Mucarsel-Powell Questions AG Barr On Trump's Handling Of Peaceful Protests, Dismantling Of ACA, COVID-19 And Election Interference
Today, U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26), member of the Judiciary Committee and the first member of Congress from South America, questioned Attorney General Bill Barr about the Trump administration's response to the protests in Portland; blocking states from implementing COVID-19 precautions; attempt to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA); and election interference. During her testimony, she shared back-to-back footage of Maduro's security cracking down on peaceful protests with footage of U.S. officers cracking down on peaceful protesters in Portland.
A clip of Mucarsel-Powell's questioning can be found here.
The video clip she references in her testimony, showing protests in Venezuela and Portland, Oregon, can be found here.
Ranking Member asking for clarification about the video clip of protests, can be found here.
Mucarsel-Powell's line of questioning with Barr are transcribed below:
Mucarsel-Powell: Mr. Barr, good afternoon. I'm glad that you mentioned Latin America a little bit earlier. You know many of my constituents that are represented in Florida fled to America from countries that use deadly force to stifle speech and they used armed forces to suppress dissenting voices. They cherish our Constitution as many Americans have done for generations, because of the incredible freedoms and rights that being an American citizen gives to all of us. It's extremely personal to me because you probably know that my roots are in Ecuador, but I live by the American constitution. And it's true that those who aren't fortunate enough to always have these rights and freedoms sometimes cherish them even more than those who have always had them. When they see photos from Portland, they don't see the American ideal or the America that they know, they actually see and are reminded what they left behind. You would agree with me on that? Are you listening, Mr. Barr?
Barr: Well, I wasn't sure. Who's the subject of that last sentence?
Mucarsel-Powell: Take a look at this. Just you know, when you see--look at these videos for one second. We have seen violence in Venezuela at the hands of Maduro. Firing tear gas at protesters and using brutal tactics to crush demonstrations. That's what we see from dictators on both the left and the right, but it's hard to distinguish these photos from these events and from the videos that we've seen by US federal police in Portland teargassing and breaking the bones of a peacefully protesting US veteran. Very similar. So, Mr. Barr, how do you restore the confidence of my constituents in the values of this county when every night on television they're seeing these images of violence used against the peaceful protesters? We all denounce violence. How do you restore the trust in our democracy?
Barr: I think that--I think that the forces being deployed against rioters or in situations where "protesters" are not following police directions--
Mucarsel-Powell: Most of the protests have been peaceful, Mr. Barr, you know that. You know that. You're just using language for political purposes just like my colleagues across the aisle. Let me just go now to one of the most important topics facing our nation right now. Health care. You know in my district we have close to 100,000 people that get their health insurance through the ACA. 19,000 of them are living with serious pre-existing conditions and yet you are working to strip their healthcare at the worst possible moment. When the coronavirus is killing thousands of people in my state. In Miami-Dade County and in Monroe County, counties that I represent, do you know how many people have died from COVID-19?
Barr: No, I don't.
Mucarsel-Powell: 1,410 people. You were at the White House on March 23 when president Trump said Governor DeSantis was doing an incredible job. Do you agree that Governor DeSantis is doing an incredible job?
Barr: Well, there's no reason not to believe that.
Mucarsel-Powell: Well, Florida now has more cases than in China and in fact we have, in Florida--unfortunately and I'm not proud to say this--in Florida, we have more cases than most countries combined around the world. So, no, he is not doing an incredible job. You pushed states to open too soon, you threatened states with lawsuits--
Barr: I didn't ask states to open.
Mucarsel-Powell: You threatened with lawsuits for those states that wanted to have stay-at-home orders. Mr. Barr, we have the facts. I'm going by the facts.
Barr: Yeah, I'm just saying--
Mucarsel-Powell: And now the country--the United States of America has more than 4.3 million COVID cases alone. You, you Mr. Barr and President Trump, working together, are letting my constituents down and it's something that you are going to have to live with. What am I supposed to say to my constituents when they ask me if the government has done everything in its power to protect their loved ones from dying? You tell me, Mr. Barr, what am I supposed to tell them?
Barr: I would tell them that managing this kind of thing requires a lot of difficult choices between different consequences--
Mucarsel-Powell: I'm not going to lie to my constituents. I am going to tell them that President Donald Trump and the Attorney General, working together, are not following health guidelines. They are letting Americans die needlessly because of political reasons. That is what I will tell them Mr. Barr, thank you. And one last question, if I can. Under oath, do you commit to not releasing any report by Mr. Durham? before the November election?
Mucarsel-Powell: You don't commit to that?
Mucarsel-Powell: So, you'll walk on Department of Justice policy that you won't interfere in any political investigations before the November election?
Barr: I'm not going to tolerate--
Mucarsel-Powell: But under oath you're saying that you do not commit to not releasing a report by Durham?
Barr: I am not going to--any report will be in my judgement not on--it is covered by the policy that would disrupt the election. I've already made it clear that--
Mucarsel-Powell: You would go against your own Department of Justice policy, Mr. Barr?
Barr: Why don't you tell me what that policy says?
Mucarsel-Powell: Oh, I have it right here.
Barr: Well, actually--
Mucarsel-Powell: Do you want me to repeat it for you?
Barr: No I know what the policy--
Mucarsel-Powell: Yeah, thank you, I yield back, Mr. Chairman.