As members of the House Judiciary Committee, we are all too familiar with U.S. Attorney General William BarrBill BarrDemocrat asks Barr to preserve any records tied to environmental hacking probe Justice Dept. considering replacing outgoing US attorney in Brooklyn with Barr deputy: report Ousted Manhattan US Attorney Berman to testify before House next week MORE’s theory of unfettered executive power.

We saw it play out when he defended the president’s actions in obstructing special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s investigation, while also misrepresenting the conclusions of the special counsel’s investigation. We saw him try to protect the president from congressional oversight by concealing the Ukraine whistleblower complaint from Congress. And we saw it in the 18-page memo he sent to former Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinSupreme Court to hear dispute over Democrats' access to Mueller materials Republicans release newly declassified intelligence document on FBI source Steele GOP's Obama-era probes fuel Senate angst MORE arguing that the president has “complete authority to start or stop a law enforcement proceeding.”

How much further might he try to go?


We found out a few weeks ago when, according to public reports, the Department of Justice (DOJ) used the coronavirus outbreak to seek a host of new sweeping “emergency powers” from Congress that would inhibit justice, violate constitutional and civil liberties, and consistent with this administration’s prior practice – attack the rule of law. The request was stomach-turning, but not at all unpredictable.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpProtesters tear down statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore 'Independence Day' star Bill Pullman urges Americans to wear a 'freedom mask' in July 4 PSA Protesters burn American flag outside White House after Trump's July Fourth address MORE and Attorney General Barr have long signaled their contempt for limited executive power, so it is not shocking that the Trump administration would use a national emergency to buck long-established legal safeguards in favor of more centralized power and political interests.

The list of requests was long and alarming.

The most chilling was the Trump administration’s proposal that Congress grant the attorney general the power to ask federal court chief judges to freeze court proceedings during national emergencies, applying to “any statutes or rules of procedure otherwise affecting pre-arrest, post-arrest, pre-trial, trial, and post-trial procedures” in criminal and civil proceedings.

This request is alarming and could result in an individual who had only been arrested – not charged or found guilty – to be detained until a judge found that the emergency or civil disobedience had ended.


In past national emergencies, we’ve seen presidents use emergency powers. And not always in the best interest of the country. Examples include the Roosevelt administration’s internment of American citizens and residents of Japanese descent during World War II, and Congress’ expansion of surveillance powers granted to the Bush administration following 9/11.

Especially in times of crisis, the rule of law must be maintained, and we will not allow Congress to repeat past mistakes. Stopping the spread of COVID-19 is critical, but we can do so without violating our Constitution and the civil rights of our citizens in the process. We wholeheartedly reject these proposals, and will again defend the rule of law, as the Judiciary Committee must.

Joe NeguseJoseph (Joe) NeguseHillicon Valley: FBI, DHS to accuse China of hacking virus researchers | Warren warns of COVID-19 threats to elections | Musk reopening California Tesla factory against state orders Warren warns coronavirus 'poses a threat to free and fair elections' House Judiciary Committee calls on Bezos to testify as part of antitrust probe MORE represents Colorado’s 2nd District in Congress. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineOVERNIGHT ENERGY: DOJ whistleblower says California emissions probe was 'abuse of authority' | EPA won't defend policy blocking grantees from serving on boards | Minnesota sues Exxon, others over climate change DOJ whistleblower: California emissions probe was 'abuse of authority' Hillicon Valley: Apple's developer dispute draws lawmaker scrutiny of App Store | GOP senator blocks bill to expand mail-in and early voting | Twitter flags Trump tweet on protesters for including 'threat of harm' MORE represents Rhode Island’s 1st District in Congress. Mary Gay ScanlonMary Gay ScanlonDemocrats introduce resolution condemning acts of violence against the press Behind every gun law is a mom marching for her children COVID-19 is no excuse for Attorney General Barr to skirt the rule of law MORE represents Pennsylvania’s 7th District in Congress. All three members serve on the House Judiciary Committee.