United States Attorney General Bill Barr testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, where he said attacks on federal buildings would spread nationwide if federal agents didn't tamp them down in Portland.
"There's no doubt in my mind that it would spread," Barr said, according to CNN. He added that the protests in Portland, where the federal courthouse is tagged with graffiti and often shot at with fireworks, constitute "an assault on the government of the United States."
Barr told the committee that a "mob" is responsible for destroying federal property and that protesters don't have any actual demands for reform.
"Largely absent from these scenes of destruction are even superficial attempts by the rioters to connect their actions to George Floyd's death or any legitimate call for reform," Barr said.
This is not true. In Portland, protesters at the federal courthouse have issued four specific demands: Defund the Portland Police Bureau by 50% and redistribute that money to community needs, oust federal agents from the city, drop the criminal charges against all protesters who were arrested, and for Mayor Ted Wheeler to resign.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) challenged Barr and told him the deployment of federal officers to Portland incited "fear and violence" into the community.
Nadler then asked Barr if he had discussed deploying federal troops to Portland with President Donald Trump before deciding to do so. Barr declined to answer the question.
"Shame on you, Mr. Barr," Nadler said. "Shame on you."
Federal agents have been deployed in Portland since early July. They've so far charged at least 18 protesters who they allege damaged the federal courthouse or shined green lasers into officers' eyes. The feds have caused traumatic brain injuries to at least one protester and snatched at least two others into unmarked rental vans, drawing national ire.
Still, Barr doubled down on the federal presence in Portland while testifying Tuesday.
"We're not out looking for trouble," Barr said. "Federal courts are under attack. Since when is it OK to try to burn down a federal court?"