Jordan rages against Russian hoax

The Attorney General will defend his conduct as at the head of the Dept. of Justice

Updated: July 28, 2020 - 5:44pm

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Attorney General William Barr is appearing today before the House Judiciary Committee for a contentious oversight hearing where Democrats will question the cabinet member about the Justice Department's handling of several cases involving allies of President Trump and recent bouts of civil unrest facing the nation. 

Roger Stone

During a period of questioning, Attorney General Barr defended his actions in office, pertaining specifically to his oversight of the prosecutions of Roger Stone and Retired General Michael Flynn. 

"I agree that the president's friends don't deserve special breaks but they also don't deserve to be treated more harshly than others," said Barr. "And sometimes that's a difficult decision to make, especially when you know you're going to be castigated for it." 

On Roger Stone's sentence, Barr said that he felt Stone should go to prison, but that line prosecutors were advocating for a sentence that was "more than twice than anyone else in a similar position had ever served. I was not going to advocate that because that is not the rule of law," Barr said.

Congressman and failed presidential candidate Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) asked the attorney general why he hasn't opened an investigation into the president for the content of some of his tweets.

"Because we require a reliable predicate for opening an investigation," responded Barr, calling Swalwell's legal theory a "Rube Goldberg" speculation. 

Civil unrest

Barr has defended the position that his role is to support the rule of law, which is not being upheld in cities where courthouses are being attacked night after night. 

Barr said that what especially worries him, is that this is the first time the leaders of the Democratic party have not come out and explicitly condemned mob violence and attacks on federal courts. "Could we hear something like that?" he asked.

"Federal courts are under attack. Since when is it okay to try to burn down a federal court?" asked Barr. "The U.S. Marshals have a duty to stop that and defend the courthouse and that's what we're doing in Portland. We are at the courthouse defending the courthouse. We're not out looking for trouble."

Barr said that if local law enforcement were doing its job in Portland, the deputy U.S. Marshals would not have to be there.

Barr specified that the situation in Portland is different than the situation in several other major American cities, where local law enforcement facing rioters and demonstrators are acting to protect federal property. 

"Is defunding the police a rational policy?" asked ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

"No, I'm more concerned that the police be adequately funded today and get more resources," Barr replied. "A lot of the things we need to do to address some of the concerns people have about what they saw in Minneapolis are going to take some resources."

Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) used her time to speak with the attorney general about the use of chokeholds by police officers.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) discussed the threat of Antifa "metastasizing" to other sections of the country. 

"There's no doubt in my mind that it would spread," Barr said, referring to the violence in Portland, if federal forces abandon the courthouse in Portland. 

Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) questioned Barr about the upcoming presidential election and voting by mail.

"If you have wholesale mail-in voting, you increase the risk of fraud," said the attorney general. 

Richmond also asked the attorney general to send him DOJ statistics accounting for the numbers of black employees in leadership positions at the department. Previously, he accused Barr of supporting institutionalized racism due to his lack of black employees. 

Opening

"After he finished utterly humiliating his first attorney general, he found you," said Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), as he accused Barr of suppressing dissent and actively seeking out conflict with the American people. 

Leading up to the hearing, Rep. Nadler has been investigating several of the attorney general's actions and had threatened to issue Barr a subpoena had he not agreed on Tuesday's appearance.

Some themes the Democrat-led committee will focus on today include the perception that Attorney General Barr mischaracterized the Mueller report and claimed that there was spying taking place on the 2016 Trump campaign. 

Rep. Jordan emphasized the spying claim in his opening statement, making the claim that the committee's targeting of Barr is the direct result of the failed Democrat-led coup against President Trump that began during the 2016 campaign. 

"He had the courage to do what no one else would do at the Justice Department. Chris Wray sure as heck isn't going to do it," said Jordan, taking a jab at the current FBI director. 

The committee's top Republican began the hearing by playing a lengthy video of protestors clashing with police officers, as television news reports described protests as "peaceful."

Background

The hearing, which was originally scheduled to begin at 10:45 a.m., was delayed when Nadler was involved in a minor traffic accident this morning.

The attorney general's opening statement was released ahead of the hearing and promised a feisty defense against accusations of politically motivated judgments.

"Ever since I made it clear that I was going to do everything I could to get to the bottom of the grave abuses involved in the bogus 'Russiagate' scandal, many of the Democrats on this Committee have attempted to discredit me by conjuring up a narrative that I am simply the President’s factotum who disposes of criminal cases according to his instructions," reads Barr's pre-prepared testimony. "Judging from the letter inviting me to this hearing, that appears to be your agenda today." 

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