Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday said the Justice Department could take action against states whose coronavirus lockdowns are deemed too strict.
“We have to give businesses more freedom to operate in a way that’s reasonably safe,” Barr said in an interview on The Hugh Hewitt Show. “To the extent that governors don’t and impinge on either civil rights or on the national commerce–our common market that we have here–then we’ll have to address that.”
Barr said states should enforce lockdowns and business closures only until the spread of coronavirus has halted. Then, states should eventually reopen in line with the Trump administration’s guidelines, he said.
“These are very, very burdensome impingements on liberty, and we adopted them, we have to remember, for the limited purpose of slowing down the spread, that is bending the curve,” Barr went on. “We didn’t adopt them as the comprehensive way of dealing with this disease….You can’t just keep on feeding the patient chemotherapy and say well, we’re killing the cancer, because we were getting to the point where we’re killing the patient.”
While most U.S. states have adopted some form of business and school closures, several have seen protests against the lockdown measures. President Trump has repeatedly clashed with state governors on reopening the economy, urging them to do so as soon as possible.
Trump has called on protesters to “liberate” certain states, all with Democratic governors. Washington governor Jay Inslee subsequently accused Trump of “fomenting domestic rebellion.”
Protests have been particularly strong in Michigan, whose governor Gretchen Whitmer has instituted some of the most stringent lockdowns in the U.S. Whitmer on Tuesday compared protesters to Americans who objected to the World War II production effort.