Bill Barr's Justice Department has been discussing strategy with conservative groups
Attorney General William P. Barr, official White House photo by Tia Dufour

Attorney General Bill Barr and the Department of Justice has stepped into politics, according to a New York Times report Wednesday.

There is a group of conservative leaders, donors and organizations that have unleashed a legal battle on state and local governments for restrictions that are an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Conservatives have attacked leaders restricting church services. In Kansas, the GOP-run legislative committee tried to overrule Gov. Laura Kelly (D-KS) but the state Supreme Court stepped in to check their power.

According to the Times, their inspiration came from the Justice Department.

"Justice Department officials have spoken on conference calls with leaders of conservative groups, who have flagged individual cases as worthy of the department’s review," said the report. "Some cabinet officials have signaled that they back the effort by participating in private calls with conservative allies, according to multiple people involved with the calls."

The clearest example of support came when Attorney General Bill Barr issued a memo directing top department lawyers to chair an effort with other agencies to keep an eye on these policies and "take action to correct" those that "could be violating the constitutional rights and civil liberties of individual citizens.”

“We do not want to unduly interfere with the important efforts of state and local officials to protect the public,” Barr wrote in the memo. “But the Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis.”

It's an ironic twist because Republicans generally oppose federal overreach and claim "states rights" over government intrusion.

Read the full report at the New York Times.