Tuesday, October 27, 2020
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AG Barr Threatens DOJ Could Take Action Against States With Strict Coronavirus Rules

TOPLINE

Attorney General William Barr said in an interview on Tuesday that the Justice Department will consider taking legal action against governors who don’t follow President Trump’s guidelines for reopening the country and continue to impose strict coronavirus lockdowns in their states after the crisis subsides.

Virus Outbreak Trump

The attorney general warned that some state lockdowns may be infringing on civil rights.

Alex Brandon/ASSOCIATED PRESS

KEY FACTS

In his interview on The Hugh Hewitt Show, the attorney general said that state governments need to “do a better job” of ensuring coronavirus restrictions are “properly targeted” and do not infringe on constitutional rights.

Some of the restrictions imposed by state governors so far infringe on the constitutional rights of American citizens, he said, without naming specific examples.

While not explicitly disagreeing with the stay-at-home orders issued so far, he did say that some were “disturbingly close to house arrest,” and that the U.S. currently faces “unprecedented burdens on civil liberties.”

Barr, who supports Trump’s plan to gradually reopen the country, said that the government must “tailor its approach” after originally issuing “blunt” restrictions that were only justified up to a point.

To the extent that state governors don’t follow Trump’s guidance and “impinge on either civil rights or on the national commerce,” Barr warned, the Department of Justice will “have to address that.”

“These are very, very burdensome impingements on liberty, and we adopted them, we have to remember, for the limited purpose of slowing down the spread,” he emphasized.

Crucial quote

“When a governor acts, especially when a governor does something that intrudes upon or infringes on a fundamental right or a Constitutional right, they’re bounded by that,” Barr said on Tuesday. “And those situations are emerging around the country, to some extent.”

Tangent

Businesses need “more freedom to operate,” he urged, arguing that companies have the capacity to adapt on their own and figure out how to conduct their business in a way that’s safe.

Key background

Barr’s comments come amid a wider struggle between the Trump administration and state governments, which have clashed over the best approach to deal with the coronavirus. The president said on Sunday that some governors have “gone too far” with their coronavirus restrictions. He also tweeted over the weekend that his supporters should “liberate” three states that have faced small protests against strict stay-at-home orders: Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia, all of which have Democratic governors. Despite Trump’s eagerness to reopen the economy—he outlined his plan for states to do so last week—health experts have warned that reopening too early could result in a resurgence of cases.

Further reading

Illinois Gov. Pritzker Secretly Bought Medical Supplies From China. And The White House Is Not Happy. (Forbes)

Governors Call For $500 Billion To States Even After Top Republicans Say No (Forbes)

Cuomo on Trump: ‘He’s Doing Nothing’ (Forbes)

Cuomo: Trump Does Not Have ‘Total Authority’ Over States, Says He Would Resist Order To Reopen New York (Forbes)

Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus

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