AG Barr

AG Barr
In a wide-ranging and in-person interview on Wednesday with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Attorney General William Barr turned the set of The Situation Room into a classroom to school the network on everything from accusations of systemic racism in the justice system, to Antifa's cross-country violence, to how people were "playing with fire" in the form of mail-in-ballots.

After shooting down Blitzer's accusations about him just being a lapdog for President Trump, Barr was pressed from the left with allegations that the justice system was racist. Blitzer was actually confused when Barr point out the fact the Blake and Floyd cases were very different incidents and tried to argue Blake wasn't armed (Click "expand"):
A.G. WILLIAM BARR: Well, I'm not going to talk about the Blake case.

BLITZER: Why not?

BARR: Because it's different than the Floyd case.

BLITZER: What's different?

BARR: Floyd was already subdued, incapacitated, in handcuffs, and was not armed. In the Jacob case, he was in the midst of committing a felony and he was armed. So, that's a big difference.

BLITZER: His family says he wasn't armed. There may have been a knife in the car, but he wasn't armed when he was shot. That's what his family and his lawyer said.

BARR: I stated what I believe is to be the difference. And that's I don't want to talk about him as if they're interchangeable. Okay?
The Attorney General then moved on to refuting the idea that the justice system was inherently racist, whereas Blitzer insisted there were two different systems with different rules; one for whites and one for blacks.

"No. I don't think there are two justice systems," Barr refuted, pointing to how rare it was for a white officer to shoot a black man. "The fact of the matter is, it's very rare for an unarmed African-American to be shot by a white police officer. There were ten cases last year, six of them the suspect was attacking the police officer physically. So, these are rare things compared to the 7 to 8,000 young black men who are killed every year."

Despite those fact, Blitzer followed up by continuing to grilling Barr on the supposed racist nature of the system. But Barr defused the accusation by pointing out how far the country had come since the civils rights movement (Click "expand")
BARR: No. To me, the word "Systemic" means that it's built into the institution. And I don't think that's true. I think our institutions have been reformed in the past 60 years. And if anything has been built in, it's a biased to nondiscrimination and safeguards against that. And so, that's what I'm reacting to on systemic.

And also I think we have to be careful about throwing the idea of racism around. Racism usually means, you know, that I believe that because of your race you're a lesser human being than me. And I think there are people in the United States that feel that way. But I don't think it is as common as people suggest. And I think we have safeguards to ensure that it doesn't really have an effect to someone's future. I think we've made a lot of progress in the past 60 years.
"To listen to the American left nowadays, you'd think we've gotten nowhere," Barr shot back.

He even paraphrased a Jesse Jackson quote about how he used stereotypes and argued that police were working to reform on that front and be conscious of that kind of bias. "There's more progress being made and more reform and we're going about that. But the demonization of the police and the idea that this is so widespread an epidemic is simply wrong," he said.


A few minutes later when they shifted gears to discuss the violent riots across the country, Blitzer appeared almost skeptical that Antifa even existed, pressing Barr on how many had been arrested (click "expand"):
BLITZER: I know that you and the president have claimed Antifa, a far left group here in the United States for stirring up the violence in some of these cities. And I know you've set up a task force at the Justice Department to look into this. If Antifa is really behind what we've seen some of the looting, some of the burning, some of the violence, why haven't there been any major arrests made of Antifa?

BARR: Well, there have been 300 arrests made across the country.

BLITZER: But apparently not --

BARR: Being a member of Antifa -- Antifa is a movement, as I've made clear. Okay? There's not a group necessarily that is called Antifa and membership in a group does not necessarily mean you've committed a crime. The elements of a crime are things like throwing a Molotov cocktail.

BLITZER: But have any Antifa-related individuals been arrested?

BARR: Yes.

BLITZER: How many?

BARR: I couldn't tell you that.

BLITZER: Because, based on the evidence we've seen, there aren't many at all as far as Antifa directly related individuals.

BARR: Some self-identify them as Antifa. Some refuse to provide even their identity when they're arrested. I've talked to every police chief in every city where there's been major violence, and they all have identified Antifa as the ramrod for the violence.
The AG explained the Justice Department was tracking individuals associated with Antifa and were monitoring what they were buying as they traveled across the country to take part in riots. And he seemed almost dumbfounded when Blitzer actually asked the following: "Is that illegal? Is that illegal what they're doing?"

"Crossing state lines to engage in rioting is," Barr informed him. "A federal offense." He even gave credence to Trump's recent claims that there were flights loaded with Antifa which flew to Washington, D.C. and other cities to cause destruction and violence.

The most animated Barr got during the interview was went he had to lay down the facts surrounding the problems with mail-in-voting. "Wolf, this is sort of cheap talk to get around a fundamental problem, which is the bipartisan commission chaired by Jimmy Carter and James Baker set back in 2009 that mail-in voting is fraught with the risk of fraud and coercion," he said, elevating the volume of his voice as he battled with the CNN host, at one point warning people were "playing with fire."


After Barr pointed to a case where one man committed fraud with 1,700 ballots in Texas, Blitzer downplayed that level of fraud (which could turn the tide in congressional elections), arguing such fraud had yet to happen on a wide scale. It's safe to say Barr was incensed as he explained how absentee ballots were better.
BLITZER: But they are individual cases, but far as widespread fraud, we haven't see that since--

BARR: Well, we haven't had the kind of widespread use of mail-in-ballots as is being proposed. We've had absentee ballots from people who request them to a specific address. Now, what we're talking about is mailing them to everyone on the voter lists, when everyone knows those voter lists are inaccurate.

People who should get them don't get them, which has been one of the major complaints in the states that have tried this in municipal elections. And people who get them are not the right people. They're the people who replaced the previous occupants and they can make them out. Sometimes multiple ballots come to the same address with several generations of occupants. Do you think that's a way to run a vote?!

BLITZER: Well, the only thing I'm saying is that so far we haven't seen widespread fraud.

BARR: So far we haven't tried it.
As they went back and forth a little longer, Blitzer condescendingly reminded the Attorney General that there was a pandemic going on and people were afraid to go to the polls. Barr responded by spelling out the simple solutions to those problems:
And the appropriate way to deal with that is, number one, arrangements at the polls that protect people, which can be done. And number two, people who have pre-existing conditions and are particularly vulnerable can get an absentee ballot. I have no problem with people -- I voted by absentee ballot. Not by mail, I actually went to the office to cast my vote. But absentee ballots are fine.
Towards the end of the interview, Barr noted that since the idea was to just send out ballots all over the place, they could be reproduced and counterfeited. Blitzer didn't really have a response to that concern. It was a schooling for the ages. This is CNN.

The transcript is below, click "expand" to read:
CNN's The Situation Room
September 2, 2020
5:06:18 p.m. Eastern

(...)

WOLF BLITZER: So, you testified that you think you understand the conversations. This is when you were testifying before Congress, that black parents have with their children about racism in this country. How do you think African-American parents around the country explain to their kids what exactly happened to Jacob Blake, for example, and why that police officer had his knee on George Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes?

A.G. WILLIAM BARR: Well, I'm not going to talk about the Blake case.

BLITZER: Why not?

BARR: Because it's different than the Floyd case.

BLITZER: What's different?

BARR: Floyd was already subdued, incapacitated, in handcuffs, and was not armed. In the Jacob case, he was in the midst of committing a felony and he was armed. So, that's a big difference.

BLITZER: His family says he wasn't armed. There may have been a knife in the car, but he wasn't armed when he was shot. That's what his family and his lawyer said.

BARR: I stated what I believe is to be the difference. And that's I don't want to talk about him as if they're interchangeable. Okay?

Now, I did say that I do think that there appears to be a phenomenon in the country where African-Americans feel that they're treated, when they're stopped by police, frequently as suspects before they are treated as citizens. I don't think that that necessarily reflects some deep-seated racism in police departments or in most police officers. I think the same kind of behavior is done by African-American police officers.

I think there are stereotypes. I think people operate very frequently according to stereotypes and I think it takes extra precaution on the part of law enforcement to make sure we don't reduce people to stereotypes, we treat them as individuals.

BLITZER: Because on this program, Jacob Blake Sr., the father said there were two justice systems in our country, one that shot his son seven times in the back and one that let the 17-year-old white gunman walk away after shooting and killing two people. Your reaction?

BARR: Well, I think the gunman escaped, and the government of Wisconsin is seeking his extradition.

BLITZER: But aren't there two justice systems here in the United States?

BARR: No. I don't think there are two justice systems. I think the narrative that the police are on some, you know, epidemic of shooting unarmed black men is simply a false narrative, and also the narrative that that's based on race. The fact of the matter is, it's very rare for an unarmed African-American to be shot by a white police officer. There were ten cases last year, six of them the suspect was attacking the police officer physically. So, these are rare things compared to the 7 to 8,000 young black men who are killed every year.

BLITZER: Because you've said you don't believe there is systemic racism in our justice system among the police. But you did say this. You did say, "I do think it is a widespread phenomenon that African-American males in particular are treated with extra suspicion and maybe not given the benefit of the doubt."

BARR: That's what I just said.

BLITZER: But doesn't that sound like systemic racism?

BARR: No. To me the word "Systemic" means that it's built into the institution. And I don't think that's true. I think our institutions have been reformed in the past 60 years. And if anything has been built in, it's a biased to nondiscrimination and safeguards against that. And so, that's what I'm reacting to on systemic.

And also I think we have to be careful about throwing the idea of racism around. Racism usually means, you know, that I believe that because of your race you're a lesser human being than me. And I think there are people in the United States that feel that way. But I don't think it is as common as people suggest. And I think we have safeguards to ensure that it doesn't really have an effect to someone's future. I think we've made a lot of progress in the past 60 years.

To listen to the American left nowadays, you'd think we've gotten nowhere.

BLITZER: There's no doubt there's been a lot of progress. But do you think black people are treated differently by law enforcement than white people?

BARR: I think there are some situations where statistics would suggest that they are treated differently. But I don't think that that's necessarily racism. Didn't Jesse Jackson say, when he looks behind him and he sees a group of young black males walking behind him, he's more scared than when he sees a group of white youths walking behind him. Does that make him a racist? Does that make him a racist?

BLITZER: It sounds like there are two systems, one for blacks, one for whites. That sounds like there is still racism in the justice system.

BARR: Well, no. I think we have to make sure that stereotypes do not govern our actions in the justice system. And I think police departments do a pretty good job of trying to police against that. And I think progress -- there's more progress being made and more reform and we're going about that. But the demonization of the police and the idea that this is so widespread an epidemic is simply wrong.

BLITZER: On Monday night, President Trump compared the police shootings, like Jacob Blake's, for example, in his words to a golfer choking and missing a three-foot putt. Is that how you view police shootings, like a golfer missing a three-foot putt?

BARR: No. What I think what the President was saying there, and it's something that I think should be said and has to be said, that in many of these shooting situations, it is not because of race. It's because the officer is scared for his life and is in a situation where a half a second can mean the difference between his life and his death, and he's wrestling with somebody, and they sometimes may do things that appear in hindsight to be excessive. It doesn't necessarily mean that it's racism.

(...)

5:13:32 p.m. Eastern

BLITZER: So, if he wanted to, he could send in federal troops tomorrow?

BARR: I was talking about law enforcement. And I know that news networks are fond of the word "Troop" when they're referring to federal law enforcement. It's the first time I've ever heard that.

(...)

5:14:12 p.m. Eastern

BLITZER: I know that you and the president have claimed Antifa, a far left group here in the United States for stirring up the violence in some of these cities. And I know you've set up a task force at the Justice Department to look into this. If Antifa is really behind what we've seen some of the looting, some of the burning, some of the violence, why haven't there been any major arrests made of Antifa?

BARR: Well, there have been 300 arrests made across the country.

BLITZER: But apparently not --

BARR: Being a member of Antifa -- Antifa is a movement, as I've made clear. Okay? There's not a group necessarily that is called Antifa and membership in a group does not necessarily mean you've committed a crime. The elements of a crime are things like throwing a Molotov cocktail.

BLITZER: But have any Antifa-related individuals been arrested?

BARR: Yes.

BLITZER: How many?

BARR: I couldn't tell you that.

BLITZER: Because, based on the evidence we've seen, there aren't many at all as far as Antifa directly related individuals.

BARR: Some self-identify them as Antifa. Some refuse to provide even their identity when they're arrested. I've talked to every police chief in every city where there's been major violence, and they all have identified Antifa as the ramrod for the violence.

They are flying around the country. We know people who are flying around the country. We know where they're going. We know - we see some of the purchases they're making before the riots of weapons to use in those riots. So, we are following that.

BLITZER: Is that illegal? Is that illegal what they're doing?

BARR: Crossing state lines to engage in rioting is.

BLITZER: In an interview --

BARR: A federal offense.

BLITZER: In an interview this week, the President claimed that he heard about a plane, in his words, loaded with thugs wearing dark uniforms from a certain city that was headed to the Republican National Convention here in Washington, in his words, to do big damage. He didn't offer any specifics. He later the next day changed the story. The plane wasn't coming to Washington. It was leaving Washington. Have you asked the FBI to investigate this?

BARR: I don't have to ask the FBI because we received numerous reports of individuals coming from Portland, Washington, Seattle, and several other cities to come into Washington for the specific purpose of causing a riot.

BLITZER: Were they wearing black uniforms, and were they loaded, if you will?

BARR: I think there were many on planes. We've received multiple reports on this topic.

BLITZER: So, what the President was talking about was information that you provided to the President?

BARR: I don't know what the President was specifically referring to.

BLITZER: Because it was widely reported on Facebook there was some conspiracy that was reported weeks ago about this sort of thing.

BARR: I don't know what the President was referring to. But I will say that we are trying to follow these things and we received numerous reports of people coming from other cities into Washington. As we received many reports of people going into Kenosha from various states.

BLITZER: But you're saying you don't know specifically what the President was referring to?

BARR: No, I don't know what the president was referring to.

BLITZER: When he spoke about this?

BARR: He seemed to be speaking in general terms. I don't know what he was referring to.

(...)

5:18:50 p.m. Eastern

BLITZER: He doesn't believe in the mail-in voting and you're the attorney general of the United States. He said if you expand mail-in voting it's reckless.

BARR: Wolf, this is sort of cheap talk to get around a fundamental problem, which is the bipartisan commission chaired by Jimmy Carter and James Baker set back in 2009 that mail-in voting is fraught with the risk of fraud and coercion.

[Crosstalk]

BARR: Let me talk.

BLITZER: Please.

BARR: And since that time, there have been in the newspapers, in networks, academic studies saying it is open to fraud and coercion. The only time the narrative changed is after this administration came in. But elections that have been held with mail have found substantial fraud and coercion. For example, we indicted someone in Texas, 1,700 ballots collected from people who could vote. He made them out and voted for the person he wanted to. That kind of thing happens with main-in-ballots and everyone ones it.

BLITZER: But they are individual cases, but far as widespread fraud, we haven't see that since--

BARR: Well, we haven't had the kind of widespread use of mail-in-ballots as is being proposed. We've had absentee ballots from people who request them to a specific address. Now, what we're talking about is mailing them to everyone on the voter lists, when everyone knows those voter lists are inaccurate.

People who should get them don't get them, which has been one of the major complaints in the states that have tried this in municipal elections. And people who get them are not the right people. They're the people who replaced the previous occupants and they can make them out. Sometimes multiple ballots come to the same address with several generations of occupants. Do you think that's a way to run a vote?!

BLITZER: Well, the only thing I'm saying is that so far we haven't seen widespread fraud.

BARR: So far we haven't tried it.

BLITZER: There are several states that only have mail-in voting, including a Republican state--

BARR: This is playing with fire. This is playing with fire. We're a very closely divided country here. And if people have to have confidence in the results of the election and the legitimacy of the government, and people trying to change the rules to this methodology, which, as a matter of logic, is very open to fraud and coercion, is reckless and dangerous. And people are playing with fire.

BLITZER: I will point out there are five states that only have mail-in voting including Utah and Colorado, Washington State, Oregon, Hawaii. And they've reported over the years they've had virtually no problems. But who's trying to change the rules right now?

BARR: I would say the people who want to go to mass mail-in ballots.

BLITZER: But you understand why. There is a coronavirus pandemic, and there are a lot of people potentially if they waited along the lines when they go to the polls, they could get sick, especially older people or people with underlying conditions. As a result, a lot of people want to change the rules so they don't have to go wait in long lines, that don't have to touch all this equipment.

BARR: And the appropriate way to deal with that is, number one, arrangements at the polls that protect people, which can be done. And number two, people who have pre-existing conditions and are particularly vulnerable can get an absentee ballot. I have no problem with people -- I voted by absentee ballot. Not by mail, I actually went to the office to cast my vote. But absentee ballots are fine.
(...)