Attorney General William Barr accuses congressional Democrats of seeking to discredit him because of his investigation into the origins of the FBI’s Russia probe, in a combative opening statement for Tuesday’s hearing before the House Judiciary Committee.
In Barr’s prepared remarks, which were provided to CNN by the Justice Department on Monday, the attorney general says he has acted independently of President Trump in the decisions he’s made in several criminal cases he’s handled.
“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. Judging from the letter inviting me to this hearing, that appears to be your agenda today,” Barr says in his written remarks.
Barr will also face questions on his role in the administration’s crackdown on the protests across the country that followed George Floyd’s killing in May, including the decision to forcibly disperse a peaceful demonstration at Lafayette Square in June and the dispatching of federal officers to Portland, Oregon, where rioters have clashed with authorities nightly outside a complex of federal buildings.
In his opening statement, Barr said the President “has not attempted to interfere” in the criminal decisions he’s made, which would include lessening the sentencing recommendation for Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone and to move to dismiss charges against Trump’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn.
“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,” Barr will say.
The majority of Barr’s statement, however, is devoted to issues of race and policing, striking a tone that is decidedly defensive of law enforcement.
Barr calls the killing of Floyd “horrible” and says it “understandably jarred the whole country and forced us to reflect on longstanding issues in our nation.” He continues, however, by recounting the ways that policing in America has changed since “the Civil Rights movement finally succeeded in tearing down the Jim Crow edifice.”
Read Barr’s full opening statement here: