June 10, 2020

Judiciary Democrats to Chairman Graham: Hold Hearings With Attorney General Barr

Washington—All 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote Chairman Graham requesting Attorney General Barr be invited to next week’s hearing on police use of force.

The senators also requested a separate hearing with the attorney general to discuss the federal government’s response to the nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd, including the decision to use tear gas and rubber bullets to remove peaceful protestors from near the White House.

“Any significant hearing on police reform and community relations with law enforcement – and especially one that seeks to probe the existence of systemic racism and the use of excessive force in policing – should include the attorney general,” the senators wrote. “The attorney general oversees multiple law enforcement agencies, including those tasked with investigations into allegations of police misconduct.”

The senators continued: “We also believe that this committee needs to hold an additional, separate hearing with Attorney General Barr to examine the Justice Department’s response to the nationwide protests that followed Mr. Floyd’s death. Attorney General Barr was at the center of the decision to remove peaceful protestors near the White House through use of tear gas and rubber bullets. Members should have an opportunity to question the Attorney General about the use of force against demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights, the deployment of federal law enforcement assets in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere, and the treatment of journalists covering the protests and the law enforcement response.”

Full text of the letter follows:

June 10, 2020

The Honorable Lindsey O. Graham
Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Graham:

We write to request that you invite Attorney General Bill Barr to testify at the Committee’s June 16th hearing on police use of force. This is a crucial topic for the country, and it is important that the Committee and American people hear from the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.

Any significant hearing on police reform and community relations with law enforcement — and especially one that seeks to probe the existence of systemic racism and the use of excessive force in policing — should include the Attorney General. The Attorney General oversees multiple law enforcement agencies, including those tasked with investigations into allegations of police misconduct. In fact, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is currently investigating George Floyd’s death to determine whether the Minneapolis Police Department officers involved violated federal law.

More broadly, it is the Attorney General who sets Justice Department policy and makes determinations regarding Departmental resources. During the Obama Administration, several important policing reforms were undertaken — including entering into more than a dozen consent decrees with police departments to change policing practices, and restrictions on the transfer of surplus military equipment to state and local police. These and other reforms were quickly reversed by President Trump’s first Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. Attorney General Barr must be called on June 16th to answer questions about the Department’s law enforcement priorities and what is being done to investigate and end police misconduct, including through pattern-or-practice cases led by the Department’s Civil Rights Division.

We also believe that this Committee needs to hold an additional, separate hearing with Attorney General Barr to examine the Justice Department’s response to the nationwide protests that followed Mr. Floyd’s death. Attorney General Barr was at the center of the decision to remove peaceful protestors near the White House through use of tear gas and rubber bullets. Members should have an opportunity to question the Attorney General about the use of force against demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights, the deployment of federal law enforcement assets in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere, and the treatment of journalists covering the protests and the law enforcement response. These hearings should be separate from an annual oversight hearing at which the Attorney General can be questioned, more generally, about the Department’s work and priorities.

The issues facing the nation fall squarely within the Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction. As Americans seek answers on police reform and to vindicate their civil, human, and constitutional rights, this Committee will be center stage. Given the gravity of these issues, and the singular leadership role occupied by the Attorney General, we should hear directly from Mr. Barr.

Sincerely,

Dianne Feinstein
Ranking Member

Patrick Leahy
United States Senator

Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator

Sheldon Whitehouse
United States Senator

Amy Klobuchar
United States Senator

Christopher A. Coons
United States Senator

Richard Blumenthal
United States Senator

Mazie K. Hirono
United States Senator

Cory A. Booker
United States Senator

Kamala D. Harris
United States Senator

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