Attorney General Bill Barr defended himself against allegations that he has politicized the Justice Department as he took aim at Democrats and protesters who have marched for two months against police racism in his first appearance before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
"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 said in his opening statement. "Judging from the letter inviting me to this hearing, that appears to be your agenda today."
Barr grilled for first time:
The testimony came after numerous delays and subpoena threats from Chairman Jerry Nadler.
The questioning focused on the federal deployment to cities like Portland and his politicization of the Justice Department, like his decision to intervene in the cases of Roger Stone and Michael Flynn.
"The president has not attempted to interfere in these decisions," Barr said. "From my experience, the president has played a role properly and traditionally played by presidents. The president has occasionally, and appropriately, confirmed that the department is aware of the matter. But the handling of the matter, and my decisions on criminal matters, have been left to my independent judgment."
Barr tries to discredit protests:
Barr also described protests against police racism and violence as riots, even though the vast majority have been peaceful.
"The number of unarmed Black men killed by police so far this year is eight. The number of unarmed white men killed by police over the same time period is 11," Barr said, defending police against charges of racism, neglecting to mention that there are five times more white people in the US than Black people.
Barr also defended the federal response to protests outside the Portland federal courthouse.
"What unfolds nightly around the courthouse cannot reasonably be called a protest: it is, by any objective measure, an assault on the government of the United States," he claimed. "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."