WASHINGTON — Attorney General William Barr said he’s not familiar with data showing President Trump’s Department of Justice has pursued roughly half as many civil rights cases as either Obama or Bush — despite a recent VICE News analysis showing that it has.
Asked about those numbers on Tuesday during his congressional testimony, Barr said he’s seen nothing of the kind since being sworn into office in mid-February.
“I’d have to see those figures, and how they’re broken down,” Barr said. “I haven’t seen those figures before.”
In response, Detroit Rep. Brenda Lawrence, a Democrat, told him to follow up on how his department is pursuing instances of civil rights violations and hate crimes.
“We use the words ‘stay woke’ sometimes, in community activism,” Rep. Lawrence said. “I expect for you to be informed and aware of what’s happening in this area.”
A VICE News analysis found in March that the Trump administration is pursuing far fewer civil rights cases — including hate crimes, police bias, and disability rights cases — than the Obama or Bush administrations did.
The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division has started 60 percent fewer cases against potential violations during the first two years of the Trump administration than during the Obama years, and 50 percent fewer than under George W. Bush.
The VICE News review found that hate crimes prosecution — one element of the overall civil rights enforcement measure — has fallen by roughly a fifth under Trump compared to levels during the Obama administration, judging from figures contained in a DOJ press release.
On Tuesday, Barr maintained he was confident that hate crimes enforcement under Trump is on par with previous administrations.
“The area that I’m familiar with, hate crimes, it’s simply not true,” Barr said. “We have an enviable record of prosecuting hate crimes — the same, or higher, rate as previous administrations, as far as I’m aware. I’d have to see what else you’re talking about.”
The Department of Justice didn’t respond to a request for comment Tuesday from VICE News to clarify Barr’s figures.
Cover image: Attorney General William Barr testifies about the Justice Department's FY2020 budget request before the House Appropriations Committee's Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill April 09, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)