Out U.S. Rep. David Cicilline made a notable mark with his questioning of Attorney General William Barr before the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday.
Barr was testifying before the committee on several issues involving the department’s independence — especially favors to Donald Trump and his associates — and use of force.
Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat and one of the few out gay members of Congress, pressed Barr on whether it’s ever appropriate for a president or candidate to solicit or accept foreign assistance in an election. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation found that Trump’s campaign was at the very least receptive to help from Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential race. Trump was also impeached in late 2019 for pressuring Ukraine's leader to pursue a damaging investigation, based on false allegations, into his 2020 political rival, Joe Biden. Trump is further accused by his former national security adviser John Bolton of trying to get the Chinese to aid his reelection efforts.
Barr initially replied that it depends on the type of assistance from foreign governments, and when Cicilline asked if it was ever OK to accept any type of help, Barr said it was not. Cicilline commented, “Sorry you had to struggle with that, Mr. Attorney General.”
Other points touched on in the hearing include the deployment of federal forces against protesters in Portland, Ore., which Barr contended was justified; the commutation of Trump friend Roger Stone’s prison sentence for lying to Congress and other offenses, even though Barr had said Stone deserved to serve time; and whether there is systemic racism in police departments — Barr claimed there is not. See updates here.