Several members of a key congressional committee on Wednesday expressed concerns over a Justice Department whistleblower’s allegations that the attorney general directed multiple improper antitrust investigations into marijuana business mergers because of his personal opposition to the industry.
Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) each directly questioned the witness, John Elias, about the allegations at a hearing that also covered other unrelated reports of inappropriate actions by Attorney General William Barr.
The lawmakers touched on the costs of the cannabis investigations to taxpayers, the waste of department resources to conduct the inquiries and the attorney general’s apparent animus toward businesses operating in accordance with state legalization laws.
“Did that cost the cannabis folks a lot of money?” Cohen asked.
“Absolutely, these subpoenas that get issued that require production of millions of documents is very burdensome,” Elias, who has been with the Justice Department for 14 years, said.
“So it was harassment by Bill Barr of an industry he didn’t like, is that right?” the congressman followed up.
The witness replied that “I think that’s a fair way to characterize it, yes.”