As members of the House Judiciary Committee, we are all too familiar with U.S. Attorney General William BarrBill BarrTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Steele dossier source insists he is not Russian agent: 'It's slander' Voting rights group files suit against Trump, administration officials alleging voter intimidation 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 RosensteinTrump turns his ire toward Cabinet members Ex-deputy attorney general says Justice Dept. 'will ignore' Trump's threats against political rivals The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump's erratic tweets upend stimulus talks; COVID-19 spreads in White House 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 TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida 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) NegusePocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair Races heat up for House leadership posts Trump backs bill to establish suffragist monument in DC MORE represents Colorado’s 2nd District in Congress. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineJustice Department charges Google with illegally maintaining search monopoly Pocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair Jewish lawmakers targeted by anti-Semitic tweets ahead of election: ADL MORE represents Rhode Island’s 1st District in Congress. Mary Gay ScanlonMary Gay ScanlonDemocrats unveil bill to reduce police violence against people with mental illness Clark rolls out endorsements in assistant Speaker race Eyes turn to Ocasio-Cortez as she seeks to boost Biden MORE represents Pennsylvania’s 7th District in Congress. All three members serve on the House Judiciary Committee.