Governor Hutchinson brought Attorney General William Barr out for exposure to media along with Rep. French Hill and Sen. Tom Cotton following what he called a “working lunch” at the Governor’s Mansion.
Hutchinson said he’d asked Barr to pass along his interest in Donald Trump using the Defense Production Act to step up the production of materials necessary for coronavirus testing.
Hutchinson also said, surprise, Barr had assured him the administration would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court court decisions against the Trump administration and Arkansas on imposing work rules for people who qualify for expanded Medicaid coverage.
Barr, Hutchinson, Hill and Cotton came out for the event wearing face masks. They were maskless at a law enforcement roundtable earlier in the day.
Barr’s opening remarks were boilerplate: Fine folks here, working closely on law enforcement issues and so on. Cotton gave remarks, too, endorsing the use of federal prosecutions to put criminals in prison longer and lauding police. Hill praised work on getting drugs off the street.
Barr took questions. Predictable answers. Example: He regrets losses at the Supreme Court; he doesn’t support “defunding” police. Cotton called it “insane.” Hill said it made no sense. All operate from the presumption that police, if anything are underfunded. But that’s not the entirety of the argument. Huge sums are spent on police agencies for work that ought to be done by others, social workers and others.
Barr and Cotton said Black Lives Matter demonstrations were “hijacked” by professional agitators. Barr said the Justice Department is pursuing those people. He said there’d been 150 arrests, though he knew of none in Arkansas. The Little Rock police have credited the Justice Department, specifically U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland, with information about “Antifa” agitators. Barr seemed to dismiss the suggestion that right-wing groups were significant players in the trouble after being asked about the “boogaloo” movement.
The law enforcement roundtable earlier in the day was equally riveting, more familiar talking points from Barr. Extremists at work. Defunding a bad idea. Demonstrations over George Floyd’s death were justified, but they were hijacked by “hardcore violent instigators.”
The Democratic Party of Arkansas was unimpressed. Its statement:
U.S. Attorney General William Barr stopped through Arkansas on Thursday and met with Republican officials, including U.S. Representative French Hill. Barr’s remarks included: a pledge to re-institute a Medicaid work requirement in Arkansas despite the pandemic and denouncing the Black Lives Matter movement. In addition to praising the Trump administration, Rep. Hill and Sen. Cotton focused their remarks on escalating incarceration in the United States and expanding the drug war.
“It’s become clear that French Hill is controlled by the politics of Donald Trump. Arkansas used to have leaders in Congress who would put Arkansas first,” said D.P.A. Chairman Michael John Gray. “Arkansas deserves leaders who are willing to tackle the issues that affect Arkansans instead of ignoring them in the name of political expediency. If French Hill can’t stand up for Arkansas in this uncertain time, if he would rather divide us than offer solutions, then it is time for him to come home. And he should bring Reps. Womack and Westerman with him.