Tuesday, during an interview with nationally syndicated talker Hugh Hewitt, Attorney General William Barr touched on constitutional protections in a time of crisis related to what powers the executive branches of both state and federal governments.
Barr acknowledged that amid this coronavirus pandemic, some “temporary and reasonable restrictions” were acceptable. However, he did argue those had to be targeted, adding it was a view “a better job” was needed to be done regarding those restrictions.
“I do think that executive glance, whether it be in the federal system or the state system, you know, one of its capacities is to respond to immediate catastrophic dangers facing the people,” he said. “And the reason that we give power to the executive is because frequently, that requires adapting to the circumstances. So initially, when you’re faced with a potential catastrophe, the government can deploy measures and even put temporary and reasonable restrictions on rights if really necessary to meet the danger. But it still has the obligation to adapt to the circumstances. Whatever powers the government has, whether it be the president or the state governor, still is bounded by constitutional rights of the individual.”
“Our federal constitutional rights don’t go away in an emergency,” Barr continued. “They constrain what the government can do. And in a circumstance like this, they put on the government the burden to make sure that whatever burdens it’s putting on our constitutional liberties are strictly necessary to deal with the problem. They have to be targeted. They have to use less intrusive means if they are equally effective in dealing with the problem. And that’s the situation we’re in today. We’re moving into a period where we have to do a better job of targeting the measures we’re deploying to deal with this virus.”
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