Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., blasted a reported proposal by the Justice Department calling for the authority to ask judges to detain people without trials during a national emergency.
The Justice Department quietly asked Congress for the authority to ask chief judges to detain people indefinitely without trials during such an emergency, Politico reported Saturday after having reviewed documents detailing requests to lawmakers on multiple issues.
Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," Ocasio-Cortez called the alleged effort, which comes as the U.S. deals with the coronavirus pandemic, "abhorrent."
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"There's a long history in this country and in other countries of using emergencies as times to really start to encroach upon people's civil rights," she said. "And, in fact, this is the time when we need them the absolute most.
"We have to keep an eye out for these kind of authoritarian and, frankly, for these — this expansion of — and, rather, and suspension of rule of law," she said. "It does not matter how urgent times are. We have to make sure that we retain our civil rights. And there's no reason for us to be waiving folks' civil rights in an emergency."
A Justice Department spokesperson told The Washington Post that the department was trying to "harmonize what is already being done on an ad hoc basis by courts around the country."
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle lashed out at the Justice Department after Saturday's reports.
"This naked power grab shows why Attorney General Barr has no credibility and should resign," Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said in a tweet.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, tweeted: "We absolutely must, must, resist government run amok taking advantage of a crisis. This is how your liberty dies. Stand up America and resist."