Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., came out fighting Tuesday when he began questioning Attorney General Bill Barr – dismissively telling the Justice Department leader that his opening statement read “like it was written by Alex Jones or Roger Stone.”

Johnson – who is no stranger to combative back and forths with witnesses testifying before the House Judiciary Committee – blasted Barr’s statement when comparing it to something Jones, a noted right-wing conspiracy theorist and InfoWars founder, and Stone, the notorious GOP political operative and friend of President Trump.

“Your opening statement reads like it was written by Alex Jones or Roger Stone,” Johnson said, before going on to question Barr about Trump’s “prolific” tweeting and if it affects how the attorney general does his job.

Barr is on Capitol Hill to appear before the House Judiciary Committee – bringing him face-to-face with a panel that voted last year to hold him in contempt and is holding hearings on what Democrats allege is the politicization of the Justice Department under his watch. It comes during a tumultuous stretch in which Barr has taken actions cheered by Trump but condemned by Democrats and other critics.


Opening the hearing, committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said the Trump administration had “twisted the Department of Justice into a shadow of its former self," serving the powerful before average Americans. He said the committee has a responsibility to protect Americans “from that kind of corruption."

Nadler said Barr had “aided and abetted” Trump's worst impulses.

“Your tenure is marked by a persistent war against the department’s professional core in an apparent effort to secure favors for the president,” Nadler said.

Nadler also excoriated Barr and the Justice Department for turning a blind eye to necessary reforms to police departments, for dismissing Black Lives Matter protests and for flooding streets with federal agents to stop protesters.

Republicans hit back hard in defense of Barr and Trump's administration. The top Republican on the panel, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, showed an eight-minute video that spliced together images of violence by protesters around the country, showcasing law enforcement officers under attack in Chicago, Portland and New York. The images were cut from hundreds of hours of protests, most peaceful, around the nation.


Barr, in a prepared statement, defended the department and his tenure, including his handling of the investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russia, which he derisively refers to as “the bogus 'Russiagate’ scandal.” Barr didn't read that part of his statement in the hearing room, but it was in remarks sent out by the department.

Barr said “many of the Democrats on this committee have attempted to discredit me by conjuring up a narrative that I am simply the president’s factotum who disposes of criminal cases according to his instructions. Judging from the letter inviting me to this hearing, that appears to be your agenda today.”

Barr was also pressed in detail about his intervention in criminal cases arising from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. The hearing will provide Barr with a forum to offer his most detailed account to date for his actions in the criminal cases, which he has said were taken in the interests of justice and without political pressure. Those include the Justice Department's decision to drop the prosecution of former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn — a request now tied up in court.

Barr pushed for a more lenient sentence for another Trump ally, Roger Stone, prompting the entire trial team's departure. That decision was at the center of a hearing before the committee last month, when one of the prosecutors alleged politics from Justice Department leadership had influenced the handling of the sentence. Barr has said that Flynn, who pleaded guilty as part of Mueller's probe to lying to the FBI, should never have been charged and that the original sentencing recommendation for Stone — also charged in the Mueller investigation — was excessive. Republican lawmakers have been overwhelmingly supportive of Barr's performance.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.