Attorney General William Barr testified in a congressional hearing today, titled the “Oversight of the Department of Justice”, in front of the Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee. The hearing started off rocky, though, after Chairman Jerry Nadler was involved in a car crash on the way to the hearing.
Mr Barr's appearance on Capitol Hill was in first in front of the House Judiciary Committee despite multiple attempts by the Democrats to get the attorney general to testify before them.
In his opening testimony, Mr Barr vehemently defended his independence from the president after facing accusations of making decisions to appease Donald Trump. Mr Barr also defended the decision for federal agents to be deployed to cities like Portland, calling demonstrators in the city “violent rioters and anarchists”.
Mr Nadler then accused the attorney general of "aiding" and "abetting" in the president's "worst failings" during his own opening statement. He accused Mr Barr of many failings while attorney general, including allowing interference into the criminal cases of Trump allies, like Roger Stone and Michael Flynn.
Democrats chose what happened with Mr Stone as one line of questioning during the hearing. Mr Barr defended his decision to recommend a lesser sentence for the Trump ally, even though he supported the man being found guilty, but Democrats accused him of making the recommendations for a smaller sentence to appease Mr Trump.
Another important moment happened when Mr Barr was questioned about former US Attorney General Geoffrey Berman of SDNY stepping down. Mr Barr admitted he publicly announced the attorney general was stepping down prior to the man agreeing to leave office. He later backtracked that statement by saying Mr Berman was "removed" from office.
One theme consistent throughout the entire hearing was Democrats' refusal to let Mr Barr answer many of their questions. Instead the Democrats would cut the attorney general off to make their own statements. At one point, Mr Barr questioned why he was asked to speak in front of the hearing if he was unable to answer questions.
Republicans, on the other hand, used their time to attack Democrats and defend the attorney general. Top Republican Jim Jordan shared a video at the start of the hearing showing misleading imagery about the protests happening across the nation. Critics accused the representative of skewing the narrative and promoting propaganda.
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Hello and welcome to The Independent's live coverage of Attorney General William Barr's testifying in front of the House Judiciary Committee.
Top Democrat Jerry Nadler's car crash delays testimony of William Barr
Attorney General William Barr was expected to start his testimony in front of the House Judiciary Committee at 10am EST.
But Chairman Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the committee, was in a car crash on his way to Capitol Hill on Tuesday morning. The chairman was not injured in the crash, but it has postponed the start of the hearing.
The hearing is now scheduled to start around 10:45am EST, according to CNN.
More details about the car crash here:
House Judiciary Committee to grill Barr on Lafayette Square clearing and Michael Flynn case
The Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee has pushed for Attorney General William Barr to appear in front of them for a long time. Mr Barr will now face the committee for the first time about matters in the Department of Justice.
it is expected for Democrats to question Mr Barr about the Department of Justice's role in the clearing of protesters in Lafayette Square in Washington DC so the president could have his infamous church photo-op.
Other topics to come up today include the deployment of federal agents to cities like Portland and Chicago, the Michael Flynn case, the Roger Stone Case, and Mr Barr's independence from President Donald Trump when making decisions.
Reports indicate Republicans are prepared to defend the attorney general throughout the hearing for how Mr Barr's handled his role in the Department of Justice throughout Mr Trump's presidency.
Barr to defend his independence from Trump in opening testimony
The attorney general released his opening testimony prior to the hearing on Tuesday.
In the testimony, he addressed accusations of making decisions in the Department of Justice based on what Donald Trump wanted.
He said the president "has not attempted to interfere" in criminal cases within the department.
Mr Barr added: "Indeed, it is precisely because I feel complete freedom to do what I think is right that induced me serve once again as Attorney General."
It was expected for House Democrats to grill Mr Barr about the criminal cases of Michael Flynn and Roger Stone, Both allies to the president.
Portland protesters are described as "violent rioters and anarchists" by Barr
Attorney General William Barr will also address the protests happening across the country in the wake of George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
State and local officials in Portland have slammed the Trump administration for deploying federal agents to the city without being asked. Although the agents were sent there to quell protests, it has only appeared to heighten the violence and encourage more people to come out.
Mr Floyd's death "understandably jarred the whole country and forced us to reflect on longstanding issues in our nation," Mr Barr stated in his opening testimony, which was released prior to the hearing.
But he then compared the number of black men who have died at the hands of police to statistics about the number of white men who have died, citing The Washington Post.
"According to statistics compiled by The Washington Post, 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," he will say.
These statistics don't paint the entire picture, though, about how many black men per capita compared to that of white men. By not making this distinction, Mr Barr has skewed the information to serve his purpose.
He added that the decision to deploy federal agents to cities across the country was not designed to do with the problem of violent mob rioting". Instead the mandate for the federal agents was to "help state and local law enforcement to meet their basic responsibility to solve crimes and keep their communities safe".
Mr Barr also took to a similar rhetoric of the president by calling protesters specifically in Portland "violent rioters and anarchists" who have "hijacked legitimate protests to wreak senseless havoc and destruction on innocent victims. The current situation in Portland is a telling example."
Nadler says 'everyone is fine' as he apologises for delaying the hearing
"Everyone is fine except for maybe the car," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said at the start of the hearing.
The hearing with Attorney General William Barr initially was expected to start at 10am EST. It was delayed after Mr Nadler experienced a car crash on the way to Capitol Hill this morning.
He apologised for the delay ahead of his opening statement.
Top Democrat accuses Trump's attorney general of 'aiding' and 'abetting' president in 'worst failings'
Chairman Jerry Nadler opened the House Judiciary Committee's hearing with Attorney General William Barr by slamming the official for his relationship with President Donald Trump.
"You have aided and abetted the worst failing of the president," Mr Nadler said.
"This failure of leadership comes at great cost. This administration has twisted the Department of Justice into a shadow of itself," he added.
The attorney general was accused of downplaying systemic racism in the country and not assisting the country in matters related to police brutality. He was also accused of having "open hostility to the Black Lives movement".
Mr Nadler went on ton say the attorney general has spread "disinformation about voter fraud", a topic Mr Trump has been persistent about in recent months.
Other accusations from Mr Nadler's fiery opening statement included accusing the attorney general of allowing interference into criminal cases involving Mr Trump's allies, hinting at cases involving Michael Flynn and Roger Stone.
"The department has placed the president's political needs over the nation's health. These actions come at a price," Mr Nadler said
'A direct threat to the country': Barr waging 'war' on Justice Department to protect Trump, top Democrat says
Chairman Jerry Nadler's scathing opening statement about Attorney General William Barr's relationship with President Donald Trump has started the House Judiciary Committee's hearing on Capitol Hill today.
More details on what Mr Nadler said here:
Top Republican says 'spying' is why Democrats are now after Trump's attorney general
"Spying," Representative Jim Jordan, a Republican, said at the start of his opening statement.
"That's why they're after you, Mister Attorney General," he added, alluding to what he thought was the Democrat's main purpose for the Russia investigation.
Mr Jordan later praised the attorney general for supporting police, specifically amid the protests erupting across the country, instead of backing movements like "defund the police".
He proceeded to play a lengthy video showing moments from protests across the country in recent months.
Barr calls the defund the police movement 'grossly irresponsible'
Attorney General William Barr's opening statement included him slamming the movement on the left to defund the police following the killing of George Floyd and other black Americans at the hands of police.
"In the wake of George Floyd's death violent rioters and anarchists have hijacked legitimate protests to wreak senseless havoc and destruction on innocent victims," Mr Barr said.
He added the movement was "grossly irresponsible" on the part of the left to decrease funding to police departments.
"The demonization of the police is not only unfair and inconsistent with principles of all people should be treated as individuals, but gravely injurious to the inner city communities," he said.
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