FILE PHOTO: U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr listens during a roundtable discussion with law enforcement hosted by U.S. President Donald Trump in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 8, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Attorney General William Barr testified before the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday on a variety of Justice Department matters. It is the first time Barr appeared in front of any congressional committee since President Donald Trump appointed him a year and a half ago.

Tensions were high as House Democrats questioned whether Barr did President Trump’s bidding while considering the federal cases of Roger Stone and Michael Flynn. Democrats accused Barr of allowing abuses of power allegedly carried out by President Trump, which Barr refuted by asking, “What enemies have I indicted?” On mail-in voting, he suggested there is a “serious risk” of foreign election meddling with mail-in ballots but cited no evidence. When asked if a president or presidential candidate should accept foreign assistance in an election, Barr hesitated to give a definitive answer on the implications of such behavior.

Barr defended the federal response to nationwide protests this summer, including deploying federal agents to cities with larger protests, noting that he didn’t believe there is systemic racism present in the U.S. justice system. Local officials in Portland, OR, said the federal presence has “reinvigorated tensions that had been subsiding,” though one documentarian claims the media has downplayed the violence in those protests. President Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he will keep agents in Portland until the city is “secure.”

Democrats such as Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., sparred with Barr throughout the 5-hour hearing. Barr mocked Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., calling him a “real class act” when Nadler initially refused to give Barr a 5-minute break towards the end of the hearing. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, came to Barr’s defense during the hearing, highlighting that many Democrats had asked questions then interrupted Barr as he started answering. Vice President Mike Pence criticized Democrats on the committee for wanting “to be heard more than they wanted to listen.”

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Democrats Make Mockery of Barr ‘Hearing’ – National Review – 7/28/2020
Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler (D., N.Y.) and the other Democrats who control the House demanded for months that Barr come to a “hearing” and “testify.” But of course, it wasn’t anything like an actual hearing, and they didn’t want him to testify — as in actually answer questions. The session was a coveted election-year opportunity for Democrats to berate the attorney general of the United States in five-minute installments, accusing Barr of corruption, perjury, violating his oath, betraying the Constitution — at one point, even of killing thousands of COVID-19 victims (apparently, by being attorney general during a pandemic).

Dems Were Dying to Take Down Bill Barr. Then They Nearly Blew It. – The Daily Beast – 7/28/2020
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee waited months for the chance to interrogate Attorney General William Barr on everything from his handling of sensitive prosecutions to his clampdown on police protests. And by the time the five-hour hearing wrapped on Tuesday, they were claiming success in eliciting the type of newsworthy admissions and made-for-Twitter exchanges that could bolster their broader criticisms of the Trump administration. […] And in the eyes of some friendly observers, Tuesday’s slugfest raised real questions about how the panel’s chairman and its most senior members are approaching oversight in the Trump era.

Jordan Slams House Dems for ‘Rude’ Treatment of AG Barr – Newsmax – 7/29/2020
Rep. Jim Jordan Wednesday slammed House Democrats for not allowing Attorney General William Barr to answer questions during Tuesday’s fiery Judiciary Committee hearing and for their “rude” treatment of him. “There was a point where they weren’t going to let him take a restroom break,” the Ohio Republican and ranking committee member said on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends.” “That’s how rude they were to the attorney general of the United States of America because they have been out to get this guy, as I said in my opening statement, ever since he used the word ‘spying’ and called it what it was.”

Pramila Jayapal Dismantles Bill Barr In Fiery Takedown Over Protest Treatment – HuffPost – 7/29/2020
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) became a social media sensation on Tuesday after having a heated exchange with Attorney General William Barr. During Barr’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Jayapal called him out for using federal law enforcement agents wearing combat gear to suppress Black Lives Matter protests in Oregon while ignoring armed Trump supporters in Michigan who stormed the state’s capitol building to protest coronavirus shutdowns.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Matt Zapotosky on Twitter, 7/28/2020: “With the attorney general finally seated at the witness table, Democrats mostly made speeches or talked over him as he attempted to answer their questions, seemingly squandering any chance of getting new information…”

Elizabeth Warren on Twitter, 7/28/2020: It’s long past time for William Barr to resign. And if he won’t, Congress should be using its power to prevent our corrupt Attorney General from protecting Donald Trump’s buddies when they commit crimes on his behalf.

Isaac Saul on Twitter, 7/29/2020: Unfortunately, most Democrats didn’t let Barr speak yesterday. Which is a shame. The few times he was allowed to talk, even when Republicans tried to tee him up with softball questions, it was valuable information that taught us a lot about our AG.

Jamil Smith on Twitter, 7/28/2020: The top law-enforcement official in the United States today said that tear-gassing unarmed demonstrators is just how the federal government helps cities fight crime. And, that it was part of a move that began last spring which was delayed by the pandemic.

Elizabeth Harrington on Twitter, 7/28/2020: If this is how Democrats behave in the halls of Congress, if this is how they treat the Attorney General of the United States, how will they treat you? They don’t want to come together. They want you to shut up and get in line.

Aaron Rupar on Twitter, 7/28/2020: Bill Barr pretends to be baffled that public health experts have concluded it’s a good idea to let people vote by mail during a pandemic

Brigitte Gabriel on Twitter, 7/28/2020: These Democrat Members of Congress are literally foaming at the mouth to yell at AG Barr. They’re showing no respect for the office of the Attorney General — an utter disgrace!!

Rep. Mark Pocan on Twitter, 7/29/2020: AG Barr’s testimony yesterday was a pathetic display of trying to bend the law to justify fascism.

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