Barr Open To DOJ Going After Governors’ Stay-At-Home Orders If They Go ‘Too Far’

Attorney General Bill Barr speaks about the Justice Department's Russia investigation into the 2016 presidential campaign during the Wall Street Journal's annual CEO Council meeting on December 10, 2019 in Washington... Attorney General Bill Barr speaks about the Justice Department's Russia investigation into the 2016 presidential campaign during the Wall Street Journal's annual CEO Council meeting on December 10, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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April 21, 2020 2:52 p.m.

Attorney General Bill Barr signaled on Tuesday that the Justice Department may take legal action against governors’ stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic if the opportunity arises.

During an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Barr said that if governors “impinge on either civil rights or on the national commerce” with the orders, “then we’ll have to address that.”

Speaking hypothetically, the attorney general — who described the government’s preventative measures against the spread of COVID-19 as “unprecedented burdens on civil liberties” — told Hewitt that the DOJ would look at potential citizen lawsuits that might take aim at the governors’ mandates.

“And if we think it’s justified, we would take a position,” Barr said. “That’s what we’re doing now. We’re looking carefully at a number of these rules that are being put into place.”

The attorney general said that if his department believes a governor has “gone too far” and is sued as a result, then “we file (a) statement of interest and side with the plaintiffs.”

“We’re at sort of a sensitive stage where we’re really transitioning to starting a process of trying to get the nation back up and running,” he continued. “I think that’s the best approach.”

President Donald Trump has been desperately pushing for an end to stay at home orders to allow businesses to reopen and boost the economy as the presidential election draws nearer.

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