Democratic Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen turned heads at a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday when he accused Attorney General Bill Barr‘s Bureau of Prisons allowing billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide.
Barr was facing a fierce grilling from House Democrats, who accused him of defending President Trump while going after his enemies, using excessive force against prosecutors and improperly intervening in the Roger Stone and Michael Flynn cases.
Cohen was railing against the U.S. Park police and Secret Service’s forceful clearing of protesters from Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., on June 1 to clear the way for Barr and Trump to walk to a nearby historic church.
You can watch the moment here, via C-SPAN.
Cohen Said the Bureau of Prisons Guards Allowed Epstein to ‘Conveniently Commit Suicide’
Cohen told Barr that the “world watched in horror” as D.C. and federal authorities used force to clear Lafayette Square on June 1 “so that you and the president could walk across and have a photo-op in front of the church.”
Cohen added that it “strains credulity that this was not planned for … political purposes.”
“Maybe what happened was that your secret police were poorly trained, just like your Bureau of Prisons guards were poorly trained,” Cohen said, “and allowed the most notorious inmate in our nation’s last several years, Jeffrey Epstein, to conveniently commit suicide.”
Cohen even added a distinctly Trump-ian “Sad!”
Barr said nothing and showed no emotion.
Cohen also asked Barr to commit to allowing Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband to testify before the Judiciary Committee in the fall, presumably on the issue of protesters’ civil rights potentially being violated by federal law enforcement. Barr did not commit.
Dreiband is the head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and a former labor lawyer and member of the George W. Bush administration, Heavy reported.
“Will you work with us allow [Dreiband] to testify before the committee this fall?” Cohen asked.
“I’ll talk to him about it,” Barr replied.
Cohen then asked Barr if he would “encourage” Dreiband to testify, but Barr simply repeated that he would “talk to him about it.”
Jeffrey Epstein’s name did not come up in the remainder of the five-and-a-half hour hearing.
Cohen’s Rant Was Alternately Cheered & Jeered on Twitter — Largely Along Party Lines
Liberals watching the Barr hearing applauded Cohen’s unexpected invoking of Epstein’s mysterious suicide.
“Rep. Cohen just dropped the ‘Epstein Suicide’ bomb on Bill Barr,” one user wrote. “BOOM!”
Another anti-Trump commentator crudely linked Epstein to President Trump himself.
Independent legal and national security journalist Marcy Wheeler, while apparently no fan of Barr, did not appreciate the Epstein reference however. “I don’t find this helpful,” she said.
There has been speculation about Barr’s personal ties to Epstein, as reported by Heavy. Conservative commentators and users quickly accused Cohen of capitalizing on conspiracy-theory thinking.
As of 1:20 p.m., Epstein had not yet been brought up again in the House Judiciary Committee hearing.