Attorney General Barr, DOJ may target states over coronavirus shutdowns
The Justice Department could take legal action against governors who maintain tough rules over coronavirus that Attorney General William Barr said infringe on constitutional rights even after the pandemic subsides, Bloomberg News reported Tuesday.
Stringent rules such as stay-at-home orders and shutting down businesses are only justified up to a point, Barr said in an interview Tuesday on “The Hugh Hewitt Show.”
Eventually states should move to more targeted measures, Barr said, citing the approach laid out by President Trump.
“We have to give businesses more freedom to operate in a way that’s reasonably safe,” Barr said.
“To the extent that governors don’t and impinge on either civil rights or on the national commerce — our common market that we have here — then we’ll have to address that.”
Barr’s comments came as the Trump administration and some states are struggling over the best strategy to deal with the crisis.
The Justice Department could target state or local officials by joining lawsuits brought by citizens or businesses over the restrictions, Barr said.
“As lawsuits develop, as specific cases emerge in the states, we’ll take a look at them,” he said.
“We’re looking carefully at a number of these rules that are being put into place. And if we think one goes too far, we initially try to jawbone the governors into rolling them back or adjusting them. And if they’re not and people bring lawsuits, we file statement of interest and side with the plaintiffs.”
Trump tweeted last Friday that his supporters should “liberate” Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia — three states with Democratic governors and strict stay-at-home orders.
That message came a day after the president outlined guidelines that ask states to meet specific criteria on testing and a decline in cases in order to reopen.
Conservative groups and activists have been pressuring the Trump administration and Barr to act against governors taking a hard line to prevent a reoccurrence of coronavirus.
The AG also lavished praise on the president, calling his handling of the pandemic “superb.”
“I think the President’s guidance has been, as I say, superb and very common sensical,” Barr told Hewitt.
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