Justice Dept. Denies House Panel’s Request for Officials to Appear After Combative Barr Hearing

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Monday denied a congressional oversight committee’s request to hear from top officials, accusing Democrats of having “squandered” their opportunity to get relevant information from Attorney General William P. Barr this summer by instead using their time to “air grievances.”

The House Judiciary Committee had asked that Eric S. Dreiband, the head of the department’s Civil Rights Division, appear this month to discuss the division, and that Michael Carvajal, the director of the Bureau of Prisons, and Donald Washington, the director of the U.S. Marshals Service, appear for an oversight hearing on Oct. 1.

The department said in a letter to Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the committee, that Mr. Barr had been advised that he could be asked about police misconduct, voting rights, the coronavirus and federal prisons, and the civil unrest this spring and summer.

He appeared before the committee in July prepared to discuss those issues, the department said, but Democrats were more interested in “scolding and insulting” him.

“Unfortunately, when given the opportunity to obtain information from the head of the Department of Justice about precisely these matters, many committee members chose instead to use their allotted time to air grievances,” the department wrote in the letter.

“Having squandered its opportunity to conduct a meaningful oversight hearing with the attorney general, it remains unclear how further public spectacles with other department officials would now — a mere 14 legislative days since the attorney general’s hearing — advance the committee’s legitimate oversight efforts,” the department said.

A spokesman for the Judiciary Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The hearing with Mr. Barr was particularly contentious, with Democrats often refusing to let the attorney general respond to their questions or their accusations. The Democrats, in turn, were angered as Mr. Barr ignored questions about his rationale or actions, or quibbled over details.

Democrats and their allies argued after the hearing that Mr. Barr would not have answered their questions in good faith had they let him respond, and that he would have filibustered and wasted the time. Better, they said, to use the time to air their grievances.

The department argued on Monday that this did “preciously little to advance any legitimate interest” because the committee as a result of this tactic learned no new information.

“When the attorney general tried to address the committee’s questions, he was interrupted and silenced in excess of 70 times,” the department said in its letter. “One member interrupted him and admitted, ‘Well, I don’t want you to tell your story.’”

While the department was unwilling to let Mr. Dreiband, Mr. Carvajal or Mr. Washington testify this fall, it said it would share information and work to schedule future hearings if the committee committed to conducting itself in “an appropriate and productive manner.”

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Oregon Governor ‘Still Waiting for a White House Response’ to Request for Wildfire Help

Oregon Governor Kate Brown said the state was “still waiting” to hear from the White House a day after she asked President Donald Trump for help in combating fires covering hundreds of thousands of acres.



a tree with a sunset in the background: The charred remains of the Gates Elementary School are seen after the passage of the Santiam Fire in Gates, Oregon, on September 10, 2020.


© Kathryn Elsesser/AFP via Getty Images
The charred remains of the Gates Elementary School are seen after the passage of the Santiam Fire in Gates, Oregon, on September 10, 2020.

The Democratic lawmaker said she requested that a disaster declaration be signed on Wednesday night, but had yet to hear a response from the Trump administration.

Brown also said that she had asked the Department of Defense to provide Oregon with an “active battalion” of trained firefighters to assist state forces with fires that have caused half a million people to evacuate.

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Appearing at a press briefing last night, the governor said: “We obviously asked for an emergency declaration, that came yesterday. We’re still waiting for White House response.

“We have asked for Department of Defense an active battalion that’s trained in firefighting, and we’re certainly asking other states for national guard assistance.

“I’m also in regular contact with our federal delegation, and Oregon is not the only state facing these weather challenges.”

Brown added that she would encourage authorities to “work across the aisle” to provide assistance to states like Oregon facing “catastrophic emergencies.

Newsweek has contacted the White House for comment and will update this article with any response.

President Trump signed two disaster declarations for California and Iowa in August as the former state was ravaged by wildfires while the latter dealt with heavy damage left in the wake of a severe storm.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency also signed off federal funding for Peurto Rico on Wednesday to assist areas hit by Tropical Storm Isaias in late July.

Oregon officials revealed on Thursday that an estimated half a million Oregonians, more than 10 percent of the state’s population, had been evacuated from their homes as wildfires continued to rip through the West Coast.

Fighterfighters were also reported to be battling a huge 900,000 acres of fire across Oregon alone, with millions more acres impacted in the neighbouring states of California and Washington.

“We are now approaching 900,000 acres burned across the state,” Gov. Brown said at the Thursday press briefing. “To put that number into perspective, in the last 10 years, we see an average of 500,000 acres burn in an entire year. We’ve seen that nearly double in the past three days.

“We have never seen this amount of uncontained fire across our state. We know there are fire-related fatalities, and as soon as we are able to provide confirmed information, we will do so.”

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Video: WATCH: Dramatic rescue from Washington home as wildfire looms (NBC News)

WATCH: Dramatic rescue from Washington home as wildfire looms

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County to request noxious weeds assistance from Trump’s secretary of interior | News

Grant County Court voted Aug. 26 to write a letter to President Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt to request assistance to mitigate invasive plant species and noxious weeds.

Grant County Judge Scott Myers said the noxious weeds, mainly medusa head, grow back after wildfires and have to be removed manually.

“You can’t burn it away,” he said. “It comes back, eventually.”

Myers said, if the county continues to receive Secure Rural Schools Act funding, money the federal government sets aside for schools, roads, and other municipal services, then the ranchers can address the noxious weeds problem through that program. Especially through Title II funding, that money is set aside for projects on federal lands.

“Title II projects would be just perfect for that,” he said.

In other county news:

• Grant County Planning Commissioner Shannon Springer updated the court on the planning commission’s proposed flood ordinance. She said the proposed amendments are not changes in intent related to requirements, but instead changes to the wording.

She said the county must ensure that its flood management practices comply with federal guidelines in the national flood insurance program.

She said the bulk of the wording was changed to mirror the federal government. Springer said the planning commission reviewed the ordinance and recommended approval.

She said the Federal Emergency Management Agency is slated to complete its remapping of the Silvies watershed by the end of September. It would make more sense, Springer said, to approve the flood ordinance in October. The court approved Springer’s request to push out voting on the ordinance.

• The court moved to update Safety and Risk Manager Ryan Palmer’s job description. According to Myers, the update would work out to a $3 per hour raise.

• The court approved Grant County Regional Airport Manager Haley Walker’s request of $4,478 in rent that the airport was owed by the Emergency Operations Center.

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