Attorney General Barr Slammed by Democrats in Brutal Judiciary Hearing
By: Amy Dong
Attorney General William P. Barr clashed brutally with Democrats at the five-hour House Judiciary Committee Hearing on Tuesday, which touched on a multitude of topics ranging from criticisms on the Russian investigation to the federal response to civil unrest.
Since Barr’s misleading summary from the findings of Robert S. Mueller’s special counsel, Democrats have been seeking to hold Barr accountable. However, Barr had repeatedly avoided testifying in front of the committee, citing schedule conflicts. The tension between the parties came to a head, resulting in Tuesday’s particularly hostile hearing.
As Barr defended himself from attacks on multiple topics, Democrats expressed their disdain, believing him to be putting Trump’s interests ahead of the country. “You have aided and abetted the worst failings of the president,” Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York stated to Barr at the start of the hearing.
Citing Barr’s involvement in the criminal cases of President Trump’s allies Roger J. Stone and Michael T. Flynn, Democrats accused Barr of acting in Trump’s interests, rather than upholding the rule of law. Barr had overruled Stone prosecutors under the statement that Stone was being unfairly treated, and had allegedly changed his sentencing recommendation due to political reasons. Barr defended himself, stating that Stone’s age and lack of criminal record made the seven-to-nine year sentence unjust. Yet prosecutors stated that the sentence had been reached by following the Justice Department’s own customary sentencing guidelines.
Barr also denied accusations that his Justice Department was violating civil liberties against protestors. In a defense against the administration’s deployment of federal officers against protestors, Barr expressed that these agents were to deal with “mob” violence. Yet, many protests have been peaceful, and video evidence has witnessed agents attacking protestors without incitement. Local officials believe that the use of federal agents has reintensified tensions between law enforcement and citizens.
On the appeals for combating prejudices prevalent in the justice system that have sparked many of these protests, Barr replied, “I don’t agree that there is systemic racism in police departments generally in this country,” citing statistics that more white Americans have been killed by the police than African Americans. Yet, criticisms on these numbers call Barr’s statement misleading, as they do not account for relative population differences. By comparing relative proportions, African Americans are more likely to be killed than a white person.
Democrats also confronted Barr’s alleged attempts to propagate voter fears regarding mail-in ballot fraud to give Trump an advantage in November’s election. Barr has mentioned in various interviews on major media outlets that the usage of mail-in ballots would be used for fraud to rig the election, stating a major risk of foreign interference. But many states have been conducting elections by mail for years before the pandemic without widespread fraud, and experts state that foreign interference through mailed ballots would not be viable due to the systematic nature of the mail system.
On the topic of foreign interference, Democrats also questioned Barr regarding the nature of the ongoing Russia investigation. Barr stated that the Justice Department is against taking actions that could affect elections, and has declined to release any information produced by the case’s criminal prosecutor, John H. Durham, until after the November election. Regarding the criminal cases of Trump’s former advisers, Barr stated that he wanted to be fair to them.
“The president’s friends don’t deserve special breaks, but they also don’t deserve to be treated more harshly than other people. And sometimes that’s a difficult decision to make, especially when you know you’re going to be castigated for it,” stated Barr.