the attorney general, claiming that part of the reason federal agents have actually intervened in cities is that “the president desires footage for his project ads” and “you seem serving it up to him.”
” Embarassment on you,” Nadler stated.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., contrasted the administration’s actions in Portland with its response to protests versus coronavirus lockdowns in Michigan in the spring, when protesters took weapons into the State Capitol.
” On two separate events after President Trump tweeted ‘liberate Michigan’ … protesters swarmed to the Michigan Capitol carrying weapons, some with swastikas, Confederate flags and one even with a dark-haired doll with a noose around its neck,” Jayapal said, referring to an obvious representation of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
When Jayapal asked whether Barr knew that the protesters in Michigan had actually called for Whitmer “to be lynched, shot and beheaded,” he said he “was not aware” of those hazards, adding, “There are a lot of protests around the United States,” stating that in June, he was worried about those happening in Washington, D.C.
” You take an aggressive approach to Black Lives Matter demonstrations but not conservative extremists threatening to lynch a guv if it is for the president’s benefit,” Jayapal stated.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said she believes Trump is trying to “produce the impression that there is violence” and “divert attention from his disastrous failure in handling COVID-19”
Republicans expressed assistance for Barr. Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., said Democrats’ claim that the Justice Department has become highly politicized under Barr’s management is a “completely unfounded allegation.”
Barr said in his remarks that the president has not interfered in any Justice Department choices and that all matters have been left to his “independent judgment.” Democrats have actually implicated him of doing the president’s bidding in the events including Roger Stone, whose prison sentence in the Russia probe was just recently commuted by Trump, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, whose case the Justice Department has actually sought to drop.
The president “has never ever asked me, directed me, pressured me to do anything in a criminal case,” Barr told Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla.
Barr said that an advised prison sentence of 7 to nine years was too severe in Stone’s case which there was no comparable case to support such a prison term.
Barr also talked about the Russia investigation in his ready declaration, calling it a “fake ‘Russiagate’ scandal” that involved “severe abuses.”
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Repeatedly, Barr denied having seen or recognizing with tweets by the president that were revealing on a variety of subjects, consisting of the Stone case. At one point, Barr claimed that he does not check out Trump’s tweets.
Barr also addressed mail-in ballot concerns, something Trump has actually consistently declared would result in deceptive election results. Inquired about the concern by Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., Barr said there is a “high danger” that mail-in voting would lead to huge voter fraud, including, “If you have wholesale mail-in ballot, it considerably increases the threat of fraud.”
Barr was pressed on the topic. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Pa., indicated one of Trump’s voter scams theories and said the administration has “no evidence that foreign nations might successfully sway elections with counterfeit ballots.”
” Do you?” she asked.
” No, however I have sound judgment,” Barr reacted, including that he does not concur with ballot experts who indicate numerous levels of security in the mail-in ballot process, such as distinct upc code for ballots and signature verification
Midway through the hearing, Barr was asked whether he would remain in office if Trump loses in November and contradicts the outcomes.
” If the outcomes are clear,” he stated, “I would leave office.”