For more than four hours, House Democrats clashed with Attorney General William Barr in a contentious hearing where they argued over the Justice Department's deployment of federal officers into cities, Barr's involvement in the prosecution of two allies of President Trump and a number of other issues.
In case you missed it, here are some key moments from the hearing:
- Barr defended his "independent judgment:" In his opening remarks, House Judiciary Chair Rep. Jerry Nadler said Barr has failed to uphold central missions of the Department of Justice, including being an impartial administrator of the law. Barr dismissed these accusations in the hearing, saying Trump "has not attempted to interfere" in the criminal decisions he's made. Barr said he feels he has "complete freedom" to do "what is right."
- Barr pushed back on characterizations that he has politicized the DOJ: Addressing his involvement in the prosecutions of Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, Barr said they were “both cases where I determined that some intervention was necessary to rectify the rule of law, to make sure people are treated the same.” He raised his voice as he criticized line prosecutors who had attempted to seek a stiff prison sentence for Stone, reiterating that he felt Stone should go to jail, but not for an unfair amount of time. "I agree the President's friends don't deserve special breaks, but they also don't deserve to be treated more harshly than other people," Barr said.
- Barr claims federal forces have a duty to defend Portland courthouse: Nadler grilled Barr on whether the deployment of federal troops to cities were being used as "props" for Trump's reelection. Barr dismissed these allegations during the hearing and said federal officers had been sent to protect federal buildings "under attack" in Portland and to combat violent crime.
- "Shame on you," Nadler reprimands Barr for handling of protests: Nadler slammed Barr for how he has handled protests in DC, Portland and other cities, telling the attorney general that "real leadership would entail de-escalation, collaboration and looking for ways to peacefully resolve our differences." Instead, Nadler alleged Barr has used "pepper spray and truncheons on American citizens." The committee chair added that Barr is "projecting fear and violence nationwide in pursuit of obvious political objectives." In one portion of the questioning, Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Democrat from Florida, showed a video she said displayed a crackdown of protests in Venezuela and asked Barr how he could restore the confidence of her constituents in US values when they are seeing images of “violence used against the peaceful protesters” in the US. Barr reiterated that "force is being deployed against rioters or in situations where protesters are not following police directions."
- Texas Democrat pushes Barr on ending racism in law enforcement: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee pressed Barr on whether the Trump administration was fighting systemic racism in policing. The attorney general said he disagreed there was systemic racism in police departments. “I don’t agree there's systemic racism in the police department, generally in this country,” Barr said.
You can read Barr's prepared opening statement here.