Democrats clashed with Attorney General William P. Barr on Tuesday at a congressional hearing marked by angry recriminations over racial justice protests in Portland, Ore., and around the country, as the nation’s top law enforcement official said additional agents were needed to subdue aggressive, violent crowds.

The hearing before the House Judiciary Committee was acrimonious from the outset, as liberal lawmakers accused the conservative attorney general of politicizing the Justice Department through his deployment of federal agents to U.S. cities, his involvement in high-profile prosecutions of people connected to President Trump, and his posture toward the upcoming presidential election.

Lawmakers spent months seeking Barr’s testimony on a host of issues related to the Trump administration’s interactions with the Justice Department. 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 or an admission out of him.

“This is a hearing; I thought I was the one who was supposed to be heard,” Barr said in exasperation.

In a thick fog of partisan bickering, indignant lawmakers argued about everything from mask-wearing etiquette to bathroom breaks. In the afternoon, the committee chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) initially refused Barr’s request for a five-minute break. “You’re a class act,” the attorney general said sarcastically, before Nadler relented.

Many of the angriest exchanges focused on the federal government’s response to protests over police misconduct and brutality, with Nadler accusing the attorney general of deploying more manpower to spark ugly confrontations with protesters because, the lawmaker argued, Trump believes such confrontations will scare Americans into voting for him.

“You are projecting fear and violence nationwide in pursuit of obvious political objectives. Shame on you, Mr. Barr,” Nadler said.

Barr replied that U.S. marshals and other federal agents have a duty to guard Portland’s federal courthouse from people tossing fireworks and trying to vandalize and break into the building. He said they are under siege in that building and need help dealing with a nightly barrage of fireworks, fires, and attacks. Multiple law enforcement personnel have sustained serious injuries, Barr said.

“We are on the defense, we are not looking for trouble, and if the state and the city would provide the law enforcement services that other jurisdictions do, we would have no need to have additional marshals in the courthouse,” the attorney general said.

The Washington Post reported Monday that law enforcement officials have decided to send 100 deputy marshals to Portland to beef up courthouse security; Customs and Border Protection is sending an additional 50 agents. The first new batch of deputy marshals, according to internal emails reviewed by The Post, were dispatched to Portland last week.

State and local officials have called for federal agents to leave the city, a demand rejected by the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department.

Republicans and Democrats played dueling videos at the hearing about the protests. The Republicans’ video showed police officers and federal agents under siege, being hit with projectiles, and rioters stomping on top of police cars. The Democrats’ video showed peaceful protesters singing and chanting for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Barr argued that force was needed to repel rioters, not protesters, arguing, “when people resist law enforcement, they’re not peaceful.”

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) suggested Barr use a complex anti-racketeering law known as RICO to go after those committing acts of violence at the protests.

“General Barr, this has to stop. We can’t let antifa continue terrorizing our country,” said Buck, referring to the far-left anti-fascist movement demonized by Trump. RICO is a complex, decades-old law designed to dismantle criminal organizations, though it is rarely used because it is often simpler for federal prosecutors to charge suspects with conspiracy or other crimes. RICO was most famously used in the 1980s to prosecute the leaders of New York’s Mafia families.

Barr told the congressman he had assigned counterterrorism investigators to help investigate what he called “violent extremist terrorists who are involved in these activities, and one of the tools obviously we would use is RICO, which could be used against an organization,” though he quickly added, “That doesn’t mean that we currently have a RICO case pending.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) accused Barr and those in the GOP from seeking to distract from what the protests were actually about — the “persistent killing of black bodies by law enforcement.”

She took particular aim at the move by federal police to clear demonstrators around Lafayette Square near the White House in early June, just before the president walked across the area to pose for a photo at a nearby church, and contrasted the episode with how Trump supported other demonstrators, such as those in Michigan protesting coronavirus-related shutdown measures.

“Apparently the president believes that you can be activated to implement the president’s agenda and dominate American people exercising First Amendment rights if they’re protesting against him,” Jayapal told Barr.

Jayapal asked Barr if he was aware the Michigan protesters had called for the state’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer (D), to be “lynched, shot and beheaded?” Barr said he was not. As Jayapal expressed her dismay, Barr began to argue that there are “a lot of protests” in the U.S. and he was focused on those that threaten federal property.

Barr was equally defensive of his interventions of high-profile criminal cases involving allies of the president — most notably Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Democrats accused the attorney general of using the Justice Department to shield Trump and his friends while prosecuting his enemies.

“The message these actions send is clear: In this Justice Department, the President’s enemies will be punished and his friends will be protected, no matter the cost, no matter the cost to liberty, no matter the cost to justice,” Nadler said.

Barr insisted that was not true, saying Trump “told me from the start that he expects me to exercise my independent judgment to make whatever call I think is right,” adding, “That is precisely what I have done.” He challenged his critics to point to a single indictment of one of Trump’s foes.

“I’m supposedly punishing the president’s enemies and helping his friends,” Barr said. “What enemies have I indicted? Who — could you point to one indictment that has been under the department that you feel is unmerited?”

Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his conversations with a Russian diplomat during the presidential transition, though he later hired a new legal team and fought the case. As Flynn awaited sentencing, Barr tapped the U.S. attorney in St. Louis to review how the case was handled and ultimately had the Justice Department move to throw it out. The matter is now tied up in an appeals court, after a federal judge balked at the Justice Department’s request.

Stone was convicted last year of lying to Congress as it investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election. As he awaited a hearing on his penalty, Barr moved to override career prosecutors sentencing recommendation in the case. The career prosecutors wanted a term of seven to nine years; Barr pushed for something lesser.

Barr insisted in both instances that his interventions were of his own volition, and not because of Stone and Flynn’s relationships with Trump. He took special aim at the career prosecutors, characterizing their recommendation as overly harsh and out of step with what a judge ultimately imposed.

“This is a 67-year-old man, first-time offender, no violence, and they were trying to put him in jail for seven to nine years,” Barr said of Stone. “And I wasn’t going to advocate that, because that is not the rule of law.”

“The judge agreed with me,” he stressed later.

While it is true a judge ultimately sentenced Stone to 40 months in prison, she did so only after calling Barr’s intervention “unprecedented.” Moreover, career prosecutors’ dispute with Barr was over a technical point: They wanted to recommend a sentence within what federal guidelines called for, which Justice Department prosecutors almost always do, while Barr felt some leeway was in order.

“The president’s friends don’t deserve special breaks, but they also don’t deserve to be treated more harshly than other people,” Barr said Tuesday.

In a similar vein, Barr said that, as it was happening, he was unaware of authorities’ move to send Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, back to prison after his release as part of an initiative meant to stem the spread of coronavirus in prisons. Barr said the decision was mostly due to demands of the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services System, which is part of the federal court system, not his department.

Several Democrats sought to press Barr on the 2020 election — particularly whether foreigners were seeking to interfere with it, why he believes mail-in voting would lead to fraud and whether he will ultimately accept the result should Trump lose.

Perhaps the most notable exchange came when Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-La.) asked if he believed the election would be “rigged.” In an interview this month, Trump told Fox News that he believes “mail-in voting is going to rig the election” and declined to say whether he will accept the November results.

“I have no reason to think it will be,” Barr said.

Barr, however, stood by his repeated public suggestion that mail-in voting could lead to fraud, particularly if the practice is expanded to be used en masse. Some of his critics have said there is no evidence to support that assertion, and Barr himself conceded he has voted by mail at least once.

Barr said Americans “have to assume” Russia is seeking to interfere in the coming election, though he offered no specifics. In one exchange, he stumbled when asked whether it would be appropriate for the president “to solicit or accept foreign assistance in an election.” At first, Barr told Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) “it depends what kind of assistance.” But when asked the question again, with Cicilline adding that the assistance could be “of any kind,” Barr shifted course.

“No, it’s not appropriate,” he said.

Unlike Trump, Barr did confirm he would leave office if Trump lost.

“If the results are clear, I will leave office,” Barr said.

John Wagner and Nick Miroff contributed to this report.

July 28, 2020 at 4:28 PM EDT

Barr doesn’t commit to not releasing Durham report before November election

In another tense exchange, Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.) asked Attorney General William P. Barr about U.S. Attorney John Durham’s review of the origins of the 2016 probe of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. Durham was tapped by Barr last year to launch the probe.

“Under oath, do you commit to not releasing any report by Mr. Durham before the November election?” Mucarsel-Powell asked.

“No,” Barr replied, adding, “Any report will be, in my judgment, not one that is covered by the policy that would disrupt the election.”

The two went back and forth about the policy, with Mucarsel-Powell at one point asking Barr whether he would like her to read it aloud for him.

“No, I know what the policy is,” Barr said.

“Yeah,” Mucarsel-Powell replied.

In April, Barr told conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt that the Justice Department’s guidelines about not taking public steps in investigations close to an election would not seem to apply to Durham because “none of the key people that, whose actions are being reviewed at this point by Durham are running for president.” That would mean his report could be issued at any time.

“I think in its core, the idea is you don’t go after candidates,” Barr said in April. “You don’t indict candidates or perhaps someone that’s sufficiently close to a candidate, that it’s essentially the same, you know, within a certain number of days before an election. But you know, as I say, I don’t think any of the people whose actions are under review by Durham fall into that category.”

By Felicia Sonmez and Matt Zapotosky
July 28, 2020 at 4:05 PM EDT

Barr hearing features fights over rudeness, respect

As the hearing got into its fifth hour, the exchanges between Attorney General William P. Barr and Democrats got increasingly contentious.

When Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) asked Barr “under penalty of perjury” whether his past statements about the White House having fully cooperated with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation were true, Barr quipped that they were also wise — and then growled at Neguse when he pivoted to the next question.

“You said ‘under penalty of perjury’ — I’m going to answer the damn question,” he said.

A few minutes later, when Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) leaned into Barr about why he ordered protesters cleared from Lafayette Square ahead of a Trump photo op, she admonished him for trying, for a second time, to draw an analogy with Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the Philippines during World War II.

“The time is mine and we have waited a long time for you to come here,” she snapped.

“You waited to talk to me like this? You didn’t need to wait so long,” he retorted.

“I’m surprised at your lack of respect for a member of Congress,” Dean said later in their exchange.

At various points, the hearing broke down as the panel’s top Republican, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, objected to Democrats using their time to barrage Barr with questions then not giving him time to answer.

Nadler repeatedly beat his gavel to cut off Jordan’s protests. He also flatly denied Barr a five-minute break when the attorney general asked for one, with just a few members left to ask questions.

“I waited an hour for you this morning,” Barr told Nadler, pointing out he had been answering questions for hours, hadn’t had lunch and was just asking for five minutes — the second five-minute break he requested during the hearing. Nadler stressed that they were “almost finished” but relented.

“You are a real class act,” Barr said, laughing to himself, as Jordan rebuked Nadler for “rudeness.”

By Karoun Demirjian
July 28, 2020 at 3:05 PM EDT

In combative exchange, Jayapal accuses Barr of double standard in handling of protesters

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) confronted Barr over the federal response to protests, accusing the Trump administration of cracking down violently on Black Lives Matter demonstrators while turning a blind eye to anti-lockdown protests in states such as Michigan.

Jayapal mentioned a recent phone call Trump held with governors, during which the president said the way to deal with protests against police violence is to “dominate” the demonstrators, who he described as “terrorists,” and pledged to “activate” Barr as part of the federal response.

Jayapal noted that the federal government did not intervene, however, when some who had opposed coronavirus restrictions in Michigan made threats against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and brought guns and a doll with a noose around its neck to protests outside the state capitol.

“When white men with swastikas storm a government building with guns, there is no need for the president to ‘activate’ you, because they’re getting the president’s personal agenda done,” Jayapal said. “But when black people and people of color protest police brutality, systemic racism and the president’s very own lack of response to those critical issues, then you forcibly remove them with armed federal officers [and] pepper bombs because they are considered terrorists by the president.”

Barr said he was not aware that threats had been made against Whitmer, to which Jayapal replied, “You are aware of certain kinds of protesters,” noting the “real discrepancy” in the federal response.

“You take an aggressive approach to Black Lives Matter protests, but not to right-wing extremists threatening to lynch a governor if it’s for … the president’s benefit,” she said.

Barr also continued to dispute that tear gas was used on protesters outside Lafayette Square on June 1, prompting Jayapal to accuse him of making a “semantic distinction.”

By Felicia Sonmez
July 28, 2020 at 2:46 PM EDT

Barr has to think a second before condemning foreign election interference across the board

Barr hedged when asked whether it would be “appropriate for a president to solicit assistance” from a foreign government during an election, initially saying “it depends on what kind of assistance” before deciding, “No, it’s not appropriate.”

The exchange between Barr and Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) turned what might have been a throwaway question into an immediately heated exchange, as Cicilline also accused Barr of not respecting protesters in cities such as Portland, Ore., where federal officers have been dispatched to respond to demonstrations. Barr said that he thought “protesters are good” but that he was trying to condemn “people committing crimes.”

“I do not think what was happening immediately around the courthouse was a peaceful protest,” he said of the Portland demonstrations.

Cicilline finished his presentation with a minute-long video depicting protesters holding signs and singing “Hands up, please don’t shoot me” — a clear counter to the much longer video Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) had played earlier in the hearing, depicting scenes of destruction to cast the protests as violent.

By Karoun Demirjian
July 28, 2020 at 2:46 PM EDT

Five takeaways from Barr’s contentious congressional hearing

Barr testified for the first time in his tenure in front of a critical congressional audience — a House Judiciary Committee with a Democratic majority — as the Justice Department faces questions from critics who say it is helping President Trump politically in ways ranging from policing and protests to intervening in criminal investigations of Trump allies.

Barr came ready to defend himself, an opportunity Republicans on the committee repeatedly gave him. Here are five takeaways from Barr’s testimony.

By Amber Phillips
July 28, 2020 at 2:12 PM EDT

Barr dismisses calls for probe into Trump’s clemency toward Stone

Under questioning by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Attorney General William P. Barr acknowledged his previous remarks at his confirmation hearing that it would be a crime for a president to offer a pardon to silence a witness.

Swalwell then asked Barr why he isn’t investigating President Trump, noting the president’s commutation of the sentence of Roger Stone, his longtime confidant, who Swalwell said “was in a position to expose Donald Trump’s lies.”

“I don’t consider it” a reliable predicate for a criminal investigation, Barr responded, dismissing Swalwell’s reasoning as “a very Rube Goldberg theory.”

Swalwell also mentioned Trump’s December 2018 tweet praising Stone for having the “guts” not to testify against him.

Barr responded that he was “not familiar” with the tweet.

“You don’t read the president’s tweets?” Swalwell asked.

“No,” Barr replied.

Trump’s “guts” tweet, however, was included in the report issued by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in the past year.

By Felicia Sonmez
July 28, 2020 at 2:07 PM EDT

Barr said he did not know about the decision to send the president’s ex-attorney back to prison

Barr said he was unaware at the time that the Justice Department’s Bureau of Prisons had decided Trump’s ex-attorney Michael Cohen should go back to prison for refusing to agree not to talk to the media or write a book.

Pressed by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) about his role in Cohen being sent back to prison, Barr said he did not know at the time that Bureau of Prisons officials had decided to put him back behind bars because he disputed the condition that he not talk to reporters or write a book.

Cohen has been serving a prison sentence for financial crimes but was furloughed in May over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus inside prisons, on the condition that he remain at his Manhattan home.

A federal judge ruled last week that officials were wrong to send Cohen back to prison in July, finding it was retaliation “because of his desire to exercise his First Amendment rights to publish a book and to discuss anything about the book.”

Barr distanced himself from that decision process and said it was mostly due to demands of the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services System, which is part of the federal court system, not his department.

“His home confinement was not being supervised by the Bureau of Prisons. It was being supervised by the probation office,” the attorney general said.

By Devlin Barrett
July 28, 2020 at 1:54 PM EDT

Barr defends Trump’s response to the coronavirus crisis

Under aggressive questioning from Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Barr offered a defense of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis while taking aim at the president’s predecessor for alleged missteps.

Jeffries cited an April appearance Barr made on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, in which Barr said Trump’s guidance on coronavirus had been “superb.” Jeffries then ticked off what he saw as the president’s failures on the coronavirus crisis, asking Barr in each instance, “Was that superb? Yes or no?”

First, Jeffries noted that Trump had early in the pandemic predicted coronavirus cases would drop to zero.

Barr said, “I’d have to see the context.”

Jeffries then noted Trump had once said he took “no responsibility” for testing failures.

“It was accurate,” Barr replied, pointing instead to the Obama administration’s centralizing functions at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a possible reason for mistakes.

Jeffries confronted Barr with Trump’s comments suggesting people could ingest disinfectants to treat the coronavirus.

“That’s not what I heard,” Barr shot back.

Jeffries noted Trump had called shortages of personal protective equipment “fake news.”

“I think the administration did a good job of mustering PPE and the national supply of PPE was run down during the Obama administration and never replaced,” Barr said. (Similar claims have been debunked by independent fact checkers.)

Jeffries asked about Trump’s refusal in June to wear a mask, a step to prevent the spread of the coronavirus which he has now endorsed.

“Donald Trump is probably tested more than any other human being on the face of the earth,” Barr said with a chuckle.

Jeffries concluded by inquiring about Trump’s assertion that “99 percent” of coronavirus cases are “totally harmless.” Barr insisted the president was referring to the low fatality rate of the disease.

By Matt Zapotosky
July 28, 2020 at 1:37 PM EDT

Barr says he has ‘no reason’ to think 2020 election will be rigged, contradicting Trump

Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-La.) asked Barr about the 2020 election, pressing the attorney general on whether he believes the president has the power to move Election Day. Barr did not answer directly.

“I’ve never been asked the question before," said Barr, whose department is responsible for ensuring voting rights. “I’ve never looked into it as attorney general.”

Richmond then asked Barr whether he believes the election will be “rigged.”

“I have no reason to think it will be,” Barr replied.

In an interview this month, Trump told Fox News Channel’s Chris Wallace that he believes “mail-in voting is going to rig the election” and declined to say whether he will accept the November results.

Barr did say, however, that there is a “high risk” that mail-in voting will lead to widespread voter fraud, echoing an unfounded claim by Trump.

Richmond noted that Barr himself had previously voted by mail.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) followed up a few minutes later, asking Barr what he would do if Trump loses the election but refuses to leave office.

“If the results are clear, I will leave office,” Barr said. He added that he was “not familiar” with Trump’s comments on the issue.

Earlier, during Richmond’s questioning, he asked Barr whether he believes Russia interfered in the 2016 election and whether it is attempting to do so again this year. Barr replied in the affirmative on both counts.

“I think we have to assume that they are,” Barr said of attempted Russian interference in the 2020 campaign.

By Felicia Sonmez
July 28, 2020 at 1:15 PM EDT

Lawmaker urges Barr to use anti-Mafia RICO law to pursue violent protesters

A conservative congressman urged the Justice Department to deploy a complex anti-racketeering law used against the Mafia to target those committing violence at protests against police — a suggestion Barr said is “one of the tools” prosecutors could use to bring cases.

“General Barr, this has to stop. We can’t let antifa continue terrorizing our country,” Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) said, before suggesting using RICO against those committing violence at protests.

RICO is a complex, decades-old law designed to dismantle criminal organizations, though it is rarely used because it is often simpler for federal prosecutors to charge suspects with conspiracy or other crimes. RICO was most famously used in the 1980s to prosecute the leaders of New York’s Mafia families.

Barr told the congressman he had assigned counterterrorism investigators to help investigate what he called “violent extremist terrorists who are involved in these activities, and one of the tools obviously we would use is RICO, which could be used against an organization,” though he quickly added, “That doesn’t mean that we currently have a RICO case pending.”

Antifa, short for “anti-fascist,” is more of a movement than an organization, which could make it difficult to apply a law like the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to anyone who may commit crimes in their name.

Barr called antifa a “loosely-organized” movement.

“I’m not suggesting it’s a national organization,” he said. “They have been identified as involved in a number of violent mob actions that have taken place around the country.”

By Devlin Barrett
July 28, 2020 at 1:13 PM EDT

Barr defends Justice Department’s handling of Stone, Flynn cases

William P. Barr defended himself against accusations from multiple Democrats that the Justice Department has become “highly politicized” under his watch.

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) pressed the attorney general on the department’s handling of the case of Roger Stone, a longtime Trump associate whose sentence recommended by line prosecutors was reduced and later commuted by the president.

“You think the American people don’t understand that you were carrying out Trump’s will?” Johnson asked, noting Trump had tweeted about Stone’s case earlier the same day his recommended sentence was reduced.

Barr responded he had not discussed his sentencing recommendation with anyone at the White House or outside the Department of Justice. Johnson continued to press Barr, claiming he did “exactly what the president wanted you to do.”

Earlier, in response to questioning by Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), Barr defended himself more broadly.

“I would just ask people, I’m supposedly punishing the president’s enemies and helping his friends,” the attorney general said. “What enemies have I indicted. Could you point to one indictment that has been under the department that you feel is unmerited?”

Barr also defended his personal intervention in the criminal case against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, arguing his and Stone’s cases were “both cases where I determined that some intervention was necessary to rectify the rule of law, to make sure that people are treated the same.”

“This is a 67-year-old man, first-time offender, no violence, and they were trying to put him in jail for seven to nine years,” Barr said of Stone. “And I wasn’t going to advocate that, because that is not the rule of law.

“The president’s friends don’t deserve special breaks, but they also don’t deserve to be treated more harshly than other people,” he added.

By Felicia Sonmez
July 28, 2020 at 12:50 PM EDT

Barr says he learned of Trump’s possible plans to visit St. John’s Church in the ‘afternoon’ on June 1

Attorney General William P. Barr said Tuesday that he learned in the “afternoon” on June 1 that President Trump might go across Lafayette Square to St. John’s Church amid protests in D.C. over police brutality — raising new questions about whether police were ordered to disperse demonstrators gathered in that area to facilitate a Trump photo op.

Asked by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) when he first learned of Trump’s plans, Barr responded, “I learned sometime in the afternoon that the president might come out of the White House, and then later in the afternoon I heard that he might go to the church.”

He did not offer a specific time.

The acknowledgment is significant because it suggests Barr knew of Trump’s plan before police used gas and horses to clear a largely peaceful crowd of demonstrators outside Lafayette Square.

The police action occurred just before Trump walked across the area and posed for a photo holding a Bible in front of St. John’s Church. White House and Justice Department officials have said that Barr told officers on the scene to clear the crowd, attempting to implement a plan to extend the perimeter around the White House that was hatched the night before.

Barr has insisted that the move on protesters and Trump’s visit to the church were disconnected, a point he repeated Tuesday.

“That had nothing to do with that,” he said.

Barr has said, as have White House and Justice Department officials, that the decision was made the night before to expand the perimeter and that it was merely executed the next day.

But others have noted that the timing of events calls that assertion into question. And if Barr knew of Trump’s plans in the “afternoon,” he probably would have been aware that moving the crowd would allow the president to make the walk to St. John’s safely.

Police moved on the crowd a little after 6:30 p.m. Barr was spotted on the scene a little after 6 p.m. Officials have previously said he told officials there they needed to expand the perimeter.

“He conferred with them to check on the status and basically said: ‘This needs to be done. Get it done,’ ” one Justice Department official said.

By Matt Zapotosky
July 28, 2020 at 12:41 PM EDT

Barr says he does not think systemic racism is a problem in the nation’s police departments

Barr told Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) that he does not think that systemic racism is generally a problem in American police departments — a topic that has come to the fore in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

The exchange took place after the Houston congresswoman asked the attorney general: “Does the Trump Justice Department seek to end systemic racism and racism in law enforcement?”

Barr responded: “To the extent there is racism in any of our institutions in this country and the police, then obviously this administration will fully enforce — ” before Jackson Lee jumped in to recast part of her question.

“So you agree that there may be systemic racism?” she said.

“I don’t agree that there’s systemic racism in the police departments, generally in this country,” he said.

By Karoun Demirjian
July 28, 2020 at 12:08 PM EDT

Accused of fear-mongering, Barr defends increased federal agents in Portland

Barr defended the deployment of additional federal agents to Portland, Ore., after Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, accused him of exacerbating and intensifying clashes outside the federal courthouse in that city.

Nadler accused Barr of ratcheting up such confrontations because Trump thinks images of law enforcement clashing with protesters will scare more Americans into voting for Trump.

“The president wants footage for his campaign ads and you appear to be serving it up for him as ordered,” Nadler said. “You are projecting fear and violence nationwide in pursuit of obvious political objectives. Shame on you, Mr. Barr.”

Barr replied that U.S. Marshals and other federal agents have a duty to guard the Portland courthouse from people throwing fireworks and trying to vandalize and break into the building.

“We are on the defense, we are not looking for trouble, and if the state and the city would provide the law enforcement services that other jurisdictions do, we would have no need to have additional marshals in the courthouse,” the attorney general said.

On Monday, The Washington Post reported that marshals executives have decided to send 100 more deputy marshals to Portland as security reinforcements; Customs and Border Protection is weighing whether to send an additional 50 agents. The first new batch of deputy marshals, according to internal emails reviewed by The Post, were dispatched to Portland last week.

By Devlin Barrett