Thursday, September 24, 2020

AG Barr denies oversight access to Congress

The Department of Justice sent a stunning letter to the House Judiciary Committee, refusing to bring the assistant attorney general and Bureau of Prisons director to testify as the committee had requested, because—according to the department—when Barr testified in July the committee used its time to “air grievances,” reported Slate. Since the Democrats did not stick to the script, the DOJ argues, the hearing did not serve a “legitimate legislative purpose,” and DOJ decided it was in its right to ignore any future request.

That’s not how oversight has ever worked. Barr’s unilateral declaration—that any attempt by Congress to question him or his officials is illegitimate—is just the latest effort to place the executive branch above its constitutional obligations. The administration has spent recent years refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas for executive documents, most notably during the impeachment inquiry, but the refusal to even appear is a complete rejection and dismantling of oversight altogether. This latest effort calls for the only possible proportionate response: William Barr should be impeached.

Under standard congressional oversight, as it has gone for generations, witnesses appear before the committee and then—for better or worse—they are left to the whims of whatever Congress wants to discuss. Just ask former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who testified for 11 hours in 2015 while Republicans demanded she respond to inquiries about their latest conspiracy theories. Or look at the recent hearing with large tech companies, which Republicans used to float wild accusations about censorship of conservatives in social media.

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