Barr Reveals Likely Trump Administration Legal Playbook to ‘Jawbone’ the States into Reopening for Business

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In a broad-ranging phone-in interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr described several important legal theories about how the federal government could make life very difficult for states which refuse to open after COVID-19 shutdowns.

Barr’s tone was mostly measured; he admitted several times that certain areas of the country should probably remain closed for business because they are hot spots for the novel coronavirus. But Barr went on to explain several legal rationales for federal interference with governors or local officials who fail to address civil liberties concerns or who frustrate the intent of what Barr called the “commonsensical” plan of President Donald Trump to reopen the country.

Barr’s argument started with the premise that coronavirus-related restrictions have gone too far.

“These are unprecedented burdens on civil liberties right now; the idea that you have to stay in your house is disturbingly close to house arrest,” Barr said. “I’m not saying it wasn’t justified; I’m not saying in some places it might be still justified — but it’s very onerous, as is shutting down your livelihood.”

Barr said shutdown orders were designed “for the limited purpose of slowing down the spread, that is, bending the curve” of COVID-19 infections to prevent the health care system from becoming overly stressed.  “We didn’t adopt them as a comprehensive way of dealing with this disease. We now are seeing that these are ending the curve; now we have to come up with more targeted approaches.”

Things became more pointed, though, when Barr analogized continuing shutdown orders to a case of a doctor who “keep feeding the patient chemotherapy” during cancer treatment. The cancer might be killed, but so would the patient, he rationalized.

This is another way of saying the cure is worse than the disease. – read more

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