Portland demonstrations ‘an assault on the government of the United States,’ Barr says
Attorney General William Barr clashed with Democrats during a heated House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, as he defended the Trump administration’s response to protests and his involvement in high-profile cases.
As protests continued in Portland, Ore., Barr told lawmakers on the panel that such demonstrations are “an assault on the government of the United States.” The city’s federal courthouse has been at the center of nightly demonstrations.
In an early moment of tension, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler accused Barr of “projecting fear and violence nationwide” in a pursuit of “obvious political objectives.”
“Shame on you, Mr. Barr,” said Nadler, a New York Democrat.
Barr’s testimony was the first before the judiciary panel and came as House Democrats investigate allegations of political interference at the Justice Department.
The attorney general rejected charges that he has politicized his agency to defend President Donald Trump. Barr has come under fire for, in one example, lessening the sentencing recommendation for Trump friend Roger Stone.
Trump “has told me from the start that he expects me to exercise my independent judgment, to make whatever call I think is right, and that’s precisely what I’ve done,” Barr said in his opening statement.
Republicans like Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio defended Barr’s response to the protests in Portland and elsewhere. Jordan played a string of video clips that showed violence in different parts of the country.
The Trump administration says federal agents were sent to Portland to protect federal property. Local officials, meanwhile, have demanded they leave. Protests have been sparked by the killing in May of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by Minneapolis police.