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Barr says ‘nonsense’ to reports of DOJ seeking power to detain suspects indefinitely

Attorney General Bill Barr and FBI Deputy Director Bowdich at press conference announcing charges against 4 Chinese military hackers on Feb. 10, 2020. (U.S. Department of Justice/Released)
March 26, 2020

Reports of the Department of Justice’s request to be able to ask judges to detain certain suspects indefinitely are “cockamamie nonsense,” Attorney General William Barr told Fox News exclusively on Thursday.

Politico reported on Sunday stated that the DOJ asked Congress for several emergency powers, including giving district judges the power to suspend all court rules and detain individuals indefinitely during emergencies. Additionally, according to Politico, the DOJ asked Congress to authorize the attorney general to ask the chief judge of any district court to pause court proceedings “whenever the district court is fully or partially closed by virtue of any natural disaster, civil disobedience, or other emergency situation.”

“It’s a gross mischaracterization,” Barr said of the reports.

Barr said that the DOJ never proposed an expansion of its own power. Instead, he noted, lawmakers on Capitol Hill asked him for suggestions about giving judges more flexibility to adjust schedules while many courts are closing or scaling back operations during the coronavirus crisis.

Barr said that “augmenting the power of the chief judge in each district to come up with a consistent approach” was a suggestion that led to the proposal. “Individual judges will decide this and not the Department of Justice.”

“The whole legal system is rife with deadlines,” Barr said. “You have so many days to appeal a decision and so on.”

The original report received backlash from major Republican members of Congress, including Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee, as well as Democrats Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec clarified on Monday that the judges would be given the power to suspend those court procedures and the executive branch would not be given the ability to actually suspend individuals’ rights.

“Bottom line: The proposed legislative text confers powers upon judges. It does not confer new powers upon the executive branch,” she tweeted. “These provisions are designed to empower the courts to ensure the fair and effective administration of justice.”

According to Johns Hopkins’ latest tracking data on Thursday, there are more than 500,000 cases of coronavirus and more than 23,000 deaths, while more than 122,000 people have recovered from the virus across the globe. In the United States, there are almost 80,000 confirmed cases, 1,100 deaths, and 619 recoveries from the coronavirus. Those figures are suspected to be much greater due to the lack of available test kits.