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AG Barr says time to roll back strict lockdowns: ‘Rights aren’t suspended during crisis’

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)
May 01, 2020

U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr said Friday it is time for state and local governments to begin easing off of harsh restrictions adopted to protect against coronavirus.

Barr made his comments in response to a question during a Twitter Q&A session Friday. Asked about the constitutionality of restrictions imposed by state and local governments, Barr said those local governments could impose “reasonable and temporary restrictions” but said that “the Bill of Rights doesn’t go away during a crisis.”

Barr said the Bill of Rights “requires that the government justify any restrictions as truly necessary and ensure that there are not other ways of addressing the government’s interests that are less burdensome on our rights.”

Barr continued to say that while initial restrictive measures may have been reasonable early on when little was known about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Now that the curve has been flattened, the rate of spread has been slowed, our system has not been overwhelmed and has had time to adjust to the situation, it’s time to start rolling back some of these restrictions in an orderly and sensible way,” Barr said. “And the President has provided his opening the United States again plan that provides a sensible approach for doing that, a framework for doing that.”

Barr warned the Department of Justice is now on the lookout for coronavirus restrictions that are “too widespread, too generalized and are unduly discriminatory to liberties, such as religious liberty or speech.”

Barr’s comments are the latest warning against overboard coronavirus restrictions. In an interview last week with radio host Hugh Hewitt, Barr said the DOJ was issuing warnings to state and local governments where they believe necessary and then weighing legal options as needed.

“We’re looking carefully at a number of these rules that are being put into place. And if we think one goes too far, we initially try to jawbone the governors into rolling them back or adjusting them,” Barr said. “And if they’re not and people bring lawsuits, we file statement of interest and side with the plaintiffs.”

During the interview, Barr described the coronavirus closures as akin to cancer treatment.

“Sometimes cancer is spreading, and one of the treatments you can use is chemotherapy to drive it back and localize it and make it more susceptible to surgery or more targeted things like radiation or even immunotherapy,” Barr said. “But your first thing is to drive it back to a manageable, a more manageable state. And that’s what we’re doing and have done. And the question is you can’t just keep on feeding the patient chemotherapy and say well, we’re killing the cancer, because we were getting to the point where we’re killing the patient.”