An inquiry into state officials who allegedly signed extreme social distancing measures into law is underway, one of the nation’s top legal advisers said.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr confirmed he has ordered federal prosecutors across the nation to investigate potential cases of excessive state-level restrictions under the excuse of trying to contain the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Virus pandemic.
Barr indicated he would crack down on governors who are found to be “violating the constitutional rights and civil liberties of individual citizens.” He warned governors suspected of using extreme measures that they could find themselves in court answering for their actions.
“If a state or local ordinance crosses the line from an appropriate exercise of authority to stop the spread of COVID-19 into an overbearing infringement of constitutional and statutory protections, the Department of Justice (DOJ) may have an obligation to address that overreach in federal court,” Barr said in a memo shared on Twitter.
U.S. attorneys will now compel DOJ Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Eric Dreiband and Michigan Eastern District Attorney Matthew Schneider to help monitor state and local policies and litigate where necessary.
President Donald Trump supported Barr’s tough stance against governors who impose extreme social distancing measures on Americans.
“You would have to ask Attorney General Barr but I think he wants to see—like everybody, he wants to see people get back and he wants to see people get back to work,” he said according to Fox News. “He does not want people to be held up when there is no reason for doing it. In some cases, perhaps it is too strict. He wants to make sure people have the rights and they maintain the rights, very importantly.”
The remarks came after the DOJ recently filed a statement of interest in a Mississippi legal dispute about whether imposing restrictions on religious gatherings but not commercial meetings could constitute discrimination against faith.
“I issued a statement pointing out that whatever measures are placed against religion have to be placed against all comparable commercial and other activities [since] you cannot single out religion for special burdens,” Barr told the “Hugh Hewitt Show” radio program. “I understand that the [Mississippi] government has pulled back from those restrictions at least to some degree so far.”
Barr is now focusing his efforts on governors who are using state legislatures to force Americans to suspend businesses and stay at home on the welfare benefit.
“You have to keep your distance of 6 feet, you should be washing, you should be wearing personal protective equipment when you are out and about, those are fine,” he said. “[However,] blunter instruments that say everyone has to shelter in place, to stay at home regardless of the situation on the ground, or you know, you shut down a business regardless of the capacity of the business to operate safely for its customers and its employees, those are very blunt instruments.”
Since the wave of infections appears to have reached its peak in some states, he believes the time has come to revise regulatory restrictions.
“The president’s initial approach of a period of time to bend the curve were appropriate but I think we have made a lot of progress in bending the curve,” he said. “I think we now, as I say, have to fine tune these things and I think you know, as I say, I think we have to adapt more to the circumstances. The president’s plan does that.”