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Democrats accuse Barr of helping Trump distract from coronavirus

Democrats accuse Barr of helping Trump distract from coronavirus
© Washington Post/Pool

House Democrats on Tuesday accused Attorney General William BarrBill BarrEx-DOJ official Rosenstein says he was not aware of subpoena targeting Democrats: report Garland sparks anger with willingness to side with Trump Trump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says MORE of helping President TrumpDonald TrumpEx-DOJ official Rosenstein says he was not aware of subpoena targeting Democrats: report Ex-Biden adviser says Birx told him she hoped election turned out 'a certain way' Cheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' MORE distract from the administration's handling of the coronavirus response and aid his reelection campaign by cracking down on protests across the U.S.

During a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Barr's first appearance before Congress in more than a year, Democratic lawmakers expressed anger at the attorney general's aggressive response to the demonstrations.

Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenPelosi floats Democrat-led investigation of Jan. 6 as commission alternative Democrats plot next move after GOP sinks Jan. 6 probe This week: House to vote on Jan. 6 Capitol attack commission MORE (D-Calif.) characterized Barr's deployment of federal officers to cities like Portland, Ore., as “trying to create a scene” and “divert attention from the COVID failure” from the administration.

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Chairman Jerry NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerIowa man sentenced for threatening Rep. Jerry Nadler Supreme Court confounding its partisan critics Garland sparks anger with willingness to side with Trump MORE (D-N.Y.) pressed Barr on whether he had discussed the reelection campaign with the president and if the deployment of federal law enforcement officers had been a part of those discussions.

Barr responded that Trump has discussed the reelection race with his Cabinet but declined to say whether the use of department resources were a part of that.

"I’m a member of the Cabinet and there’s an election going on. Obviously the topic comes up," Barr said.

"I’m not going to discuss what I discussed with the president," he added when pressed further.

Barr is expected to face further questions Tuesday afternoon about allegations that he has used the department to protect Trump and his associates and his response to protests against police brutality.

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Republicans have painted protests around the country as violent and have defended Barr's actions. 

After his opening remarks, Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanSunday shows preview: Biden foreign policy in focus as Dem tensions boil up back home House Judiciary releases McGahn testimony on Trump Democrats control the language of politics and culture — but for how long? MORE (Ohio), the panel's ranking Republican, played a video that edited images of violence at protests into a loop, underscoring his side's arguments. 

Democrats have argued that protests in Portland and other cities have been largely peaceful, with some exceptions.