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Attorney General William Barr will deliver his highly anticipated testimony Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee, where lawmakers have long waited to pepper him with questions about the Democratic-alleged politicization of the Justice Department, as well as a variety of other issues.
Here’s what to know about the hearing:
When is it?
Tuesday, July 28, at 10 a.m. ET. Barr was originally scheduled to testify in March, but that was canceled due to the pandemic. Barr agreed to testify on Tuesday after House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., threatened to subpoena the attorney general following the firing of Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
What’s the format?
The hearing will be a hybrid, with some members asking questions in person and some remotely.
What’s the significance?
Some Democrats have suggested trying to impeach Barr over accusations he’s politicized the Justice Department. Nadler said his committee “may very well” initiate impeachment proceedings.
“I think the weight of the evidence and of what’s happened leads to that conclusion,” Nadler said.
What will it be about?
The hearing is supposed to be a “general oversight hearing,” according to Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec.
Michael Flynn case
Lawmakers are sure to bring up the DOJ moving to drop the case against Michael Flynn. In a 2-1 ruling, a federal appellate panel sided with Barr’s Justice Department saying the Flynn charges should be tossed. The House Judiciary Committee said the decision had signs of “corruption.”
“Few things are more corrosive to the rule of law – and the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system – than the injection of partisanship, favoritism or corruption into prosecutorial decisions,” the brief said. “In this case, the impropriety is barely concealed.”
Flynn for months had been trying to withdraw his guilty plea to lying to the FBI, and after internal memos were released raising serious questions about the nature of the investigation that led to Flynn’s late 2017 guilty plea, the DOJ made the call that the investigation was “untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn” and that the interview was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis.”
Roger Stone commutation
Barr is sure to take questions about Trump’s decision to commute the sentence of former adviser and longtime GOP operative Roger Stone. Days before Stone was set to report to prison for more than three years for charges stemming from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Trump announced an executive grant of clemency commuting Stone’s “unjust sentence.”
Stone had been convicted in November 2019 on seven counts of obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements to Congress. However, he has appealed his conviction and continues to deny any wrongdoing.
House Judiciary Democrats quickly moved forward with measures that would rein in the president’s pardoning power and pause the statute of limitations for possible crimes while a president is in office.
“If the president uses the powers of his office to shield himself and his family from federal investigations, then the investigators at the Department of Justice should provide us with the materials related to the underlying offense,” Nadler said of the Abuse of the Pardon Power Prevention Act.
Use of federal forces in U.S. cities
As the Trump administration has sent federal forces to cities such as Portland to quell violence, Democratic lawmakers have decried the action as an overstep of local authority. They’ve also accused federal agents of using abusive tactics, such as detaining protesters in unmarked cars and firing tear gas. Last week Trump and Barr announced they would take it a step further, sending 100 federal agents to Chicago to fight rising crime rates.
Lawmakers could ask the attorney general to clarify who made the call during the height of protests following the death of George Floyd to clear Lafayette Square aggressively before the president walked to St. John’s Church to take a photo with a Bible. Protesters were cleared just after the president gave an address in front of the White House.
Smoke bombs, pepper balls and police on horseback quickly dispersed what was said to be a mostly peaceful crowd. Democrats decried using aggressive tactics to clear the area for what they saw as a photo op for the president, as did some Republicans and even retired Marine Corps Gen. Jim Mattis, the president’s first defense secretary.
Senior administration officials and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said it was Barr’s decision to forcefully expand the protest perimeter around the White House before the president’s walk.
Barr said he did not give the command to disperse the crowd, but that the Park Police had made the decision to expand the perimeter well in advance, and he supported that decision.