Sunday, the United States Attorney General William Barr sat down with Journalist Margaret Brennan on Face The Nation. The interview focused initially on the situation that occurred on June 1, 2020, when the President and a few members of his Administration walked across the street to St. John’s church amid the riots and protests happening close by.
Brennan asked, “A Senior Administration Official told our CBS’ David Martin, that in a meeting at the White House on Monday Morning the President demanded that 10,000 active-duty troops be ordered into American Streets is that accurate”? Barr responded, “That’s completely false”.
Brennan asked again “The President did not demand that”? Barr responded, “He did not demand that. I came over on Monday morning for a meeting. The night before had been the most violent, as one of the police officials told us, the D.C. police, it was the most violent day in Washington in 30 years, something that the media has not done a very good job of covering. And there had been a riot right along Lafayette Park. I was called over and asked if I would coordinate federal civil agencies and that the Defense Department would provide whatever support I needed or we needed to protect federal property at the White House, federal personnel. The decision was made to have at the ready and on hand in the vicinity some regular troops. But everyone agreed that the use of regular troops was a last resort and that as long as matters can be controlled with other resources, they should be. I felt, and the Secretary of Defense felt, we had adequate resources and wouldn’t need to use federal troops. But in case we did, we wanted them nearby.”
Later in the interview, Brennan asked about the use of tear gas, pepper balls, and projectiles on rioters and protestors, “On Monday, Lafayette Park was cleared of protestors. You’ve spoken about this. The federal agents who were there report up to you. Did you think it was appropriate for them to use smoke bombs, tear gas, pepper balls, projectiles at what appeared to be peaceful protesters”? Barr answered, “They were not peaceful protestors. And that’s one of the big lies that the media seems to be perpetuating at this point”.
Brennan interjected, “Three of my CBS colleagues were there. We talked to them”. She added “They did not hear warnings. They did not see protesters throw anything”.
To set the record straight on this situation Barr said, “There were three warnings. There were three warnings given. But let’s get back to why we took that action. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, there were violent riots at Lafayette Park where the park police were under constant attack behind their bike rack fences. On Sunday, things reached a crescendo. The officers were pummeled with bricks. Crowbars were used to pry up the pavers at the park and they were hurled at police. There were fires set in not only St. John’s Church, but a historic building at Lafayette was burned down”. He added, “They broke into the Treasury Department, and they were injuring police“. He continued, “Sunday night, the park police prepared a plan to clear H Street and put a larger perimeter around the White House so they could build a more permanent fence on Lafayette”.
The following day Attorney Barr was on Fox News Special Report with Brett Baier in a two-part interview that concluded on Tuesday where Baier asked him about the events from last Monday. Barr reiterated what he said on Sunday with Face The Nation “We were reacting to 3 days of violent demonstrations, right across from the White House. There were a lot of injuries to police officers, arson, things were so bad that the Secret Service recommended that the President go down to the bunker. We can’t have that in our country”.
Barr was then asked about the charges and arrests that have been made across the country due to the rioting and looting and why none of the criminal complaints mentioned Antifa specifically. Barr said “We have some investigations underway, very focused investigations on certain individuals that relate to Antifa. But in the initial phase of identifying people and arresting them, they were arrested for crimes that don’t require us to identify a particular group or don’t necessitate that”. When asked if Antifa has leaders, Barr said “It’s a loosely organized group and they have sort of a unique or unusual system of communication and organization, there are people who can be categorized as leaders in any given situation“. He added “There appears to be sources of funding and a high degree of organization involved at some of these events and tactics we are seeing and we are looking into that as well and some of it relates to Antifa and some of it relates to groups that act very much like Antifa. There is a witch’s brew of extremist groups that are trying to exploit this situation on all sides”.
On the issue of defunding the police, Barr had this to say, “I understand given the history of racial injustice in this country why the African American community or at least some of it would view the ghastly events that occurred in Minneapolis as manifestations of institutional racism by police departments, but I think in fact over the past 50 or 60 years we’ve had a lot of reform of police departments. I was Attorney General 30 years ago and I can tell you there is a world of difference”. He continued “And I think defunding the police and holding the entire police structure responsible for the actions of certain officers is wrong and I think it’s dangerous to demonize police”.
When asked if there should be federal involvement in training these officers, Barr responded, “I think we are going to need a strong federal participation in this effort in helping to set standards”.
Barr was asked what would happen if a major American city in this country disbanded their police department. He answered, “You would have increases in vigilantism and you would have increase in chaos. That’s why doing things that prevent us from having a strong effective police force is counterproductive you end up having more killings. That’s been shown time and time again”. He added “If you pull police from communities like Chicago more harm will be done to these communities”.
Barr was also asked what his definition of Law and Order is. Barr said, “Law and order means to have a government that is capable of governing, strong enough to govern but not so strong that it abridges the rights of the people. So you have to have power but you have to have controls on that power. In regards to excessive police force, law and order means that the government is bound by the law and people have to be accountable for abusing their power”.
There were new developments in the on-going John Durham (U.S. Attorney for Connecticut) report which includes the investigation into Trump campaign collusion. Barr said that even though the country shut down due to the Coronavirus “The Durham team has been working very aggressively to move forward. This isn’t being driven by producing a report. We are trying to get to a point where we can hold anyone accountable who crossed the line and committed a criminal violation. That will be the initial stage of a resolution of Durham’s investigation”. He continued, “But, I think, there will be public disclosure in some form of a report at the appropriate time”.
Barr and Durham are concerned with the periods before and after the 2016 election. Barr said “The mode of force behind the very aggressive investigation that was launched into the Trump Campaign, with a very slender read as the basis for it and the bureau spring-loaded at the end of July to drive in there and investigate a campaign.” He added, “There really wasn’t much there to do that on and that became more and more evident as time went by but they seemed to ignore all the exculpatory evidence that was building up and continued pell-mell to push it forward”. On the flip side after the election, Barr said, “They were closing down some of it, as we have seen in the Flynn case and saying there is nothing here, for some reason they went right back at it even at a time where the evidentiary claim support, like the dossier, was falling apart”.
“It’s very hard to understand why they continued to push and even make public testimony that they had an investigation going, one that was becoming painfully obvious or should have been obvious to anyone that there was nothing there”.
Barr went on to say that the investigation does not involve looking into President Obama or Vice President Biden and the people they are looking at are “not at that level” but confirmed there are some names that people will be familiar with.
“For the first time in history, police organizations and national security organizations were being used to spy on a campaign and there was no basis for it and the media largely drove that and all kinds of sensational claims were being made about the President that could’ve affected the election. Then later on in his Administration, there were actions taken that really appear to be efforts to sabotage against his campaign. And that has to be looked at if people want to say that I’m political because I’m looking at those potential abuses of power then so be it. That is the job of the Attorney General”.
Barr stated he is very troubled by what he has seen so far in the Durham investigation but would not elaborate.