Barr prepares robust defence of record working for Trump

William Barr, the US attorney-general, is due to put forward an aggressive defence of his record on Tuesday as he makes his first appearance before the Democratic-controlled House judiciary committee.

In prepared testimony released on Monday, Mr Barr accused Democrats of going after him because of his hostility to the Russia investigation, said President Donald Trump had not interfered in any criminal cases, and denounced “violent rioters and anarchists” in Portland.

The combative remarks previewed what is set to be a dramatic showdown on Tuesday morning, with Mr Barr facing accusations from Democrats of politicising the US Department of Justice and enabling a Trump administration crackdown on protests.

Mr Barr has been at the centre of several controversies this year, including his interventions in criminal cases involving allies of Mr Trump, his ouster of the Manhattan US attorney, and his role in the removal of protesters outside the White House last month.

His prepared testimony includes a direct attack on Democrats on the House of Representatives judiciary committee, who Mr Barr claimed had sought to undermine him because of his efforts to investigate the DoJ’s past inquiry into possible links between Mr Trump and Russia.

“Ever since I made it clear that I was going to do everything I could to get to the bottom of the grave abuses involved in the bogus ‘Russiagate’ scandal, many of the Democrats on this committee have attempted to discredit me by conjuring up a narrative that I am simply the president’s factotum who disposes of criminal cases according to his instructions,” the testimony said.

Mr Barr is due to insist that: “My decisions on criminal matters have been left to my independent judgment, based on the law and fact, without any direction or interference from the White House or anyone outside the department.”

His prepared testimony criticises calls by activists since the police killing of George Floyd to “defund the police” and divert spending to welfare programmes. “When the police are attacked, when they are defunded, when they are driven out of urban communities, it is black lives that will suffer most from their absence,” Mr Barr will argue.

The attorney-general is also set to issue a forceful defence of the Trump administration’s actions in Portland, Oregon, which has seen nightly clashes between federal forces and demonstrators at the federal courthouse for weeks.

“What unfolds nightly around the courthouse cannot reasonably be called a protest; it is, by any objective measure, an assault on the government of the United States,” Mr Barr said in the prepared testimony.

On Monday, two Portland protest groups sued the federal government, alleging the Trump administration had “used violence in an effort to stamp out peaceful and constitutionally protected protests”.

The Portland US attorney, Billy Williams, separately announced the arrests of 22 people during this past weekend’s courthouse protests.

Mr Barr’s testimony will coincide with another congressional hearing where a US national guardsman will testify that the Trump administration used “excessive” force to remove peaceful protesters near the White House in June.