Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

More than 1,250 former Department of Justice employees have signed a letter asking the department's inspector general to investigate Attorney General Bill Barr's role in police forcibly removing a group of mostly peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square last week.

Why it matters: Barr has acknowledged that he gave the order to extend the security perimeter around the White House, but has denied giving the tactical command to officers. He also claims there was "no correlation" between the decision and President Trump's subsequent visit to St. John's Episcopal Church for a photo op, and has accused the media of lying about the protesters being peaceful.

What they're saying: "While the full scope of the Attorney General’s role is not yet clear, he has admitted that he was present in front of the White House before law enforcement personnel took action to disperse the crowd," the former DOJ officials wrote.

  • "After the order was given, and before the start of a city-imposed curfew, federal law enforcement officers in riot gear reportedly fired rubber bullets, chemical gas, smoke canisters, and stun grenades at peaceful protesters, and otherwise used excessive force, physically injuring many people, including journalists and an Episcopal priest who had come to give food and water to the protestors."
  • "Based on what we now know, these actions violated both the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which protects freedom of speech and the press, and the right to assemble; and the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable seizures, to include objectively unreasonable uses of force by law enforcement officers."

The former employees said they had concerns about the use of federal law enforcement agents around the country, expressing "profound doubts" that they were adequately trained in policing mass protests.

  • “Especially in view of the events in Lafayette Square, we have no assurance that these officers are lawfully deployed, that they will respect the rights of the civilians they encounter, or that there are proper mechanisms in place to identify and investigate possible law enforcement misconduct,”

Go deeper: Black Lives Matter sues Trump, Barr for forcibly clearing White House protesters

Go deeper

Bill Barr: "All prosecutorial power is invested in the attorney general"

Attorney General Bill Barr at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center in July 28. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Attorney General Bill Barr dismissed accusations of political interference in criminal cases involving figures connected to President Trump during a speech at Michigan's Hillsdale College Wednesday night.

Details: "What exactly am I interfering with? Under the law, all prosecutorial power is invested in the attorney general," Barr said, per the Washington Post and CNN.

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The hazy line between politics and influence campaigns

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The recent firestorm over the New York Post’s publication of stories relying on data from a hard drive allegedly belonging to Hunter Biden shows the increasingly hazy line between domestic political “dirty tricks” and a foreign-sponsored disinformation operation.

Why it matters: This haziness could give determined actors cover to conduct influence operations aimed at undermining U.S. democracy through channels that just look like old-fashioned hard-nosed politics.

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