Senator vows to block DOJ noms if they deny legal help to U.S. Marshalls facing lawsuits over Portland riots

If the Biden Administration won’t represent U.S. Marshalls, charged with defending the Portland federal courthouse from BLM/ANTIFA protestors, then Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) will block the Department of Justice’s nominees.

This was Cotton’s promise in a letter he wrote Monday to Attorney General Merrick Garland, and he’s given the DOJ a deadline to respond: 3 p.m. Tuesday.

“A refusal to represent these Deputy Marshals would violate the Department’s long-standing practices — not to mention its moral duty — to defend law-enforcement officers when they’re sued for actions in the line of duty,” wrote Cotton. “I hope these reports are mistaken.”

If the DOJ is neither directly representing the “courageous officers” nor funding their attorney fees, they need to explain to Cotton “why on earth you’re not.”

On Sunday, July 26, 2020, Portland authorities declared a riot in their city, as protesters breached a fence that surrounded the federal courthouse building. Inside were U.S. agents, sent to quell the destructive BLM and ANTIFA crowds as they marched, burned, and broke things in the name of George Floyd.

“Demonstrations have happened in Oregon’s largest city nightly for two months since Floyd was killed in Minneapolis in May,” the Statesman Journal reported at the time. “Trump said he sent in federal agents to Portland to halt the unrest but state and local officials say they are making the situation worse.”

As Cotton wrote in his letter, officers were “attacked by left-wing street militias with weapons such as mortar fire, ball bearings, and blinding lasers.”

Once the violence stopped, the lawsuits started — not against the rioters, but against U.S. Marshalls, who were accused of using excessive force as they dodged Molotov cocktails and attacks with hammers.

One such lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Government and 10 federal officers by Donavan LaBella, who was shot in the forehead with an impact munition while demonstrating outside the courthouse.

“Donavan LaBella’s lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Portland, cites excessive force, negligence and emotional distress. The suit does not name the amount of money he is seeking, but a previous notice to the court suggested he would seek millions,” reported The Oregonian in November.

The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund told Fox News that one of the four U.S. Marshalls they are represented was flat-out denied assistance from the DOJ.

“After careful review and consideration of the information currently available, I have determined that representation would not be in the interest of the United States,” the DOJ responded. “Accordingly, the request for representation is denied.”

In response to Cotton’s letter, a DOJ spokesperson stated: “The department currently represents or has paid for representation for over 70 federal employees who have been sued in connection with the events in Portland. Indeed, to date, the Department has denied legal representation for only one federal employee in these cases.”

But Cotton isn’t splitting hairs.

If he doesn’t receive an answer in a “timely and satisfactory” manner, he will “be compelled to object to Department nominees both in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor.”

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