Attorney General Bill Barr is set to testify before the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday morning in what will likely be a contentious hearing, as Democrats have claimed the Department of Justice has become politicized under the AG after a number of recent cases involving people close to the president.
In his opening statement, however, Barr makes it clear from the start that he is no Trump loyalist. He didn’t seek this position, he didn’t know President Trump; in fact, he was on his way to living a happy and quiet life in retirement. “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,” he says. “Judging from the letter inviting me to this hearing, that appears to be your agenda today.”
The attorney general says he grew “troubled” by the use of the DOJ as a “political weapon,” however, and the unequal application of justice.
“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,” he says. Barr then turns his attention to several issues at the nation’s forefront: the killing of George Floyd, racism, black-on-black crime, efforts to defund the police, and the rioting in Portland.
He notes Floyd’s death shocked the nation but that that type of tragedy is “fortunately quite rare.” Bringing up the Washington Post’s data on the number of unarmed black men who have been killed by police this year, Barr said it is low, and lower in fact than the number of unarmed white men killed by police in the same period of time. But any instance of excessive force is one too many, he says, and should be addressed.
“The Justice Department will honor that commitment. Among other steps, we are implementing the President’s Executive Order, which outlines a number of measures to propel continued professionalization of the police, including setting clear standards for appropriate use of force,” he explains.
But efforts to defund the police and the “demonization of police” are not helpful, Barr says, and will harm inner city communities the most.
“When a community turns on and pillories its own police, officers naturally become more risk averse and crime rates soar,” he says. “Unfortunately, we are seeing that now in many of our major cities. … The threat to black lives posed by crime on the streets is massively greater than any threat posed by police misconduct. “The leading cause of death for young black males is homicide,” he continues. “Every year approximately 7,500 black Americans are victims of homicide, and the vast majority of them – around 90 percent – are killed by other blacks, mainly by gunfire. Each of those lives matter.”
And on the issue of the riots in Portland by antifa (which Chairman Jerry Nadler continues to claim is a “myth”) and other rioters, Barr makes clear it is not a protest: “[I]t is, by any objective measure, an assault on the Government of the United States.”
The anarchists are not protesting Floyd’s death, he says, and have no “legitimate call for reform.”
He also takes a swipe at local leaders who have done nothing to stop the riots.
“At the very least, we should all be able to agree that there is no place in this country for armed mobs that seek to establish autonomous zones beyond government control, or tear down statues and monuments that law-abiding communities chose to erect, or to destroy the property and livelihoods of innocent business owners,” he says. “The most basic responsibility of government is to ensure the rule of law, so that people can live their lives safely and without fear. The Justice Department will continue working to meet that solemn responsibility.”