Attorney General William Barr will testify in Congress on Tuesday in a long-awaited appearance about his leadership of the Justice Department and is expected to answer criticisms on issues like politicizing the department and the federal police response to protests.
Barr will appear before the House judiciary committee at the hearing, titled “Oversight of the Department of Justice,” beginning at 10 a.m. EDT.
Lawmakers on the panel are expected to ask him about President Donald Trump’s deployment of federal police to monitor protests in Washington, D.C., and Portland, Ore., and his decisions to intervene in criminal cases involving Trump’s allies, particularly political operative and former campaign aide Roger Stone.
Democrats have accused Barr of politicizing the Justice Department and using its authority to protect Trump rather than the American people.
“Bill Barr has been elevating Donald Trump’s personal interest above that of America,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., “We want to shed light on those actions and find the basis for those actions if there are any.”
Tuesday’s hearing comes as Democratic congressional leaders, including panel Chairman Jerrold Nadler, sent a letter last week to inspectors general at the departments of Justice and Homeland Security requesting an investigation into reports that Trump administration officials have abused emergency authorities to prevent Americans from exercising their right to peaceful assembly.
According to prepared testimony, Barr will note that some of the demonstrators have been overly violent during the protests and have damaged federal property.
“What unfolds nightly around the courthouse cannot reasonably be called a protest; it is, by any objective measure, an assault on the government of the United States,” he says in prepared remarks.
“Rioters have barricaded the front door of the courthouse, pried plywood off the windows with crowbars, and thrown commercial-grade fireworks into the building in an apparent attempt to burn it down with federal personnel inside. The rioters have started fires outside the building, and then systematically attacked federal law enforcement officers who attempt to put them out — for example, by pelting the officers with rocks, frozen water bottles, cans of food, and balloons filled with fecal matter.
“Remarkably, the response from many in the media and local elected offices to this organized assault has been to blame the federal government. To state what should be obvious … such acts are in fact federal crimes under statutes enacted by this Congress.”
Thousands of former Justice Department officials have made repeated calls for Barr to resign, first in February after the department interfered to lessen a sentencing recommendation for Stone — a highly unusual move — and again in May after the department dropped the case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Barr’s testimony also says Democrats have sought to “discredit” him over the department’s Russia investigation, which he called a “bogus” scandal.
Barr was criticized after receiving the report from special counsel Robert Mueller in early 2019, particularly for refusing to publicize the entire report — and instead releasing only a four-page summary that largely excluded Mueller’s most serious criticisms of Trump.
His testimony says the attorney general has a “unique obligation” to ensure that the standard of justice is applied to everyone equally, and that he’s sought to uphold this obligation without interference from Trump.
“The president has not attempted to interfere in these decisions,” his opening statement says. “On the contrary, he has told me form the start that he expects me to exercise my independent judgment to make whatever call I think is right. That is precisely what I have done.”
Barr is also expected to face questions on other issues including Republican inquiries over U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation into the origin’s of the FBI’s Russia investigation.
The hearing is expected to last for about 5 hours, with each member of the panel taking about 5 minutes for questions.
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