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US Attorney General Barr fend off Democrats attacks over protests

Washington, DC, USAttorney General William Barr on Tuesday, July 28 parried attacks in the Democratic-led House of Representatives, denying accusations he is doing President Donald Trump's bidding by intervening in high-profile cases and sending federal agents into U.S. cities.

He testified to the House Judiciary Committee for the first time since taking office in February 2019 as the Justice Department faces criticism for sending federal officers to forcibly disperse anti-racism protesters in Portland, Oregon, and Washington, DC. Committee Democrats repeatedly interrupted Barr, often running out the clock before he could answer their questions and drawing criticism from Barr's fellow Republicans, who responded by letting him address the Democrats' criticism during their own allotted time to ask questions - a tactic that made it easier for Barr to stay on message.

During an exchange about the deployment of federal agents to Portland where they have clashed nightly with anti-racism demonstrators who have also set fires and thrown objects, Barr responded, "We have to take a stand and defend this federal property." Democrats argued that the deployment of federal agents to U.S. cities was an effort to boost Trump's re-election campaign.

"There is a real discrepancy in how you react as the attorney general, the top cop in this country when white men with swastikas storm a government building with guns, there is no need for the President to, quote, activate you because they're getting the president's personal agenda done. But, when Black people and people of color protest police brutality, systemic racism and the president's very own lack of response to those critical issues, then you forcibly remove them with armed federal officers, pepper bombs because they are considered terrorists by the president," Representative Pramila Jayapal said.

Barr denied taking actions to help Trump associates, saying they do not deserve special breaks but also should not be treated more harshly than other defendants. The department's internal watchdog launched probes last week into federal involvement in the Portland and Washington, D.C., protests.

Widespread and mostly peaceful protests against racial bias and police brutality have taken place in the United States since May 25 when George Floyd, a Black man, died under the knee of a white officer. Barr has highlighted the arson and violence at some protests, blaming them primarily on far-left "antifa" elements - an assertion that is heavily disputed - and urging federal prosecutors to bring criminal charges whenever possible.

In May, Barr sought to drop the criminal charge against former national security adviser Michael Flynn, setting the stage for an ongoing legal battle with the federal judge who was due to sentence Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Barr insisted that Trump had not influenced the decision.

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