Attorney General William Barr’s hearing today is titled “Oversight of the Department of Justice,” and it is expected to serve as a moment for the Democratic-led committee to press the Trump official on a number of episodes that have raised concerns in the House about the agency’s independence and use of force.
Tuesday’s appearance on Capitol Hill will be Barr’s first before the House Judiciary Committee, where the panel’s Democrats have accused Barr of a litany of offenses and raised the specter of impeachment.
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have long been angling for Barr to appear before them after a no-show last year and previous dates this year were scuttled by the coronavirus pandemic.
Here are some key topics that could arise during the hearing:
- The firing of Geoffrey BermanThe powerful prosecutor, who led the Manhattan US attorney’s office that has pursued Trump and his allies, told a congressional panel earlier this month that Barr had pressured him to resign and had warned he could be harming his future job prospects if he did not do so.
- The DOJ’s role in the forceful clearing of protesters from Lafayette Square: Barr, who was present for Trump’s photo-op at the nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church, has defended the actions of law enforcement officers in clearing the protesters, claiming the Park Police simply wanted a larger security perimeter around the White House.
- The deployment of federal forces in cities such as Portland: Ahead of the July Fourth weekend, the Trump administration dispatched teams of federal agents to the city. Trump has said the effort was to protect federal property but protesters say the action itself has fueled the public’s outrage. In a letter last week addressed to Barr and Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, more than a dozen mayors called the administration’s intention to deploy federal forces against protesters an “abuse of power.”
- The Flynn and Roger Stone cases: The attorney general has come under fire for dropping the criminal prosecution of Trump’s former national security adviser, after Flynn admitted his guilt under oath, and for overriding career prosecutors’ recommendations for a harsh sentence for Stone, a longtime political adviser and friend of Trump. One of the prosecutors in the Stone case testified before the Judiciary Committee last month, accusing Barr and DOJ leaders of pressuring the acting US Attorney for the District of Columbia to recommend a lighter sentence for Stone because of Stone’s relationship with the President. Trump commuted Stone’s prison sentence earlier this month.