2020 prospects Booker, Harris, Klobuchar grill Trump's AG nominee in Senate confirmation hearing

Three potential 2020 presidential candidates went on the attack against President Donald Trump -- and previe...

Posted: Jan 15, 2019 10:45 PM
Updated: Jan 15, 2019 10:45 PM

Three potential 2020 presidential candidates went on the attack against President Donald Trump -- and previewed their own agendas -- on Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearing for Trump's nominee for attorney general, William Barr.

California Sen. Kamala Harris questioned the effectiveness of Trump's calls for a border wall. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker grilled Barr on racial inequalities in the criminal justice system. And Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar pressed Barr on Trump's attacks on news organizations.

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With Republicans holding a Senate majority, Barr's confirmation is all but certain. Still, the hearing showcased how the 2020 Democratic presidential race is playing out in high-profile moments in the Senate -- much like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton used Senate hearings as anti-Iraq war launchpads 12 years earlier.

Klobuchar highlighted Trump's attacks on journalists. She also pointed to the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey.

"If you're confirmed, will the Justice Department jail reporters for doing their jobs?" Klobuchar asked.

After a lengthy pause, Barr said that he could "conceive of situations" in which news organizations had "run through a red flag or something like that" in which journalists could be held in contempt.

Klobuchar said she'd like Barr to respond in writing, "because that was very concerning."

Harris spent four minutes probing Barr about whether he would recuse himself from oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

But Barr wouldn't commit to following the advice of the Justice Department's ethics officials if they recommended that he recuse himself.

When Harris pressed him on the circumstances under which he wouldn't follow such advice, Barr would only say, "If I disagreed with them."

She also pressed Barr on his support for Trump's calls for a wall along the US-Mexico border.

"Particularly on the subject of drug trafficking, are you aware that most of the drugs that are trafficked into the United States enter through ports of entry?" Harris asked. She later urged Barr to visit ports of entry when he said he hadn't done so since he was attorney general for former President George H.W. Bush almost 30 years ago.

Booker's probing on the topic of criminal justice was one of the hearing's highlights.

Highlighting his work with Republicans on reforming strict prison sentences that leave non-violent offenders -- including disproportionate numbers of minorities -- behind bars for years, Booker pressed Barr to review more recent studies that countered his conclusions about mass incarceration from the early 1990s.

Booker said under the current criminal justice system, it's "better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent." And he placed much of the blame on Barr.

"You literally wrote the book on mass incarceration," he said, referring to a 1992 report by Barr called "The Case for More Incarceration."

"Then," Barr responded, suggesting his views had changed.

He extracted some concessions from Barr. "I think that the heavy drug penalties, especially on crack and other things, have harmed the black community," Barr said at one point.

Booker also got Barr to agree to a one-on-one meeting to further discuss the subject.

Booker also pressed Barr on marijuana policy -- and got the answer he wanted to hear.

Asked whether the Justice Department would continue to stand aside as states legalize marijuana -- even though doing so violates federal law -- Barr said he'll follow the precedent of former President Barack Obama's administration and is "not going to go after" companies involved in marijuana production and sales.

Barr later gave the same answer when Harris raised the issue.

"To the extent people are complying with the state laws -- distribution and production and so forth -- we're not going to go after that," he said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 295357

Reported Deaths: 5305
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion40796844
Lake25864448
Allen17025289
Elkhart16389209
St. Joseph16125217
Hamilton12225163
Vanderburgh9218112
Tippecanoe807627
Porter770176
Johnson5971161
Hendricks5719154
Vigo563274
Monroe519846
Clark486774
Delaware4721103
Madison4651119
Kosciusko437339
LaPorte436792
Howard321375
Warrick309072
Floyd301177
Bartholomew296262
Wayne292261
Cass291231
Marshall283642
Grant254147
Noble244246
Hancock238949
Henry234136
Boone231754
Dubois229230
Dearborn204629
Jackson200033
Morgan196043
Gibson171622
Knox170715
Clinton170420
Shelby170453
Lawrence169246
DeKalb168428
Adams160019
Miami150414
Daviess149143
Wabash148118
Fayette141233
Steuben139713
LaGrange135127
Jasper134911
Harrison134624
Montgomery127926
Whitley127410
Ripley121414
Decatur119842
Posey116613
Putnam115626
Wells115427
Huntington115210
White115221
Randolph114619
Clay111821
Jefferson110314
Scott97918
Greene97553
Jay93012
Starke87021
Sullivan85515
Perry80521
Spencer7957
Jennings79114
Fulton78717
Fountain7257
Washington6966
Carroll65313
Orange64828
Franklin63525
Owen5676
Vermillion5662
Newton53412
Parke5296
Tipton52826
Blackford50011
Rush5006
Pike49618
Pulaski36410
Martin3425
Brown3153
Benton3101
Crawford2711
Union2551
Switzerland2453
Warren2272
Ohio2227
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 351419

Reported Deaths: 5996
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin48389665
Cuyahoga34096734
Hamilton28674371
Montgomery19082225
Butler14138144
Lucas13446406
Summit12431309
Stark8122197
Warren770375
Mahoning6772299
Lake625466
Lorain590297
Clermont541946
Delaware521435
Licking506275
Fairfield505163
Trumbull4969144
Greene489662
Clark486664
Marion451451
Allen446384
Wood4243107
Medina413354
Miami398565
Pickaway387948
Columbiana328496
Portage323171
Wayne303593
Tuscarawas299557
Richland293929
Mercer281237
Ross234559
Hancock225336
Muskingum223610
Auglaize218925
Putnam218649
Darke208058
Erie205565
Ashtabula204753
Geauga189451
Scioto186713
Lawrence181336
Athens17954
Union17928
Shelby176715
Seneca165018
Belmont151529
Madison151018
Sandusky144427
Preble143821
Huron139218
Holmes137039
Defiance131121
Knox118818
Logan118313
Fulton117225
Ottawa114730
Crawford114216
Washington112427
Clinton100314
Williams9938
Jefferson9894
Ashland98322
Highland96317
Henry94422
Brown9324
Champaign8935
Jackson87312
Fayette86617
Van Wert8596
Morrow8312
Hardin82518
Guernsey79213
Coshocton78813
Perry73312
Pike7081
Adams70611
Wyandot68916
Gallia68113
Paulding61710
Hocking58511
Noble56121
Carroll41610
Meigs36312
Monroe29921
Morgan2342
Vinton2075
Harrison1823
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