Photo: Ankur Dholakia/AFP/Getty Images

The chairs of the House Oversight, Judiciary and Homeland Security committees on Sunday called on the inspectors general of the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security to open an investigation into the Trump administration's use of federal agents against protesters in Portland, Oregon.

Why it matters: The House Democrats say the agencies "appear to have increasingly abused emergency authorities to justify the use of force against Americans exercising their right to peaceful assembly," pointing to reports of unidentified federal agents arbitrarily detaining protesters in unmarked vans.

  • President Trump and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf have defended the use of federal law enforcement, claiming that violent anarchists have overtaken the city and defaced federal property.
  • Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler on Sunday called the reported actions of federal law enforcement "abhorrent" and "unconstitutional."

The big picture: Trump faced similar criticisms over the excessive use of force when federal troops cleared peaceful protesters outside of the White House so that he could walk to the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo op.

What they're saying: "This is a matter of utmost urgency. Citizens are concerned that the Administration has deployed a secret police force, not to investigate crimes but to intimidate individuals it views as political adversaries, and that the use of these tactics will proliferate throughout the country. Therefore, we ask that you commence your review of these issues immediately."

  • "The legal basis for this use of force has never been explained—and, frankly, it is not at all clear that the Attorney General and the Acting Secretary are authorized to deploy federal law enforcement officers in this manner."
  • "The Acting Secretary appears to be relying on an ill-conceived executive order meant to protect historic statues and monuments as justification for arresting American citizens in the dead of night."

Worth noting: U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon Billy Williams has also called for an investigation into the use of federal agents in Portland.

Read the full request via DocumentCloud.

Go deeper

Judiciary Democrats to grill Barr on "politicization" of DOJ

Barr speaks at the White House July 22. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House Judiciary Committee Democrats plan to press Attorney General Bill Barr at a hearing today on what they'll argue is his politicization of the Justice Department to serve President Trump's personal agenda.

Why it matters: Democrats have a lot of pent up frustration over a series of recent policies put forth by the DOJ, and have been preparing months for this moment.

National Guard officer challenges official account of Lafayette Square incident

Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Army National Guard commander Adam DeMarco will testify on Tuesday that Park Police's use of force in the clearing of Lafayette Square last month was an "unnecessary" and "unprovoked" escalation that he and his fellow National Guardsmen viewed as "deeply disturbing."

Why it matters: DeMarco's testimony, previewed in a written statement released by the House Natural Resources Committee on Monday, contradicts statements made by Attorney General Bill Barr and the Trump administration about the controversial clearing of protesters, which preceded President Trump's visit to St. John's Church for a photo op.

Updated Jul 28, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Read: Barr's opening statement attacking Dems and "bogus" Russia probe

Attorney General Bill Barr before addressing a summit in Washington, DC, in Marc. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Attorney General Bill Barr is set to accuse House Judiciary Committee Democrats of trying to discredit him over his investigations into the origins of the FBI's Russia probe when he appears before the panel Tuesday.

Details: In prepared remarks released Monday, Barr states that since he announced his investigation into what he calls "the grave abuses involved in the bogus 'Russiagate' scandal, many of the Democrats on this Committee have attempted to discredit" him by "conjuring up a narrative" that he's simply President Trump's "factotum who disposes of criminal cases according to his instructions."