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Barr: Coronavirus lockdowns 'greatest intrusion on civil liberties' since slavery

Attorney General William BarrBill BarrThe Hill's Campaign Report: Two weeks to the election l Biden leads in new polls as debate looms l Trump pressures DOJ on Hunter Biden Trump remarks put pressure on Barr Meadows says Trump did not order declassification of Russia documents MORE on Wednesday ripped efforts by governors around the country to prevent the spread of coronavirus with stay-at-home orders, calling such plans the "greatest intrusion on civil liberties" since slavery.

Speaking at an event at the conservative-leaning Hillsdale College in Michigan, Barr lashed out at governors in both parties who opted to shutter nonessential businesses amid the pandemic and order residents to stay home whenever possible.

"You know, putting a national lockdown, stay-at-home orders, is like house arrest. Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history," he said.

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Barr's comment came during a Q&A session after remarks in which he criticized the Department of Justice and declared that all agency power is "invested in the attorney general." 

"Even the most well-meaning people can do great damage if they lose perspective," Barr added. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as they say. Individual prosecutors can sometimes become headhunters, consumed with taking down their target."

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Representatives for the Justice Department did not immediately return a request to clarify Barr's remarks about the lockdowns, and White House officials did not immediately respond when questioned if Trump agreed with his attorney general on the issue. Trump is known to be critical of lockdown orders and days ago celebrated a Pennsylvania judge's ruling that a lockdown order implemented by the state's Democratic governor, Tom WolfTom WolfExclusive poll: Biden up in Mich., Pa., tied with Trump in Fla. Pennsylvania's mail-in voting free-for-all Could Pennsylvania's Democratic governor deliver Trump the election? MORE, was unconstitutional.

The U.S. is still struggling to blunt the curve of new coronavirus infections in some states, including Texas and California. More than 6.8 million cases of the virus have been confirmed across the U.S. since the pandemic began, and more than 201,000 Americans have died.

The nation's top infectious disease expert, Anthony FauciAnthony FauciCampaign spokesman on Trump calling Fauci an 'idiot': There's 'competing science' The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Two weeks out, Trump attempts to rally the base McConnell aims for unity amid growing divisions with Trump MORE, said in June that statewide lockdowns have saved "millions of lives."

"If you look at the data, now that papers have come out literally two days ago, the fact that we shut down when we did and the rest of the world did, has saved hundreds of millions of infections and millions of lives," he said on a Department of Health and Human Services podcast.