“It is time to start rolling back some of these restrictions in an orderly and sensible way and the president has provided his Opening the United States Again plan that provides a sensible approach, framework, to that,” Barr said during an“#AsktheAG” Q&Asession on Twitter.
In response to one Twitter user who asked how Barr planned to address state and local officials infringing on constitutional rights, the attorney general said that while governments had the right to impose “reasonable and temporary restrictions” during times of emergency, they must justify those restrictions as truly necessary and “ensure there are not other ways to address the interests that are less burdensome.
“Now that the curve has been flattened and the hospital system has not been overwhelmed, it is time to start rolling back some of those restrictions,” Barr reiterated.
“We will be on the lookout for restrictions that are too widespread, too generalized or unduly discriminatory towards liberty, such as religious liberty or speech, and in the appropriate case we would consider taking action.”
Another user asked Barr to halt “unconstitutional contact tracing.” “End this invasion of privacy & violation of our rights,” the user wrote.
When asked how the DOJ was responding to COVID-19 scams, Barr said the department has been successful in identifying fraudulent websites and arresting those engaged.
Barr warned viewers not to give personal information to anyone, and to be on the lookout for people selling fake cures or anyone asking for bank account information promising a government deposit.
The session attracted angry critics, with many asking about the risk inmates face amid the COVID-19 crisis.
“Why does DOJ/BOP refuse to release prisoners who pose ZERO threat to society despite the increasing number of deaths happening in federal prisons due to COVID-19?” asked Rep. Bobby Rush, D.-Ill.
Barr replied to the Democratic congressman that the Department of Justice had used its authority under the First Step Act to move nearly 5,000 prisoners who were considered vulnerable to COVID-19 from incarceration to home confinement, and had another 1,000 “in the pipeline” to be moved.
Barr said that they had only removed people who were not violent offenders or sex offenders and ensured they had a place to be confined to which was safer than incarcerated circumstances.
Other users voiced their outrage that the Justice Department was not doing enough. “The BOP is NOT doing this. My husband is a MINIMAL RISK offender, has the lowest pattern score, at a camp, AND has documented medical vulnerability. His home confinement plan was redacted by the BOP due to the time requirement,” wrote one user.
Billie Winner, mother of Reality Winner, the former U.S. intelligence specialist,asked the attorney generalwhy her daughter was still in prison.
“Please look at her application for clemency & her petition for compassionate release & tell me what purpose keeping her confined inside a prison where covid has already killed serves,” Winner asked.
Winner was arrested in 2017 after she was accused of mailing NSA documents to The Intercept, which then published an article describing Russian attempts to interfere with the 2016 election.