Attorney General William Barr defended the Trump administration’s decision to send federal agents to Portland, Oregon, to protect government property during ongoing riots in the city, asking House Democrats, “Since when is it OK to burn down a federal courthouse?”
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After months of unrest following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, federal officers were sent to Portland to defend the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse after it became a recent target of violent mobs who have attempted to set it on fire and attacked several U.S. Marshals standing guard.
During a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) told Barr he should be ashamed of himself for sending in federal agents, accusing the attorney general of making the move for “obvious political objectives” to help President Donald Trump, the Daily Mail reported.
Barr fired back, “Since when is it OK to burn down a federal courthouse?”
The attorney general explained during his prepared statement, “What unfolds nightly around the courthouse cannot reasonably be called a protest; it is, by any objective measure, an assault on the government of the United States.”
He added, “Largely absent from these scenes of destruction are even superficial attempts by the rioters to connect their actions to George Floyd’s death or any legitimate call for reform. Nor could such brazen acts of lawlessness plausibly be justified by a concern that police officers in Minnesota or elsewhere defied the law.”
Barr testifies about federal response to protests in Portland, Ore.
Barr was attacked by the Democratic majority over an array of issues during his five hours of testimony, and he clashed with Nadler more than once.
At one point, the attorney general asked to take a 5-minute break, and the chairman initially shut down the request, leading to a testy exchange that was posted on Twitter by The Hill.
“Mr. Chairman, could we take a 5-minute break?” Barr asked Nadler.
“No,” Nadler responded, leading another committee member to interject, telling Nadler, “It’s a common courtesy, Mr. Chairman, of every witness.”
Barr then reminded the chairman, “I waited 45 [minutes], an hour for you this morning, I haven’t had lunch. I’d like to take a 5-minute break.”
Nadler went on to insist that the hearing was “almost finished,” then conceded, “we could certainly take a break.”
Barr responded, laughing, “You’re a real class act, Mr. Chairman. A real class act.”