Attorney General William Barr testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday for the first time in a long-awaited showdown with the Democrat-controlled panel. The hearing is expected to involve questions on the deployment of federal agents in Portland, alleged efforts to stifle Robert Mueller’s investigation, and the recent ease shown to multiple Trump allies like Roger Stone and Michael Flynn.
Tuesday’s hearing is part of an ongoing probe launched in June by the committee over concerns the Department of Justice had become politically motivated since Barr took office in February 2019.
You can watch the hearing below:
“Barr’s priorities are clear: Trump first, America second,” Nadler told reporters earlier this month. “There is one rule for the president and one rule for the rest of us. Barr is corrupting DOJ at all costs to protect the president and subvert the election.”
Former federal prosecutors have criticized Barr’s Justice Department for recommending a shorter sentence for Roger Stone — since commuted — in February. The recommendation led to the withdrawals of four prosecutors on the case. Barr also has recommended dropping all charges against former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty, following the ouster of federal prosecutor Geoffrey Berman in New York during an investigation of Trump’s current attorney, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Critics also are upset over the deployment of federal agents to Portland, Oregon, amid ongoing Black Lives Matter protests. While the Trump administration has justified it by saying the agents are there simply to protect federal property, opponents argued it has only caused the chaos in the city to escalate.
Barr is set to defend himself, the Department of Justice, and the Trump administration in a prepared statement, Barr defended his decisions.
“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,” the transcript said.
Barr takes direct aim at the Democrat-controlled committee for its ongoing investigations into the Department of Justice and Trump administration.
“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,” the transcript said. “Judging from the letter inviting me to this hearing, that appears to be your agenda today.”
Barr then calls into question the validity of the ideas behind the Black Lives Matter protests and criticism of policing in the U.S.
“I think it would be an oversimplification to treat the problem as rooted in some deep-seated racism generally infecting our police departments,” the transcript says. “It seems far more likely that the problem stems from a complex mix of factors, which can be addressed with focused attention over time. We in law enforcement must be conscious of the concerns and ensure that we do not have two different systems of justice.”
The hearing initially was scheduled to begin Tuesday morning, but was pushed back after reports House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, 73, had been in a car accident. Nadler was not hurt.
It comes just over a year after his last health scare during a public event in New York City with Mayor Bill de Blasio when he appeared to faint on camera. He also has struggled with obesity for much of his congressional career, leading to him receiving stomach-reduction surgery last August.