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D.C. Memo: The strangest days, Barr none

Klobuchar, Harris question AG Barr; talking clemency; vote on climate change bill; and more.

Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo. This week in Washington: Barr shows up, Barr doesn’t show up, someone eats KFC and everyone remains upset. So let’s get on with it.

Barr testimony

There was a notable difference between the style and tone of two career prosecutors, both running for president. Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Amy Klobuchar both tried to get at the heart of the Mueller report in questioning Attorney General William Barr in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. But Harris’ concise questions seemed to make Barr visibly flustered. During her brief questioning period, she pushed Barr to admit that he did not look over the totality of the evidence, just the report itself, before he made the decision to not prosecute President Donald Trump.

Klobuchar took the time to push Barr to defend Trump, in addition to asking for commitments from Barr’s office, like if Barr would support her legislation to improve election security amidst potential Russian interference. But he was able to delay Klobuchar’s questions with long winded answers and explanations, whereas Harris rapidly cut off Barr when she was satisfied with an answer.

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Presidential candidates Julián Castro, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA; Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ; and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-CA; are now calling for Barr’s resignation, with the first two calling for his resignation prior to the hearing.

Increasing the tension on Capitol Hill, Barr did not show up at today’s House Judiciary hearing, which prompted the chair of the House Judiciary, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, to threaten to hold him in contempt.

Klobuchar talks clemency

In a CNN op-ed early last month, Klobuchar laid out an extensive plan for a clemency advisory board, a bipartisan appointed board that would help her determine who to pardon around the country, in order to more effectively use the President’s pardon power.

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“Reforming the presidential pardon system through the creation of a clemency advisory board and the addition of a dedicated criminal justice reform adviser to the White House,” she wrote, “would move us one step closer to an America that’s as good as its promise.”

Vox’s German Lopez spoke to spoke to Mark Osler, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, to break down the clemency system, as well as Klobuchar’s plan.

Voting while incarcerated

Another question that remains in the mainstream: if elected president, would you pursue policies that would allow people that are currently incarcerated to be able to vote? So far, only Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, has said yes. But more than 70 civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Greenpeace, are asking presidential candidates to endorse the idea.

Climate change vote

Members of the Minnesota congressional delegation in the House voted along party lines today to pass the Climate Action Now Act, a bill to ensure that the U.S. follows through with its obligations under under the Paris Agreement. All Republicans in the delegation voted against the bill. It will now go to the Senate where it is widely expected to fail.

What else?

    • Minnesota Republicans gathered late last week in Hutchinson to elect party leadership and lay out a plan for the coming year. Jennifer Carnahan, who was re-elected as the Republican State Party Chair, said that the event was hosted in Hutchinson, Minnesota’s District 7, to show that Republicans will invest heavily to defeat Congressman Collin Peterson, who represents the district.

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  • Conservative talk show host Ben Shapiro attempted to link Rep. Ilhan Omar to the tragedy in California, where a white supremacist shot and killed a woman in a synagogue during Passover, by noting her past statements interpreted by some as anti-Semitic. It’s worth noting that the disconnect here: the shooter’s ideology was deeply rooted in white supremacy and he attempted to burn a mosque a few months prior. Shapiro is known for arguing that a majority of Muslims are “radicalized,” which Politifact debunked, calling his analysis “so thin as to be practically meaningless.”
  • Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass, and Angela Davis hosted a rally on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. in support of Omar. “We can talk about the occupant in the White House, and we can talk about our colleagues on the other side of the aisle,” Pressley said. “But I want to have a talk within our own family — my party family. Because I can’t sit idly by when we walk in contradiction and hypocrisy.”
  • Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, former co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, asked his former colleagues to block any legislation that would allow for forced arbitration between Medicare and pharmaceutical companies.“Arbitration is notoriously bad for people who are on the other side of the table from a larger, greater entity,” he told HuffPost. “All it does is advantage the party with the superior bargaining position.”

Quote of the week

“Chicken Barr should have shown up today and answered questions,” Rep. Steve Cohen, D-TN, told reporters, after offering out Kentucky Fried Chicken to his colleagues.

REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

What I’m reading

  • The Center for Public Integrity: The Federal Election Commission’s current four commissioners have been on the commission for a total of 32 years longer than they should have been. Without appointments from President Trump, if one commissioner retires, the agency cannot conduct a significant amount of business.
  • The Intercept: “More than half of the 120 indicted in the “largest gang takedown” in New York City history were never actually alleged by prosecutors to be gang members at all.”

That’s all for this week. Thanks for sticking around. Until next week, feel free to send tips, suggestions, and sound advice to: Follow at @gabeschneider.