EXCLUSIVE: The top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday requested a briefing from Attorney General Bill Barr on the Justice Department’s actions in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, covering everything from the federal civil rights investigation to the push to designate Antifa as a domestic terrorist organization.
In a letter obtained by Fox News, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, requested information about the DOJ’s efforts to prevent peaceful protests over Floyd’s death from escalating into violence. He cited reports that law enforcement suspect Antifa exploited some of these demonstrations to cause mayhem.
“The murder of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department is an injustice. His death has rightfully sparked protests throughout the country,” Jordan wrote to Barr. “While most Americans have exercised their constitutional right to protest peacefully, Antifa and other left-wing extremists have exploited these protests to commit acts of violence and death that have devastated local communities.”
Jordan went on to claim that “Antifa and other left-wing groups have misused lawful protests about Floyd’s death as cover to advance their goals of death and destruction.”
“This anarchy is never acceptable,” Jordan wrote.
Earlier this month, President Trump blamed Antifa for some of the violence and said that the U.S. would designate the group as a domestic terrorist organization.
The move immediately encountered resistance. The American Civil Liberties Union has said that Trump does not even have the legal authority to do this.
“Terrorism is an inherently political label, easily abused and misused,” the ACLU tweeted last month. “Let’s be clear: There is no legal authority for designating a domestic group. Any such designation would raise significant due process and First Amendment concerns.”
Jordan, in the letter to Barr, said that he agreed with the president’s action and hopes that designation “occurs promptly.”
He said he is requesting information, and a briefing from Justice Department officials, on what that would entail.
Jordan, who sits as the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, noted that the panel would be examining “potential legislative reforms to policing practices” in the wake of Floyd’s death, but called for the Justice Department to “update the Committee on the actions of the Justice Department and its component entities.”
Jordan also asked Barr to “explain how designating Antifa as a terrorist organization would affect the Justice Department’s authority to identify, prevent and prosecute rioting, looting and violence perpetrated by left-wing violent extremists.”
During a phone interview with Fox News, Jordan said he is looking to “get to the bottom of everything.”
“We want to know the tragedy that happened in Minneapolis with Mr. Floyd and what took place there is as wrong as wrong can be and justice needs to be served and his family deserves that,” Jordan told Fox News. “We want to get to the bottom of everything.”
“Americans understand how terrible and what a tragedy it was in what happened to George Floyd,” Jordan continued. “Americans understand that law enforcement, the vast majority of law enforcement, are heroic individuals doing their job. And Americans understand that this concept of defunding the police is crazy.”
Jordan also weighed in on the “defund the police” movement, which has gained momentum in recent days, winning over Minneapolis lawmakers but meeting some resistance among Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Jordan called it “the most ridiculous public policy proposal I’ve ever heard.”
“This is complete insanity — the idea that you’re not going to have a police department in your city, that you’re going to defund the very people who risk their lives to protect all of our communities, makes absolutely no sense to me and my guess is it makes absolutely no sense to the 330 million people in this country.”
Jordan also requested Barr provide information about “the likely consequences to public safety of any successful effort to defund or disband federal, state or local law-enforcement agencies.”
Jordan said that several agencies could be involved in having authority over Antifa under the new designation, including the State Department “for the actual distinction and designation,” and the Department of Homeland Security, “which could be involved as well in making that determination,” as well as the Treasury Department.
“When Americans think about all the things that have happened in the last several weeks, they want answers to all of that,” Jordan told Fox News.
Jordan’s letter noted that the violence of the past few weeks led to deaths and serious injuries, including the death of David Dorn, a 77-year-old former police captain from St. Louis, Mo., and the death of Dave Patrick Underwood, a federal law enforcement officer in Oakland, Calif.
Jordan called the damage to property “especially in minority communities” “tragic,” and noted that in Minnesota alone, an estimated 220 buildings were damaged and nearly 500 businesses had been vandalized, looted or damaged.
Meanwhile, Barr has said that the Justice Department would treat violence by individuals associated with Antifa as domestic terrorism, and condemned the group, while asserting that the protests against police brutality and racial inequality following Floyd’s death had been “hijacked.”
“With the rioting that is occurring in many of our cities around the country, the voices of peaceful and legitimate protests have been hijacked by violent radical elements. Groups of outside radicals and agitators are exploiting the situation to pursue their own separate, violent, and extremist agenda,” Barr said last week. “It is time to stop watching the violence and to confront and stop it.”
Barr added, “The violence instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly.”