During an interview on “Verdict” with Ted Cruz and Michael Knowles, Attorney General Bill Barr provided some frank answers on several issues. Whether it was riots, big tech censorship, or why he took the job, his responses were direct and his priorities unmistakable.
Riots and Monuments
The interview opened with Barr answering questions about federal law enforcement agencies’ role in addressing the unrest and lawlessness that has been occurring nationwide. Barr responded that federal action is taken after the fact. It is up to state and local leaders to prevent these crimes from happening.
He did note that when the violence began at the end of May, the thirty-five Joint Terrorism Task Force teams were activated nationwide. These are cooperative teams of local, state, and federal agencies that are built to deal with terroristic threats.
Barr shared that these teams are conducting investigations and cranking out indictments. Citing scores of indictments and arrests for crimes such as arson and destruction of federal property, Barr stated there were at least 500 investigations underway.
When asked about evidence of coordination in the riots, he confirmed this is part of the picture. Barr stated anarchistic groups associated with the antifa movement are acting as provocateurs among legitimate protests. He also confirmed there is coordination close to the event. Often the day before or the morning of, law enforcement is seeing:
- Communications between groups
- Organization among the members
- Pre-planning of activities
- Pre-positioning of materials
When asked about President Trump’s tweet about federal monuments, Barr said this is not a change in policy. Since the local response is lacking, the federal response has been stepped up.
Senator Ted Cruz: “So if you attack a monument on federal property you will be prosecuted?
Barr: “That’s right”
He said the attack ion the monument of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square is already under investigation and that the penalty is ten years in prison.
Big Tech Censorship
Barr discussed the Department of Justice’s view on censorious behavior by big tech platforms. He calls it a case of bait and switch. The platforms pledged to provide a place for free expression and built large networks. Then they began censoring points of view they did not agree with.
To address this, the DOJ is recommending modifications to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The requirements would be restated to require clear Terms of Service, specific reasons for takedowns, notification of the user whose post is taken down, and an appeals process.
Senator Cruz shared that there seems to be a growing bipartisan frustration with big tech. He also noted the outright bias of Google in threatening to remove advertising from the Federalist because of the content in their comment section. Meanwhile, their wholly-owned subsidiary YouTube and liberal sites have a significant number of offensive comments that the tech giant is not addressing.
The Politicization of the Department of Justice
Host Michael Knowles asked Barr how politicized the DOJ was when he returned as Attorney General. Barr responded:
“I think there were many examples of political decisions, but I think one of the things that has perplexed me about this is that we had one of the largest frauds and injustices in American history conducted during the 2016 election by the Justice Department and the FBI right in the center of it. And that was turning the law enforcement and intelligence agencies of the government against an opponent’s political campaign.”
He went on to explain that this is extremely dangerous in a republic like ours, and the majority of the criticism he receives is for trying to get to the bottom of it. The most recent criticisms area result of the DOJ withdrawing the prosecution against General Michael Flynn.
In reviewing the investigation, the DOJ determined the counterintelligence investigation against Flynn had no basis, and the evidence was not sufficient. He also previewed the now disclosed notes from Agent Peter Strozk from the January 5, 2017 meeting in the White House.
Senator Cruz characterized Barr’s pursuit of the truth and transparency historic. He also noted Barr had to know he would be attacked for doing it:
“There is a popular video on the internet of the honey badger. And I gotta say you have been the honey badger. And to be clear, and this, because everyone gets it wrong. You have not been a Republican attorney general. I don’t want a Republican attorney general. You have been an attorney general following the law.”
Cruz then shared that he had been chatting with Barr’s staff before the interview, who said it felt like they were being attacked on every front. Cruz told them doing the right thing has a price, and to take it as a compliment.
Barr added the media were “hell-bent for leather” on Russian collusion and painting the president as an agent of Putin. He was astonished at the full-court press to impair the administration and ultimately drive it from office. Then, he noted there were no corrections and no retractions on their mistakes in the Russian collusion story. The media just moves on to the next fake scandal.
Why Did Barr Take the Job?
Bill Barr is only the second person to serve twice as attorney general. In explaining the primary differences between his first tenure and his service now, there were two. He noted the pace of things is much quicker due to improved technology. He also noted political divisions and the lack of bipartisan cooperation.
Knowles asked the obvious question as to why Barr chose to return to a job he already had. Barr responded:
“Because I didn’t want to. And I resisted it for a long time and I suggested other people. But at the end of the day, I saw the department being used as a political weapon in our system. I thought it was injurious to the rule of law and injurious to our important institutions in our country. I thought this idea of resisting a duly elected president of the United States and using every device to impair his administration was disastrous. And I thought he needed an attorney general and I agreed to do it.”
Thank goodness he did. There is much more in the full interview, including a good amount of levity.