EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Members of Congress, including El Paso Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, questioned Attorney General William Barr today during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Oversight of the Justice Department.
The House Judiciary Committee has conducted hearings regarding political interference and threats to prosecutorial independence in the Department of Justice since March 2019.
The first hearing was on pardon power, and future hearings directly involved Barr.
In May 2019, for example, Barr refused to appear for a scheduled hearing before the Committee, at which point a vote was made to authorize a contempt resolution. As recently as June 2020, the Committee held a hearing concerning an allegation that the Department of Justice is being politicized under Barr.
“Again and again, you personally have interfered with ongoing criminal investigations to protect the President and his allies from the consequences of their actions,” said Congressman Jerry Nadler to Barr, referring to the Russia probe and the use of federal forces at recent peaceful Black Lives Matter protests.
Following Congressman Nadler in delivering opening statements was Congressman Jim Jordan, who played a montage of clips from recent protests.
A little while later, President Trump’s 2020 reelection staff shared the same clip as Jordan.
The clip shows the anger, fear, and violence that has taken place at protests designed to be peaceful following the killing of George Floyd by (now former) Minneapolis police officers.
Members of both parties on the Committee agreed the violence is indicative of larger social issues but continued to bicker.
Congresswoman Mucarsel-Powell spoke of immigrants who fled their countries to avoid the very violence and civil unrest that is now occurring in Portland, juxtaposing footage of protests in the U.S. to violent protests in Venezuela.
Jordan interrupted Mucarsel-Powell to question whether the footage was of Venezuela or the U.S., inadvertently agreeing with the Congresswoman’s point that violence in the U.S. is now indiscernible from Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis — and it’s a problem.
Congresswoman Escobar followed Mucarsel-Powell and continued to address the Department of Justice’s policies.
Escobar questioned the proposed policy that would exclude undocumented immigrants from the U.S. Census, thereby threatening federal funding for vulnerable communities that include many American children.
“For example,” said Escobar, “many American children are living with an undocumented parent or relative. This change in the census would mean that those children – American children – would receive fewer programs like the National School Lunch Program, Head start, or the state’s child insurance program.”
“Are you comfortable with a decision that would punish American children and immigrant communities?” asked Escobar.
“I don’t make the policy,” replied Barr. “I provide legal advice on legal issues.”
Escobar continued her questions and asked Barr if the U.S. Constitution requires people to be U.S. citizens in order to be counted, to which he said “no.”
The Department of Justice’s failure to adhere to recent Supreme Court rulings was the next issue brought up by Escobar, who noted SCOTUS’s decision that the current administration’s attempt to rescind DACA was arbitrary and capricious, and required the Department of Justice to process DACA applications.
“Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, zero DACA applications have been processed,” said Escobar.
Moreover, the Department of Justice, said Escobar, has also failed to adhere to SCOTUS decisions regarding the rights of people who are transsexual.
“Yes or no,” asked Escobar, “will the Department of Justice implement the DACA and trans rulings?”
“Yes, I think we are,” said Barr.
“At least, that’s what I was told.”