No cabinet secretary relishes testifying before lawmakers conducting oversight, but Mr. Barr has been unusually successful in avoiding trips to Capitol Hill. He has never appeared before the House judiciary panel, which has oversight responsibility for the Justice Department, including during his first stint as attorney general under President George Bush. And he has not testified before Congress at all since May 2019, when he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions about the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.
Long lists of topics for lawmakers to question him on have accumulated in the meantime. The committee has about 40 members, each of whom will get five minutes to question Mr. Barr, so the hearing is likely to last much of the day.
House Democrats have long wanted to question him on his handling of the Mueller report. A federal judge has said that in summarizing it himself before releasing it, Mr. Barr put forward a “distorted” and “misleading” account that torqued public understanding of it in a way that favored Mr. Trump.
The House Judiciary Committee voted to recommend holding Mr. Barr in contempt over his defiance of a subpoena for grand jury evidence gathered by the special counsel’s investigation shortly thereafter, though the full House later decided to instead fight him in court for those materials, and, more recently, some of its members have said he should be impeached.
But many other flash points have come and gone since then, and more recent fights may dominate the hearing. For example, Democrats are expected to try to press him on the Trump administration’s aggressive use of federal agents at protests after the police killings of Mr. Floyd and a Kentucky woman, Breonna Taylor.
The Justice Department’s independent inspector general has announced an investigation into the federal response, including the disputed and violent clearing of protesters from Lafayette Square near the White House last month before a photo opportunity for Mr. Trump in front of a church. The attorney general accompanied the president, and the White House initially said Mr. Barr had ordered the clearance, though he later said he had not given a “tactical” order.
Mr. Barr has since become the face of a Trump administration vow to send a surge of federal agents into cities to battle violent crime for an effort he is calling Operation Legend, which he has said would include 200 agents in Chicago and Kansas City, Mo., as well as three dozen in Albuquerque. Against the backdrop of the disputed use of federal agents to confront protesters and protect federal buildings in Portland, Ore., the announcement received major attention.