National Security

Barr expected to blast Democrats for efforts to ‘discredit’ him in upcoming hearing

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Attorney General William Barr is expected to come out swinging when he testifies on Capitol Hill Tuesday, accusing Democrats of falsely seeking to paint him as a Trump loyalist and challenging them to denounce violence in Portland, Ore.

In particular, Barr will seek to defend himself against what he calls attempts by Democrats to “discredit” him because he chose to investigate the origins of the FBI’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to a copy of his opening statement obtained by The Hill.  

“Ever since I made it clear that I was going to do everything I could to get to the bottom of the grave abuses involved in the bogus ‘Russiagate scandal,’ many of the Democrats on this Committee have attempted to discredit me by conjuring up a narrative that I am simply the President’s factotum who disposes of criminal cases according to his instructions,” Barr writes.

“Judging from the letter inviting me to this hearing, that appears to be your agenda today,” he adds.

Barr’s forceful approach is likely an early preview of what the hearing Tuesday morning will be: a contentious cage match between Democrats and the president’s top cop.

Republicans on the committee are also expected to pile into the high-profile clash by seeking to challenge the narrative Democrats seek to present of a Justice Department (DOJ) that has become politicized under Barr.

Still, it appears Barr is ready to go battle.

In his opening statement, Barr also dismisses Democrats’ claims of political interference by President Trump and others in the DOJ, claiming that he has not jeopardized the Justice Department’s independence, nor has he faced pressure from his boss.  

Barr twice describes Trump as “appropriately” weighing in on the department’s cases, as it pertains to law enforcement matters or to confirm noteworthy events that have legal ramifications. 

“The President has not attempted to interfere in these decisions,” Barr writes.

“The handling of the matter and my decisions on criminal matters have been left to my independent judgment, based on the law and fact, without any direction or interference from the White House or anyone outside the Department,” he added.

And after defending himself, Barr voices deep concern about the previous politicization of the DOJ, pointing to the “emergence of two separate standards of justice.”

“The Department had been drawn into the political maelstrom and was being buffeted on all sides,” Barr is expected to testify. “When asked to consider returning, I did so because I revere the Department and believed my independence would allow me to help steer her back to her core mission of applying one standard of justice for everyone and enforcing the law even-handedly, without partisan considerations.”

Democrats have a long laundry list of questions they hope to ask Barr, who will be testifying before the House Judiciary panel for the first time, including his time serving as attorney general under George H.W. Bush, according to a Democratic counsel to the committee.

Questions will include his handling of two high-profile cases involving Trump’s friends, Roger Stone and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

They are seeking to press Barr on politicization of the DOJ, particularly after the sudden departure of Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who was spearheading several investigations into Trump and his inner circle, including personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

And they also want to grill him about his recent role in the clearing of peaceful protesters outside the White House so that Trump could stage a photo-op in front of a historic church that was vandalized during protests demonstrating against police brutality and the police killing of George Floyd.

Barr also defends law enforcement organizations, dismissing claims of deep-seated racism and arguing they make inner city communities more safe, not less. 

His comments appear to also be directed at some Democrats who have joined demonstrators in calling for police department funds to be diverted to training and community outreach, or “defund the police.”

“Police forces today are far more diverse than ever before; there are both more black police chiefs and more black officers in the ranks. Although the death of George Floyd … was a shocking event, the fact is that such events are fortunately quite rare,” Barr says, pointing to statistics compiled by The Washington Post.

“Unfortunately, some have chosen to respond to George Floyd’s death in a far less productive way – by demonizing the police, promoting slogans like ACAB (All Cops Are Bastards), and making grossly irresponsible proposals to defund the police,” Barr writes.

In particular, Barr highlighted Portland, where protests have lasted more than 50 days, at times turning violent, with clashes between protesters and law enforcement officials along with vandalism and looting.

“In recent nights, rioters have barricaded the front door of the courthouse, pried plywood off the windows with crowbars, and thrown commercial-grade fireworks into the building in an apparent attempt to burn it down with federal personnel inside,” Barr wrote.

“As elected officials of the federal government, every Member of this Committee – regardless of your political views or your feelings about the Trump Administration – should condemn violence against federal officers and destruction of federal property,” he concluded.

Tags Donald Trump Roger Stone Rudy Giuliani William Barr

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