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Attorney General William Barr Testifies Before House Lawmakers; AG Barr Faces Grilling From House Judiciary Democrats; Barr Disputes There Is Systemic Racism In Policing; Barr: Calls To Defund Police Are "Grossly Irresponsible"; Barr Addresses Questions On Michael Flynn Case. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 28, 2020 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[12:00:00]

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): --call each other and one of the spouses has a cell phone that's within range of one of these - not only the location, the actual content of that couple's conversation can be scooped up using this knowledge. He says this really isn't just about demonstrating, this is about the privacy of all Americans and it's all being violated for The President's political purposes of trying to create a scene, create a reason, to (inaudible). I think it's really fair enforcement and at service to the Americans. Chairman, my time has expired.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): (inaudible) back.

REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): Mr. Chairman, point of order, real quick?

NADLER: (inaudible) state is point of order.

JOHNSON: Could you ask those members who choose not to come to work, to silence their cell phones on the video? Because it's distracting to what we're doing here today.

NADLER: It is not a point of order. I now recognize Mr. Chabot.

REP. STEVE CHABOT (R-OH): Mr. Attorney General, would it be accurate to say that it's this administration's responsibility? And of course you're part of the administration to see that federal laws are upheld and that the federal property is secure and safe and protected. Is that correct?

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: That's right Congressmen, they're sort of distinct missions. One mission is to enforce federal law. And by the way, the federal government is the sovereign of the United States. We have two sovereigns here in the United States and we enforce the federal law all over the country, every square foot of the country, we enforce federal law.

The other is protecting federal property and specifically U.S. courthouses, which are the heart of federal property and all 93 jurisdictions in the United States. And we have the obligation to protect federal courts and the U.S. Marshals specifically have been given that obligation. Federal courts are under attack.

Since when is it okay to try to burn down a federal court? If someone went down the street to the pretty men court here, that beautiful courthouse we have right at the bottom of the hill and started breaking windows and firing industrial grade fireworks and to start a fire, throw kerosene balloons in and start fires in the court. Is that okay? Now, the U.S. Marshals have a duty to stop that and defend the courthouse. And that's what we are doing in Portland. We are at the courthouse defending the courthouse. We're not out looking for trouble.

CHABOT: Thank you General. And as far as weapons and devices, it were utilized by the group of people, and you mentioned trying to destroy the courthouse, they were literally trying to burn it down and apparently it didn't give a hoot about the people that were occupied in the building as well. So people were in danger.

BARR: That is absolutely right.

CHABOT: So as far as the weapons that you mentioned, let me get this straight. My understanding is that the people attacking the building had among other things, rifles, explosives, knives, saws, sledgehammers, tasers, slingshots, rocks, bricks, lasers. Have I missed anything or does that about cover it?

BARR: You have missed some things, but that's a good list. They have these powerful slingshots with ball bearings that they shoot. They've used pellet guns. We believe we have found those projectiles penetrated Marshals to the bone and they use the lasers to blind the Marshals.

They do start fires. They start fires if they can get the fire inside or through the windows and they start fires along the outside of the courthouse. When the Marshals come out to try to deal with a fire, they're assaulted.

CHABOT: General, if local elected officials, Mayors and City Councils and Governors did their jobs and kept the peace, would it even be necessary for a federal law enforcement personnel to be there in the first place?

BARR: No. And that's exactly the point. Look around the country, even where there are these kinds of riots occurring. We haven't had to put in the kind of reinforcements that we have in Portland because the state and local law enforcement does their job and won't allow rioters to come and just physically assault the courthouse. In Portland, that's not the case.

CHABOT: General, some have derisively referred to these law enforcement personnel as stormtroopers and worse. Does that accurately describe them? Would you like to set the record straight?

BARR: No, they're obviously not stormtroopers. Normally we would have a group of deputy marshals in a court, that would be in business suits and ties or regular civilian dress. Those would be the deputy marshals as the protective force for the court.

[12:05:00]

But after almost a month of rioting in Portland, we sent in, I think it was around the 4th of July timeframe, we sent in about 20 Special Operations Marshals. And those are tactical teams that are padded and protected so they could deal with this kind of thing.

Up until last week. I was told we had our stormtrooper from the department of justice amounted to 29 marshals in the courthouse, 29 marshals. until recently increased, I think there were 95 DHS, federal protective service and other DHS officers trying to protect the courthouse and three other buildings. That's what we're trying to do.

We're trying to protect federal functions and federal buildings which are a very small part of the city, but the rioters go at them and we have gradually increased our numbers there to try to protect those facilities. If the state would come in and keep peace on the streets in front of the courthouse, we wouldn't need additional people at the courthouse.

BARR: Thank you General. My time is expired.

NADLER: Gentleman, your time is expired. Ms. Jackson Lee?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): Mr. Chairman, before I begin, I'd like to submit into the record a picture of Lewis & Clark history department's chair of shot at protests in Portland and it's unanimous consent. Place that into the record. John & Lewis in 1963, said we are tired about being beat by police. We're tired of being put in jail. We want our freedom now. Mr. Attorney General, in your remarks, you indicated that we've made great progress since that time.

And you indicated that the killing of George Floyd was shocking. I disagree. It was outright coldblooded murder on the streets of America unfortunately by police misconduct. You seem to have a difficult time understanding systemic racism and institutional racism that has plagued so many. Mr. Attorney General, do you understand a black mother's or parents' talk to their child, to their son? Do you know what that is?

BARR: I think I do.

LEE: I don't know if you do but Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Sean Bell and George Floyd; black mothers and fathers have had to talk to their sons about police violence. I take no back seat to the history of this committee that has stood for good policing, not misconduct. And so I asked you this question, does the Trump Justice Department seek to end systemic racism and racism in law enforcement? I just need a yes or no answer.

BARR: To the extent there is racism in any of our institutions in this country and the police, then obviously this administration is wilfully enforce it.

LEE: So you agree that there may be systemic racism?

BARR: Where?

LEE: Let me continue my line of questioning.

BARR: I don't agree that there's systemic racism in police department.

LEE: Specifically?

BARR: Generally in this country.

LEE: And I'm reclaiming my time Mr. General. Specifically, do you understand the violent impact of racial profiling? And do you support to end racial profiling, racial and religious profiling in the George Floyd bill, including the removal of the strict interpretation of qualified immunity which would leave individuals like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd without any relief at all?

BARR: No, I'm opposed to eliminating qualified immunity and I don't agree that it would leave the victims of police misconduct.

LEE: Well, let me share with you some aspect

BARR: Without any remedy.

LEE: I'm reclaiming my time. Let me share with you some aspects of profiling. After the death of George Floyd found that while black people make up 19% of the Minneapolis population and 9% of its police, they were on the receiving end of 58% of the city's police use of force incidents. In addition, we've seen that black men are twice as likely to be stopped and searched, Hispanic drivers 65%, just receive a ticket and native Americans in Arizona, three times more likely to search and be stopped.

Let me ask you the questions of how we respond to that. The Justice Department has many tools at its disposal to reduce police violence, the pattern or practice investigations, a practice to end bad policing and police violence. It addresses police violence at an institution level rather than just focuses on acute cases. If you understand that, then why has your department only pursued one pattern-or-practice investigation since President Trump took office that could stop systemic racism?

BARR: If you read my statement or listened to my statement, I did specifically acknowledge that there was a difficulty in this country with the African-American community.

[12:10:00]

LEE: Mr. Attorney General, I have short time. Can you just tell me why you have not done a pattern-or-practice? What was the reason?

BARR: And you asked me what I thought the response was. And I thought the response to this is in fact, the training of police and I think the police believe that that's the response. I was talking to a black police.

LEE: But let me continue Mr. Attorney General. I want to respect you but I have a short time. For example, 18 U.S.C. Section 242 which makes unlawful the Denial of Rights Under the Color of Law. Can you defend the fact that in the first seven months of FY 2020, federal prosecutors filed only 242 charges in just 27 cases in the Trump DOJ. And were you aware that in FY 2019, federal prosecutors brought Section 242 charges in just 49 cases in the United States? And are you aware of how many cases we've had? 184,274 which means that in FY 2019, only about 27 out of every 100,000 prosecutions was related to Section 242 charges? Do you have a reason for that?

BARR: Yes, I do. I will get you the numbers on it. I don't know the most, the top of my head, but actually our criminal prosecutions under 241 and 242 are extremely strong and are comparable to if not exceed prior administrations. But at the beginning of this year, most of the very few jurisdictions had grand juries that were open. No grand jury.

LEE: I think the reason is because it was really skinny, it was not your focus. Your focus was more to let out friends like Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, while Tamir Rice, whose case has not been taken up, was playing with a toy gun, was killed by police at the age of 12. Breonna Taylor was sleeping in her apartment when she was killed by police at age of 26 and Rayshard Brooks 27 was killed just for sleeping in his car in a Wendy's parking lot. And George Floyd from Houston, Texas known as a humble man was murdered in the streets of Minneapolis crying "I can't breathe"

I would hope that the DOJ would focus on systemic institutional racism because there is good policing. That's what we're trying to do in the judiciary committee and that's what we need you to join us on Mr. Attorney General, and to recognize that institutional racism does exist and until we accept that, we will not finish our job and reach the goals and aspirations of our late iconic John Lewis. With that, I yield back.

NADLER: Gentle lady yields back. Mr. Gohmert?

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): Attorney General Barr. We've been hearing about these peaceful protests in major cities around the country controlled by Democratic mayors and city councils. You've had a lot of experience. Have you ever seen so many people hurt, injured and killed at peaceful protests in your life?

BARR: I haven't seen it.

GOHMERT: No, not at a peaceful protest.

BARR: Obviously as I've said from the beginning, these peaceful protests in many places are being hijacked by a very hardcore of violent instigators. And they become violent and their primary direction of violence is to injure police. Police casualties far exceed anything on the civilian side.

GOHMERT: It went to over 50 police injured in Chicago, just in recent days. And now I'm hearing this allegation that this administration is helping spread COVID-19. And yet these are some of the same people that just castigated The President for shutting down travel from the location where the virus was coming from. And now it's something more interested in defending the Chinese Communist Party than they are our own country.

But what occurred to me hearing this allegation about this administration helping spread COVID, would it be a good idea then perhaps if that's the big concern here that may be the federal government should shut down the protests during this COVID-19 spread so that we can satisfy our colleagues that you're doing more to stop it? Is that ever been a consideration?

BARR: No, I've never considered that.

GOHMERT: Well, it would apparently stop some of the allegations being thrown here. Now I know you know history. Going back to 1917, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Mao Revolution, some of these tactics we're seeing are not new, trying to get even David Horowitz.

[12:15:00]

I introduced one time as a former social, he said no, I was a full blown communist, but he has pointed out that he started looking away from the group he was in because he saw they were interested in trying to provoke the police to kill somebody so that they could really create mayhem. You're familiar with that tactic by Marxists. Are you not?

BARR: Yes.

GOHMERT: It is a dangerous time. Well let me ask you. I know you know that U.S. Attorneys are supposed to serve at the pleasure of The President. Bill Clinton fired 93 U.S. Attorneys on the same day. Do you know what made U.S. Attorney Berman think that he was the exception who did not serve at the pleasure of The President? What caused him to think he owned that position?

BARR: I think part of it was, he seems to have had the view that because he was court appointed and there is a provision in law for court appointment of a U.S. Attorney as essentially a placeholder until the administration get somebody that he felt he could not be removed by The President. Because he was court appointed and that's not correct.

GOHMERT: And some judges failed to know what my constitutional law professor knew. And that is that all federal courts except for one owe their existence and continuation and jurisdiction to the U.S. Congress. Hopefully Mr. Berman will figure that out at some point. Now, is Bruce Ohr still working for the FBI?

BARR: He works for the Department of Justice.

GOHMERT: Well, we have heard so much information about his basically being the go between the DNC, the Clinton Campaign, Fusion GPS, Christopher Steele, the Russian propaganda that were incorporated into his dossier. And I know (inaudible) uh, Christopher Ray indicated he had been given the chance to resign, go get a better job. I'm wondering how long Bruce Ohr is going to be staying where he is? It's incredible to me that he's still there.

BARR: I can't talk about individual personnel matters.

GOHMERT: Well, thank you for your service. I'm sorry for the abuse you've taken when you're just trying to do your job. Appreciate very much. You're back.

REP. MARY GAY SCANLON (D-PA): The gentleman's time has expired. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Tennessee for five minutes.

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): Thank you Madam chair. Mr. Barr. I'm the Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. So this is most pertinent hearing to me. Firstly, I'd like to ask you if you will work with us and allow the Head of the Civil Rights Division, Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband to testify before this committee this fall.

BARR: I'll talk to him about it.

COHEN: We'll encourage him.

BARR: I'll talk to him about it.

COHEN: Alright. I've closely watched actions taken by the federal government Lafayette Park in June and currently in Portland, Oregon. According to a DOJ document dated June 4th received by this committee, 1,500 federal agents from 10 different agencies were deployed to confront protesters in Washington D.C. At Lafayette Park, which has long been honored and accepted as a place of protest in our nation's Capital.

On the first day of June, the world watched in horror on live television as federal agents deployed by the administration and with you present and telling him to get it done; used force to clear Lafayette Park so that The President with you and others at your side could walk across the park and have a photo op in front of St. John's Church. This was a (inaudible) the Bishop of the diocese and the Rector of the Church. It was also in a front to the constitution and to the American people.

Giving the time and the coordinated attack against the peaceful demonstrators, it's strange preduality, that this was not planned for use of political purposes. And just yesterday Major DeMarco testified to another Committee of Congress that the protesters were peaceful and that's what the majority of people have said. And the response was excessive. When did you first learn that The President planned to walk through the park and go to St. John's Church?

BARR: First, I'd like to respond to what you said.

COHEN: Would you please answer my question? My time is limited.

BARR: I learned sometime in the afternoon that The President might come out of the White House and then later in the afternoon I heard that he might go over to the church.

COHEN: So it was absolutely necessary the park be cleared for his;

BARR: That had nothing to do with that. The plan to move.

(CROSSTALK)

COHEN: Mr. Attorney General, it was necessary that the park be cleared and it was done.

[12:20:00]

COHEN: And you said, get it done. I have the time. Thank you. In Portland, we've seen mothers and we've seen veterans who were peacefully protesting, not threatening the federal courthouse, beaten and gassed. Unidentified armed, federal agents violently attacked demonstrators and a violation of the First Amendment's freedom of assembly and arrested citizens without individualized suspicion and a violation of Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures on a warrant requirement.

You've gone through the Fifth Amendment and due process and just negated it. And the Tenth Amendment which leaves general policing to the law enforcement, to the state has been forgotten. Maybe what happened was your secret police were poorly trained just like your Bureau of Prisons guards were poorly trained and allowed the most notorious inmate in our nation's last several years Jeffrey Epstein to conveniently commit suicide, sad.

You misled Congress and the American people about Special Counsel Mueller's findings with your "summary" of his report. It was issued about a month before you released the redacted portion of the Mueller report. But you set the stage. You set the stage such that the Special Counsel objected to the accuracy of how it was reported by the press and what you said. And Federal judge Reggie Walton appointed by George W. Bush declared in a ruling that your summary was "distorted and misleading" and that the court could not trust you.

Further Judge Walton stated the report was "a calculated attempt to influence public disclosure about the Mueller report and favor President Trump." This committee still does not have the unredacted Mueller Report. America has still not seen the unredacted Mueller Report. Your excuses for not releasing it because it had to do with ongoing cases, no longer exists because those ongoing cases have been completed or commuted or finished.

Other Attorney General's work with this Judiciary Committee to see that the American public and that the Judiciary Committee had unredacted copies of that report. You have knocked, you've gone to court to stall it. This report needs to be given to this committee. In Michael Cohen, you've treated him differently than Michael Flynn and Roger Stone. In Michael Flynn, you've attempted to dismiss the charges even after twice pled guilty. And in Roger Stone, you went further.

Mr. Barr, John Lewis said to us, if not me, who? If not now, when? That's why I introduced HRes1032 which was required this committee to investigate your conduct as Attorney General and determine whether you should be impeached. That is my constitutional duty. I yield back the balance of my time?

BARR: May I respond to this?

(CROSSTALK)

SCANLON: I'm sorry. What did you..?

COHEN: I would like to seek recognition for unanimous consent requests.

SCANLON: Yes.

COHEN: Thank you. I'd like to introduce for the record, a slate article entitled "Why Trump chose Portland" which describes the racial history of the state and the Portland Police Bureau. I'd also like to introduce (inaudible) from Mary McCord, who writes her words were twisted to justify the department's disingenuous position to drop charges against Michael Flynn after he had already pled guilty.

Like to introduce (inaudible) from Jonathan Kravis describing the political interference in the Roger Stone case and why he resigned from the Department of Justice. And I'd like to introduce a statement from over 2,600 former DOJ officials calling for Attorney General Barr's resignation because of this assault (inaudible) and a letter from the New York City Bar in Congress to commence formal inquiries and a pattern of conduct by Attorney General Barr that threatens public confidence in the fair and impartial administration of justice and finally, a letter from 27 of the District of Columbia's most prominent Attorneys and law professors, including four past Presidents of the D.C. Bar calling for an ethics investigation into Mr. Barr's conduct.

Last but not least, a letter from over 80% of The George Washington University Law School faculty, your Alma mater saying his actions that pose to continue to create a clear and present danger to the even- handed administration of justice, civil liberties in the constitutional

SCANLON: Okay, without objections.

JOHNSON: Madam Chair, one more unanimous consent request on the side

SCANLON: Go ahead.

JOHNSON: This is the article that says Representative Jerry Nadler says Antifa violence in Portland is a myth. That's from Politico and a number of other journalists.

SCANLON: Without objections. Mr. Collins is recognized for five minutes.

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): Thank you Madam Chair. Welcome Attorney General Barr. Wow. I'm beginning to believe frankly, that you're probably just hadn't come out yet. Probably will in a little bit. You're probably the cause of the common cold and possibly even the COVID-19. I'm not sure at this point because everything's being thrown at you. Including now on your Alma mater doesn't like you anymore. Where have we come? The Chairman said something earlier today that really made me think. He said, wow, all the drama. That's the most ironic statement coming from this committee in the last 18 months that I've ever heard of, the drama that we're bringing up today.

[12:25:00]

We're seeming to just contort ourselves to get to some way to show that you have nefarious motive. I believe like some of our side here, I believe the biggest problem you have is telling the truth. I believe that's the problem that they have with you. You'll tell the truth and you'll take responsibility for your actions. And I think that's why you're being attacked. But I want to continue just on this 'peaceful protest" for a second. You might have come in just a second ago, talking about a courthouse just down the street. What if they decided, do you think that this body right here would rise up if they decided to go tonight and paint the Capitol Building?

BARR: This body? I'm not sure.

COLLINS: I think this side would, I'm not sure. This or the other side, I'm not so sure. It may be the peaceful protest to burn down the Capitol. Maybe we're back to 1812 again. But also the other question I have is, and you've heard it earlier today, the stormtrooper comments by the Speaker of the House and we know that that is a direct reference to the paramilitary wing of the Nazi party, stormtroopers going at it.

Do you believe that that actually puts our law enforcement community at a whole? As a son of a state trooper. I want to know your opinion. Is it don't you think it encourages the violence that we're seeing and encourages the participation against the police?

BARR: I think that's possible. And I think it's irresponsible to call these federal law enforcement officers stormtroopers.

COLLINS: Yes. And we're seeing that thing played out over and over. Let's switch back to something else though. That is I think more appealing here. We've talked about the investigations and especially with going with Flynn, do you believe that there was actually a basis to go after General Flynn? I mean what we've seen so far what's been released and especially keeping an investigation open, Peter Strzok kept it open. Do you believe there's actually a basis for the beginning of this investigation to start with or continuing it?

BARR: Yes. Well, I would just say, I asked another U.S. Attorney in St. Louis who had 10 years in the FBI in 10 years in the Department of Justice as a career prosecutor to take a look at it. And he determined based on documents that had not been provided to Flynn's side and not been provided to the court. That in fact there was no basis to investigate Flynn. And furthermore, it was clearly established by the documents that the FBI agents who interviewed him did not believe that he thought he was lying.

COLLINS: Well, there's another part of this as well that concerns what has been given to the courts and in the interviews and that is that the facts were not disclosed to Flynn prior to the interview. That seems like a Brady violation to me. Do you believe there was a Brady violation there in this case?

BARR: No, there wasn't a Brady violation there but I think what the counsel concluded was that the only purpose of the interview, the only purpose was to try to catch them in saying something that they could then say was a lie, therefore, and therefore there was not a legit -- .the interview was untethered to any legitimate investigation.

COLLINS: So as the law enforcement officer in this country, it is your responsibility to provide justice for both sides, not in just call it as it as it should be. And I think that's what you've done there. Continuing on Durham case and I know we're not talking specifically about the Durham investigations which we're hopeful of, but do your knowledge, and we're seeing some released documents on the last week or two that have said, to your knowledge, has Kevin Kleinsmith or anyone else at FBI or DOJ attempted, who was previously there attempted to redeem themselves by cooperating with the investigation? It's been slow.

BARR: I can't get into that.

COLLINS: Okay. I understand that. I have another issue as we finish up and looking at this, between the rhetoric between the investigation. I think Durham investigation is something most of us have waited for because we can't seem to get this committee to actually believe that the IG's report is worth adding something about this committee and there's not a Democrat or Republican side that can make a legitimate claim why the Inspector General has not been called before this committee to actually explain his report except politics. And that's what this committee has become all along.

But I have another problem and I've talked to you, I've written to you about this, and that's down with the District Attorney down in Fulton County, Georgia. Actually charging, making felony murder charges on an officer and the interesting part about this is what we do is, is as prosecutors do, but were you aware that the District Attorney failed to seek an indictment from a grand jury or even waited for a GBI investigation to finish before bringing those charges? Were you aware of that?

BARR: Yes, I was.

COLLINS: Okay. As an Attorney and again, looking at this with the environment we have right now with police officers constantly under attack from this committee and from others and all of the country and especially from the Speaker of the House, as an Attorney and especially as prosecutor, do you think it's appropriate to charge a law enforcement officer with a crime severe as felony murder without giving the investigation more than a mere days and without obtaining an indictment from the grand jury and why you announced the charges lay out a case that is full of false hits?

BARR: I've said that I would have preferred that he had used the grand jury and had waited till the Georgia Bureau had completed its investigation. COLLINS: Well, I appreciate your help. And with that, I yield back.

SCANLON: Thank you with that. The Chair recognizes Mr. Johnson from Georgia.

REP. HANK JOHNSON (D-GA): Thank you General. Your opening statement reads like it was written by Alex Jones or Roger Stone. Do you stand by that statement?

[12:30:00]