Attorney General Bill Barr Explains Whether Constitutional Rights Go Away During an Emergency

During an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt Tuesday morning, Attorney General Bill Barr addressed the issue of government overreach during the Wuhan coronavirus crisis.

“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. 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,” Barr said.


“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. 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,” he continued. “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.”

In Michigan, Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has implemented extreme “social distancing” measures that include bans on travel to second homes, buying seeds, carpet, wood or other household items, in addition to banning fishing, riding in a motorboat and more. As a result, protests at the capitol in Lansing erupted last week as people demand the government ease restrictions so they can get back to work.

In recent weeks, Democratic governors have tried to close gun shops and according to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, civil liberties and the Bill of Rights haven’t been factored into decisions.

“I wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights when we did this,” Murphy said during a recent interview with Fox News about his state’s social distancing policies. “We looked at all the data and the science and it says people have to stay away from each other. That is the best thing we can do to break the back of the curve of this virus, that leads to lower hospitalization and ultimately fatalities.”

During an Easter Sunday drive-in church service in Mississippi, a pastor was told by law enforcement his rights had been “suspended.”

“I think it’s important to recognize that the president, you know has not been using, you know, dictating things based on his inherent Constitutional authorities. He’s been relying mainly on statutes that give him emergency authority, and also working within our federal system by leaving the governors to execute what they think is best at the local level. That can be a messy business, but at the end of the day, the better approach than trying to dictate everything from Washington,” Barr continued.

Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee announced they will reopen for business on May 1. States around the country are still assessing the risk and analyzing whether they meet three phases of reopening standards announced by the White House last week.

8 Comments on this post.
  • Stephen Milkereit
    23 April 2020 at 4:19 pm
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    Ga. Governor is not thinking and an idiot. He is a coward to let these businesses open instead of protecting the people. He has no common sense. Must be a Demorat. He does not listen to the people who say they are not ready to open. BIG DUNCE.

  • Gayle
    23 April 2020 at 6:05 pm
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    Washington State Governor Insley is not listening to his constituents and seems to love the power. We take chances every day and to see abortion clinics, liquor stores, pot stores etc open and now allow real people the option to have their stores open just does not make sense unless we are being taken over such as Russia etc. I believe as an American (and an old one to boot) that we have the Bill of Rights to protect us and we have the right to live as we choose as long as we don’t plan harm to others. Of course I don’t want the corona virus… who does??? I can be cautious and respectful and expect my peers in this country to do the same – yes some will not but that too is a right they have. I take my chance every time I leave my home in my car. I take my chance to eat food I have no idea where it came from. I take my chance to walk outside in the hope no one will harm me. I take my chance to trust a doctor I go to. Life is about chances and some of us are going to do well, some of us may die, and some of us may have a really hard time….but come on folks, this is America. My Revolutionary War Ancestors (all 19 of them) gave their lives and fortunes for us to have this America that should be free with liberty and justice (which still needs a lot of work) for us all.

  • brent A smith
    23 April 2020 at 6:32 pm
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    distancing and staying at home has nothing to do with 2nd ammendmint rights.

  • Mary Milican
    23 April 2020 at 6:36 pm
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    Mr. Barr you had mentioned dovenil Gretchen Whitmer in your statement here in Michigan we are very concerned that she has not provided protections for our state prison system staff and Inmates For example she said on Friday interview update that she did not have the authority to release inmates to provide protection or social distancing. Michigan has a huge population of inmates who are well past their earliest out date and are non violent. These inmates should be released to help curb this virus. She will not and I understand this is a state level issue, there must be another avenue to get this done, while she is being irresponsible inmates and correctiinal officers and staff are dying every day.
    We need an investigation PLEASE!!!!

  • Vicki
    23 April 2020 at 6:40 pm
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    When we talk about our rights it certainly doesn’t include being tracked by drones. So now states want to tell us if we are maybe feeling sick or standing to close to another person and what is next; being shot at by a drone if we are to close to someone else? Let’s get real here America because this is Communism at its best. Should you agree with these measures just move to China or North Korea and enjoy your lack of freedom without including the rest of us. The many select politicians are trying to lead us down a path of no return and if our citizens just accept it and don’t fight back it will be a disaster in the making and in the future, even those who think they want to live with these new ways of life, will regret what our country becomes.

  • Don
    23 April 2020 at 7:01 pm
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    The first amendment and all that follow are the only protection that we have from a dictatorial government. When any government federal or state violates the first amendment then the 2nd amendment is invoked if the rest are violated. that is exactly why the first two amendments are there.

  • mark
    24 April 2020 at 1:53 am
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    I sure hope Americans are getting a good taste of what tyranny really looks like and See which party is happy with “ not really thinking about the constitution or bill of rights “ and can realize this is what socialism, communism, has to offer. There is no such thing as democratic socialism. That is an oxymoron and the two can not coexist. Always beware of giving up right for security.

  • Randy Oliphant
    24 April 2020 at 4:44 pm
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    I believe that there is no problem with having church in your car. It is wrong for the government to control that type of church service. God will take care of his Christian people, we are social distancing so what is the problem ??

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