• Barr said it is his duty to be fair to individuals and that he has tried to return the rule of law to the Justice Department
  • He said he does not believe the November election will be rigged but said he thinks expanded mail-in voting would increase the possibility of mail fraud
  • He said the federal courts are under attack

A combative William Barr on Tuesday defended his performance as attorney general, denying his department had become politicized and saying he was reimposing the rule of law.

Barr denied he was bestowing preferential treatment on President Trump’s friends or that decisions to send federal agents to Portland, Oregon, and other cities to quell racial justice protests were politically motivated to provide footage for Trump’s reelection campaign ads.

“I’m supposedly punishing the president’s enemies and helping the president’s friends,” Barr said, challenging Democrats to point to one indictment of the president’s enemies. He defended the decision on reducing the proposed sentence for Roger Stone, saying he took the defendant’s age into account and objected to the harshness of the initial proposed sentence.

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., noted the Justice Department has treated former Trump attorney Michael Cohen differently than Stone and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Barr defended his recommendation that charges be dropped against Flynn because there was no basis for the FBI to interview him in the first place. In Stone’s case, he said he felt line prosecutors had wrongly applied a sentencing enhancement that usually is applied to organized crime.

“My obligation is to be fair to the individual,” Barr said. He said he never discussed the sentencing recommendation outside the Department of Justice.

Barr backed Trump’s view that widespread mail-in voting likely would increase the risk of vote fraud. He said he has no reason to believe, however, the election would be rigged. He hedged when asked if the president has the power to change the date of the election, saying he never before had been asked that question.

Trump said in an interview earlier this month widespread mail-in voting would rig the election and refused to say whether he would accept the results. Barr said, however, he knows of no means for contesting the election.

Barr said he believes Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election and “we have to assume” they’re trying to interfere with this election cycle.

Barr defended his response to racial justice protests, saying he merely was protecting federal property.

“Federal courts are under attack. Since when is it OK to burn down federal courts? … U.S. Marshals have a duty to … defend the courthouse.” Barr said those inside the courthouse were in danger from protesters with a range of weapons including pellet guns and lasers as well as incendiary materials. He said federal agents were sent in to protect the courthouse because local police weren’t doing an adequate job.

He said federal agents were sent into Portland to keep the “problem from metastisizing around the country.”

“There are a number of violent extreme groups across the United States,” Barr said, explaining Antifa is not a myth and was involved in several “violent mob actions across the country.”

“It can be best thought of as an umbrella term for loosely organized groups around the country. The groups … are definitely organized. Since they have anarchic temperament, they don’t get along with each other very well. They tend to get organized for an event. There’s a lot of organization right before an event occurs. We see a lot of organization during the mob violence.”

Barr also said he cannot back calls to defund the police, saying it would lead to chaos. He maintained police are less likely to use lethal force against Black suspects than against whites.