Attorney General William Barr staunchly defended the use of federal law enforcement officers in cities facing violent riots during a Tuesday hearing before the House Judiciary Committee.
Barr explained several times that federal officers were just a backstop, protecting federal buildings and property when local officials and law enforcement had failed to do so, and noted that the rioters had become so violent in some cities that federal marshals had been injured in their attempt to get things under control.
Republican Ohio Rep. Steve Chabot opened his allotted time by asking what the mission was for federal law enforcement officers deployed to cities like Portland, where violence and rioting has become an almost nightly presence.
“Federal courts are under attack. Since when is it ok to try to burn down a federal court? If someone went down the street to the Prettyman Court here, that beautiful courthouse we have at the bottom of the hill and started breaking windows and firing industrial grade fireworks in to start a fire, throw kerosene balloons in and start fires in the court, is that ok? Is that ok now?” Barr asked. “The U.S. Marshals have a duty to stop that and defend the courthouse. That is what we are doing in Portland. We are defending the courthouse. We are not looking for trouble.”
Chabot then proceeded to list the weapons and projectiles that rioters had brought to bear against law enforcement, asking Barr whether he had left anything out.
Chabot went on to reference House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s characterization of the federal officers, giving Barr a chance to respond to the fact that she had called them “storm troopers.”
“Some have derisively referred to these law enforcement personnel as storm troopers and worse. Does that accurately describe them? Would you like to set the record straight?” Chabot asked.
“They are not storm troopers. Normally we would have a group of deputy marshals in a court in suits and ties, in civilian dress. Those would be the deputy marshals as a protective force for the court,” Barr explained. “After almost a month of rioting in Portland, we sent in — around the Fourth of July — we sent in about 20 special operations marshals. Those are tactical teams who are padded and protected so they can deal with this kind of thing.”