clearn.png
Sunday May 9th, 2021 1:02AM

Barr says unrest not linked to Floyd, defends feds' response

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General William Barr defended the aggressive federal law enforcement response to civil unrest in America, saying on Tuesday “violent rioters and anarchists have hijacked legitimate protests” sparked by George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Barr told members of the House Judiciary Committee at a much-anticipated election year hearing the violence taking place in Portland, Oregon, and other cities is disconnected from Floyd's killing, which he called a “horrible" event that prompted a necessary national reckoning on the relationship between the Black community and law enforcement.

“Largely absent from these scenes of destruction are even superficial attempts by the rioters to connect their actions to George Floyd’s death or any legitimate call for reform,” Barr said of the Portland protests.

The hearing marks Barr’s first appearance before the House Judiciary Committee after 18 months in office, bringing him face-to-face with a panel that voted last year to hold him in contempt and is holding hearings on what Democrats say is politicization of the Justice Department under his watch. It comes during tumultuous stretch in which Barr has taken actions cheered by President Donald Trump but condemned by Democrats and other critics.

Among those actions is the Justice Department’s decision to drop the prosecution of former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn and Barr's urging for a more lenient sentence for Trump ally Roger Stone, a move that prompted the entire trial team’s departure. Trump later commuted the sentence entirely.

Opening the hearing, committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said the Trump administration had “twisted the Department of Justice into a shadow of its former self,” serving the powerful before average Americans. He said the committee has a responsibility to protect Americans “from that kind of corruption.”

Nadler said Barr had “aided and abetted” Trump’s worst impulses and excoriated him and the Justice Department for turning a blind eye to necessary reforms to police departments, for dismissing Black Lives Matter protests and for flooding streets with federal agents to stop protesters.

Republicans hit back hard in defense of Barr and Trump's administration. The top Republican on the panel, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, used his opening statement to show an eight-minute video that spliced together images of violence by protesters around the country, showcasing law enforcement officers under attack in Chicago, Portland and New York. The images were cut from hundreds of hours of racial injustice footage of largely peaceful protests around the nation.

Under combative questioning, Barr acerbically defended himself but revealed little new information about his motivations or the Justice Department's recent actions on policing or otherwise. Fuming Democrats often used their five minutes to lay out their frustrations and cut him off as he attempted to answer questions.

“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 said in his opening statement. "Judging from the letter inviting me to this hearing, that appears to be your agenda today.”

On policing, Barr's testimony underscores the Justice Department’s ongoing effort to differentiate between increasing violence in some cities and Floyd's death, which has led to state charges against four officers and is under investigation by federal authorities. Massive but peaceful demonstrations followed Floyd's death in May.

The attorney general, speaking as Congress and the public pay respects in the Capitol to the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, acknowledged to lawmakers Floyd’s death struck a chord in the Black community because it reinforced concerns Black people are treated differently by police. But he condemned Americans who he says have responded inappropriately to Floyd's death through what he said was rioting and anarchy.

“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,” Barr said. “So should state and local leaders who have a responsibility to keep their communities safe."

Civil unrest escalated in Portland after federal agents were accused of whisking people away in unmarked cars without probable cause; the people were detained and later released. And in Washington, D.C., peaceful protesters were violently cleared from the streets by federal officers using smoke bombs and pepper balls last month before a photo op by Trump in front of St. John's church, where Barr had accompanied him.

Barr defended the broad use of law enforcement power to deal with the situation, noting that protesters had earlier set fire to the church and "it was total consensus that you couldn’t allow that to happen so close to the White House.” The department’s internal watchdog has opened investigations into use of force and other tactics by agents in Washington and Portland.

He also said the force was used because the protesters would not disperse from the area when law enforcement officials were trying to move back the security perimeter, a decision made the night before. When pressed on details, he pointed to the investigations.

The use of pepper spray is warranted, even if peaceful protesters are also harmed, he said.

Beyond the federal response to the demonstrations, Barr was pressed in detail about his intervention in the Flynn and Stone cases, both of which arose from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Democrats criticized him for partly taking into account Stone's health and age, 67, and said those standards haven't been used in other similar cases.

While Stone’s health was one of the factors considered by senior level officials at the Justice Department, the point of the contention about the sentencing recommendation was over whether a specific sentencing enhancement over witness tampering would apply. Barr said that enhancement is “traditionally applied to mafiosos” and he didn’t agree that it was warranted in Stone’s case.

Barr said he told the acting U.S. attorney that “we are going to leave it up to the judge” and that he ordered the revised recommendation to be filed whent the line prosecutors submitted an initial recommendation calling for a sentence of seven to nine years.

“And even though I knew I would get a lot of criticism for doing that, I think at the end of the day my obligation is to be fair to the individual,” Barr said.

Republicans and Democrats also repeatedly revisited Mueller's probe, with Democrats arguing he downplayed the report to the public before it was released and Republicans pressing him on the origins of the probe. The department is investigating the department's decisions as it started investigating Trump's ties to Russia during the Obama administration in 2016.

In a prepared opening statement released by the department, Barr derisively referred to “the bogus ‘Russiagate’ scandal.” Barr didn’t read that part of his statement in the hearing room, but defended his actions as he has questioned the probe.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Elections, General House Election News
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Late slump leaves stocks lower; gold holds at record high
A late slump left stocks broadly lower on Wall Street Tuesday, while cautious investors continued to push money into gold and Treasurys, leaving gold at another record high
4:08PM ( 9 minutes ago )
The Latest: Chile eases lockdown orders despite criticism
Chile’s government has eased lockdown orders on more than 1 million people in the greater Santiago region, despite criticism from some health experts
4:02PM ( 16 minutes ago )
Maduro's hold on Venezuela tightens as coronavirus surges
More than a year after a young U.S.-backed politician rose up to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, the socialist leader holds a yet stronger grip on power
3:51PM ( 27 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Democrats, GOP far apart as virus aid talks intensify
The differences in Washington over the next coronavirus aid package are vast
3:30PM ( 48 minutes ago )
The Latest: Okla Gov. Stitt back at work after positive test
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt returned to his office two weeks after testing positive for the coronavirus
3:24PM ( 54 minutes ago )
'Watchmen' leads charge for Emmy nominations relevance
HBO's limited series “Watchmen” leads all Emmy nominees with 26 and gives the awards show an added dose of relevance
3:22PM ( 55 minutes ago )
AP National News
AP source: 4 more Marlins test positive for coronavirus
A person familiar with the situation says four additional Miami Marlins players have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the number to 15
2:16PM ( 2 hours ago )
Trump again pushes disproven drug as COVID-19 treatment
President Donald Trump’s attempt to project a more serious tone about the coronavirus lasted for about a week
1:43PM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Florida reports more than 9,000 new virus cases
Florida reported more than 9,000 coronavirus cases Tuesday and a new daily high of 191 deaths
1:35PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Online National News
Park Police head: No White House order for move on protest
The head of U.S. Park Police is denying that his officers turned violently on protesters and journalists near the White House to clear the area for a photo event by President Donald Trump
12:58PM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: Teachers' union OKs striking if unsafe to return
One of the nation’s largest teachers’ union is authorizing its members to strike if their schools plan to reopen without proper safety measures in the middle of the global pandemic
12:20PM ( 3 hours ago )
US-China spats rattle world, prompting calls for unity
Antagonisms between the U.S. and China are rattling governments around the world, prompting a German official to warn of “Cold War 2.0” and Kenya’s president to appeal for unity to fight the coronavirus pandemic
7:45AM ( 8 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
Biden says post-pandemic economy can fight racial inequality
Joe Biden has unveiled a plan to ensure that the nation’s post-pandemic economic recovery is built around promoting racial equality and promising to drastically spur investment in Black-owned small businesses
3:34PM ( 44 minutes ago )
National teacher union supports strikes over reopening plans
One of the nation’s largest teachers unions is authorizing its members to strike if their schools plan to reopen without proper safety measures
2:46PM ( 1 hour ago )
Democrats slam Trump push for new FBI building in virus bill
Democrats are accusing President Donald Trump of self-dealing as the White House pushes Senate Republicans to include nearly $1.8 billion to rebuild the FBI headquarters in downtown Washington as part of a new coronavirus aid package
2:35PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Georgia governor backs out of hearing on Atlanta mask order
Georgia’s governor has withdrawn a request for an emergency hearing in a lawsuit that aims to block the state’s largest city from ordering people to wear masks in public or imposing other restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic
11:23AM ( 4 hours ago )
Officer challenges account of violent clearing of protesters
A senior National Guard officer says the U.S. Park Police began the violent clearing of protesters from Lafayette Square last month without apparent provocation or adequate warning
12:16AM ( 16 hours ago )
The Latest: New virus cases rise in China's Xinjiang region
New coronavirus cases continue to rise in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang, with 57 reported on Tuesday
9:32PM ( 18 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Watchdog group: Trump campaign improperly masking payments
A government oversight group says President Donald Trump’s reelection effort is hiding nearly $170 million in spending from mandatory public disclosure by routing payments through companies tied to his former campaign manager
12:11PM ( 4 hours ago )
Democratic committee OKs platform with progressives' input
A key Democratic Party committee has approved a 2020 platform that presents a liberal outline for the country but rejects many policies pursued by the left’s most outspoken progressive factions
7:18PM ( 21 hours ago )
Democratic National Convention to require masks, distancing
Everyone attending the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee next month will have to wear a face mask, be tested daily for COVID-19, fill out questionnaires and maintain a physical distance from others
6:30PM ( 21 hours ago )
AP Elections
'Unholy alliance' of power, money fueled corruption scheme
An FBI affidavit to support a criminal complaint against Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder details how he and others used money provided by an unidentified company known to be FirstEnergy Corp. and its affiliates to return Householder to power and get a roughly $1 billion bailout approved for the company's Ohio nuclear plants
9:05AM ( 3 days ago )
Montana's U.S. House race brings partisan divide to the fore
In the race for Montana’s lone U.S. House seat, Democrat Kathleen Williams is making a second attempt at retaking a seat held by Republicans since 1997
3:47PM ( 4 days ago )
'Squad' member Tlaib may be vulnerable in tough primary
Democratic congresswoman Rashida Tlaib's approach to governing as an unapologetic fighter has made her a target of the GOP and her own party
7:55AM ( 5 days ago )
General House Election News
The Latest: Chile eases lockdown orders despite criticism
Chile’s government has eased lockdown orders on more than 1 million people in the greater Santiago region, despite criticism from some health experts
4:02PM ( 16 minutes ago )
Maduro's hold on Venezuela tightens as coronavirus surges
More than a year after a young U.S.-backed politician rose up to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, the socialist leader holds a yet stronger grip on power
3:51PM ( 27 minutes ago )
Barr says unrest not linked to Floyd, defends feds response
Attorney General William Barr is defending the aggressive federal law enforcement response to civil unrest in America, saying “violent rioters and anarchists have hijacked legitimate protests” sparked by George Floyd’s death at the hands of police
3:48PM ( 30 minutes ago )
California Indian tribe gets back Big Sur ancestral lands
A Native American tribe has reclaimed a small part of ancestral lands on California’s Big Sur coast that were lost to Spanish colonial settlement nearly 250 years ago
3:40PM ( 37 minutes ago )
Barr, Park Police distance Trump from clearing of protesters
The head of U.S. Park Police is denying that his officers violently turned on protesters near the White House to clear the area for a photo event by President Donald Trump
3:39PM ( 39 minutes ago )