Attorney General William Barr testified before the House Judiciary Committee for the first time on Tuesday where Democrat lawmakers grilled him on the recent deployment of federal law enforcement agents to crime-ridden U.S. cities and more.
Barr said federal law enforcement has a duty to both enforce federal law and protect federal property, and federal law enforcement agents have been deployed to do just that. He said federal courthouses, specifically, have been under attack.
“Since when is it okay to try to burn down a federal court?” Barr asked. “If someone went down the street to the [E. Barrett] Prettyman Court … and started breaking windows and firing industrial-grade fireworks …. and throw kerosene balloons in and start fires in the court, is that ok? Is that okay now? No. The U.S. Marshals have a duty to stop that and defend the courthouse and that’s what we’re doing in Portland. We are at the courthouse defending the courthouse. We’re not out looking for trouble.”
Barr said that if state and local law enforcement would do their jobs and effectively protect the federal properties, federal agents wouldn’t need to be deployed to do it.
“Even where there are these kinds of riots occurring, we haven’t had to put in the kind of reinforcement that we have in Portland because the state and local law enforcement does their job and won’t allow rioters to come and just physically assault the courthouse. In Portland that’s not the case,” Barr said.
Upon a hypothetical presented by Rep. Doug Collins, Barr said he wasn’t sure that lawmakers would try to stop rioters even if they attacked the U.S. Capitol.
“In the wake of George Floyd’s death, violent rioters and anarchists have hijacked legitimate protests to wreak senseless havoc and destruction on innocent victims,” Barr said.
Barr named the anti-fascist movement ANTIFA as one among “a number of violent extremist groups across the U.S.,” adding, “Antifa is heavily represented in the recent riots. They have been identified as involved in the violent mob actions that have taken place around the country.”
Barr said without federal law enforcement presence to defend federal buildings from violent and destructive riots, “there’s no doubt in my mind that it would spread.”
“We are concerned about this problem metastasizing around the country. And so we feel that we have to, in a place like Portland where we don’t have the support of the local government, we have to take a stand and defend this federal property. We can’t get to a level where were going to accept these kinds of violent attacks on federal courts.”