Yesterday Attorney General Bill Barr appeared before the House Judiciary Committee, and it was a missed opportunity on both sides.
The Democrats had been waiting for over a year to get Barr back before the committee, and clearly could not fit all the questions they wanted to ask in the allotted five minutes that each member had.
They would ask a question and Barr would begin to slow walk a response in his mellifluous baritone, and they would cut him off, because they had other questions they wanted to ask him.
But if you ask the man a question, you have to give him the chance to answer it. The Democrats would have benefited from more focus, just concentrating on a few issues. For example, if (as Barr contended) the purpose of the federal officers was to protect federal courthouses, one could have explored where the protests were in relationship to the three courthouses (see below) and how much of a circumference one should have drawn around each courthouse for protection.
Other questions the Democrats could have asked but didn’t include:
- What is the makeup of the federal forces that were deployed to Portland?
- How many of these forces are private contractors supplied by people like Erik Prince?
- Why were the federal officers not required to identify themselves?
- Why were the federal officers driving in unmarked vans?
Some of the members (like Rep. Pramila Jayapal) did try to be more focused, but got bogged down in questions like whether tear gas was used at Lafayette Park. (It’s not really important, and could have noted the discrepancy and just let it go.1)
The Republicans were mostly (as they so often do) engaged in a case of fearmongering, best demonstrated by Rep. Jim Jordan’s 14 minute opening statement, which included an eight minute video alleged to be of various looters destroying property and challenging police during these demonstrations.
Of course, this being the Republicans, who knows where the fuck they got all of this video footage. Some of it could have come from the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles in 1992. I wouldn’t put it past the Republicans.
The GOP is still trying to make a “law and order” case to their suburban and rural voters (which are clearly code words for racial discrimination) in a way that had once worked for Tricky Dick Nixon. But it isn’t finding much traction these days. The Democrats have of course abetted the problem by proposing to “defund” the police.2
The Legal Case
You may have read recently that Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filed a lawsuit on July 17 against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Protection Service and their agents, alleging that federal officers in the city of Portland have acted unlawfully by seizing and detaining Oregonians without probable cause. She sought a restraining order that would temporarily stop them from using such tactics.
That restraining order was denied by federal judge Michael Mosman, who concluded that the Oregon AG didn’t have “standing” in a 14 page opinion. However, in that opinion he essentially set out a road map for how private citizens of Oregon whose rights were violated could proceed, and a number of those citizens have clearly taken up the judge’s invitation.
Then, it was reported by Oregon Public Radio that Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s office is in talks with the Trump administration to remove the federal officers from Portland, in exchange for state law enforcement taking up the task of protecting Portland’s federal courthouse from vandalism.
It looks like Donald Trump isn’t going to get to “dominate the streets” much longer.
- This had to do with when the administration cleared Lafayette Park so that the President could have his awkward photo op with a Bible in front of St John’s Episcopal Church. Barr denied that teargas was used, even though there were plenty of eyewitnesses confirming that it was.
- I have previously argued that one shouldn’t use the words to “defund” the police if what on really wants to do is reallocate some of the resources to other community endeavors.