Mar 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

DOJ emergency powers report raises ire among conservatives and liberals

Attorney General William Barr speaks at the Department of Justice National Opioid Summit in Washington, DC.
Attorney General Bill Barr gives a speech in Washington, D.C., on March 6. Photo: Michael Brochstein/Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Republican and Democratic lawmakers reacted with concern Saturday to a Politico report that the Department of Justice is seeking new powers to ask judges to detain people indefinitely without trial in emergency situations.

The big picture: Politico reports the DOJ documents for Congress it reviewed "detail the department’s requests to lawmakers on a host of topics, including the statute of limitations, asylum and the way court hearings are conducted." The unconfirmed report prompted Doug Stafford, the chief strategist for Rand Paul (R-Ky.), to tweet his agreement with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who criticized such a measure.

What they're saying: Several other members of Congress spoke out against the reported proposals, which come amid the novel coronavirus outbreak and include for Congress to grant Attorney General Bill Barr "power to ask the chief judge of any district court to pause court proceedings 'whenever the district court is fully or partially closed by virtue of any natural disaster, civil disobedience, or other emergency situation.'"

  • Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) tweeted, "OVER MY DEAD BODY."
  • Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) tweeted, "This is wrong and must not be allowed to happen."
  • Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) tweeted, "Congress must loudly reply NO."
  • Arizona state Sen. Martín Quezada (D) tweeted, "That would be a hard no."
  • Axios has contacted the DOJ for comment, along with the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), about the report.
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