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Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) is Interviewed about Barr's Testimony, Tech CEOs' on Capitol Hill and Russian Bounties; Mysterious Seeds from China. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired July 29, 2020 - 08:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Democratic lawmakers clashing with Attorney General Bill Barr in his first House Judiciary hearing. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal drew a contrast between Barr's response to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations and his response to armed white protesters in Michigan earlier this year.

Here's part of that combative exchange.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Mr. Barr, on June 1st, there were protests against the murder of George Floyd and police brutality in Lafayette Park. Let us not be distracted by you or my GOP colleagues as to what these powerful and massive protests were actually about. They were about the persistent killing of black bodies by law enforcement. And, finally, finally, an awakening in America of the conscience of our country.

Do you think that it is appropriate --


JAYAPAL: At Lafayette Park to pepper spray, tear gas and beat protesters and injure American citizens?

BARR: Well, I don't accept your characterization of what happened, but as I explained, the effort there was -- the effort there was to --

JAYAPAL: Mr. Barr, I just asked for a yes or no. So let me just tell you -- I'm starting to lose my temper. According to sworn testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee by Army National Guard Officer Adam DeMarco, who was there, this was, quote, an unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force against peaceful protesters. Numerous media reports confirm --

BARR: Well, I don't remember -- I don't remember DeMarco as being -- I don't remember DeMarco as being involved in any of the decision- making. JAYAPAL: Mr. Barr, excuse me, this is my time. Sir, sir, the president told governors on a telephone call that the way to deal with the protesters of police brutality and systemic racism, like in Lafayette Square, is that, quote, you have to get much tougher. You have to dominate. If you don't dominate, you're wasting your time. These are terrorists.

And he also talked about you on that call, sir. Here's what he said. He said, the attorney general is here, Bill Barr, and we will activate Bill Barr and activate him strongly.

But let's look at how you respond when the protesters are supporters of the president. On two separate occasions, after President Trump tweeted "liberate Michigan" to subvert stay-home orders to protect the public health of people in Michigan, protesters swarmed the Michigan capital carrying guns, some with swastikas, confederate flags and one even with a dark haired doll with a noose around its neck.

Are you aware that these protesters called for the governor to be lynched, shot and beheaded?


JAYAPAL: You're not aware of that?

BARR: I was not aware.

JAYAPAL: Major protesters in Michigan, you're the attorney general, and you didn't know that the protesters called for the governor to be lynched, shot and beheaded?

BARR: Well --

JAYAPAL: So, obviously, you couldn't be concerned about that. You -- you did --

BARR: Well, there are a lot of protests around the United States and on June 1st I was worried about the District of Columbia, which is federal .

JAYAPAL Attorney General Barr, you seem to be engaging in protests in certain parts of the country. You're very aware of those. But when protesters with guns and swastikas and confederate flags --

BARR: I'm very -- I am aware of -- of protesters in the federal government.

JAYAPAL: Excuse me, Mr. Barr, this is my time and I control it.

You take an aggressive approach to Black Lives Matter protesters, but not to right wing extremists threatening to lynch the governor if it's for the Trump's -- if it's form the president's benefit. Did I get it right, Mr. Barr?

BARR: I have responsibility for the federal government and the White House is the seat of the executive branch -- not for the -- the Michigan authorities can handle -- the Michigan authorities can handle --

JAYAPAL: Mr. Barr, let me just make it clear, you are supposed to represent the people of the United States of American, not violate people's First Amendment rights.


JAYAPAL: You are supposed to uphold democracy and secure equal justice under the law, not violently dismantle certain protesters based on the president's personal agenda.


CAMEROTA: Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal joins us now.

Good morning, Congresswoman.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Good morning, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk first about the substance of what we learned yesterday and then we can get a little bit into the style.

So Attorney General Barr said he didn't know that the protesters in Michigan called for the governor to be lynched. He didn't know that tear gas was used against the peaceful protests in Lafayette Square. He didn't know that President Trump's tweets existed about Michael Flynn and Roger Stone and so what does that tell us about the attorney general?

JAYAPAL: The single thing that emerges time after time after time is that Bill Barr has always been, is now and will always be the henchman for Donald Trump.


He acts as Donald Trump's personal attorney to get things done. Donald Trump activates him when he needs something done and Bill Barr jumps.

He is not the attorney general for the people of the United States. And what he's doing is using the Justice Department, the enormous powers of the Justice Department, on every level, whether it is going back to, you know, withholding information from the Mueller report and mischaracterizing it, or whether it is in terms of the way he responds to certain protests, he is responding completely without regard to equal justice under the law. He -- I mean that's really clear over and over again.

And he says that he's doesn't -- he's not aware of these things, but, you know, he's under oath and I cannot imagine that he was not aware of the protests in Michigan and the fact that the governor of Michigan had people with -- you know, guns and swastikas and confederate flags saying that they wanted to behead her. That makes no sense whatsoever. So he also, I think, he tells untruths.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean his point -- his point about the contradiction that you brings up about the protesters in Michigan who were armed and went into the state capital versus the black lives matter protests is that he's only in charge of federal buildings. So he's -- he's protecting the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon. He, you know, can't protect the state house in Michigan.

Is that legitimate?

JAYAPAL: No. I have looked very closely at what they're doing in Portland, it's right next to Seattle of course. I have looked very closely at what they're going in Portland. It's right next to Seattle, obviously. I have a sister who's a county commissioner there. And what is clear is that they are not just protecting the federal courthouse, they are blocks away from the federal courthouse, picking up people in unmarked vans. I mean serious constitutional violations that the federal agents are engaged in.

And the other thing, you know, that -- I mean had I had all day to question Bill Barr, I would have really enjoyed it because the other thing is that it has never been the case that federal officials -- well, I shouldn't say never, but rarely is it the case in recent history that federal officials are sent in to a state without the governor's consent, without the mayor's consent, with no coordination whatsoever. That is absolutely absurd and ludicrous. So Bill Barr is trying to have it both ways. He's trying to say, look, we have a responsibility to protect federal property and then he goes far beyond that mission.

Secondly, you know, for somebody who has been in a party of states' rights, all of a sudden states don't seem to have very many rights unless Donald Trump wants them to. Bill Barr isn't in, you know, in Alabama and Georgia and Florida making sure that those governors are forcing people to wear masks and not reopen too quickly. Those are causing far more deaths to American lives through the spread of Covid- 19 than, you know, some protester at some building in Portland, Oregon. So there's just a huge discrepancy in how Bill Barr applies the law. It is not equal justice under the law.

CAMEROTA: You brought up your five minute (INAUDIBLE) and that leads us to the format and the style of those hearings.

The ranking Republican, Jim Jordan, said that you were basically not allowing the attorney general to speak. Here's his tweet. Democrats don't want Attorney General Barr to speak. Democrats don't want Republican members of the Judiciary Committee to speak. Democrats don't want President Trump to speak. They'll come for you next.

Number one, what is your response to that and, number two, do you think that that format did it shed much light for the viewers and the voters?

JAYAPAL: Well, you know, the thing about the five minute format is every witness knows that the way to get away from answering questions is to just be very slow in your answers, to thank the Congress members for that excellent question, to not answer, to obfuscate because you only have five minutes. So that means that every member of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, when Republicans controlled the committee, believe me, I watched time and time again them do that over and over again. And they do it to Democratic witnesses now, to majority witnesses now, where you have to take control of your time because if you don't, the witness will do it.

And so, yes, I think it's -- you know, it's part of the way the format works, but it's also when a witness is trying to do that, I think it's an opportunity to make the point that the witness doesn't want to answer the question, which, you know, I think that that was clear with Bill Barr when he says I'm not aware of it, I don't know that, you know, no, that didn't happen. A semantic discussion about what is tear gas and what isn't tear gas.

So, you know, you just have to control the time. And they don't expect it often and there are different -- different ways that members do it. But it's very important with a -- with a hostile witness who clearly knows what the rules are himself and is a skilled attorney.


CAMEROTA: Yes. Congresswoman Jayapal, if you would, we have some more questions about what's coming up today. Can you stick around through a break?

JAYAPAL: I will. Yes. Sure.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. That would be great.

NEW DAY will be right back.


CAMEROTA: The CEOs of Amazon, Apple, FaceBook and Google will testify this afternoon virtually before the House Judiciary Committee's anti- trust panel. So back with us is Democratic Congress Pramila Jayapal. She serves on that committee and is the senior whip of the Democratic caucus.

So, Congresswoman, this is a big deal, what's about to happen. I mean the biggest name in tech are coming before your committee. Cara Swisher (ph) calls them the four horsemen of the tech-ocalypse. And so, you know, this against -- I mean this is happening today. I'm sure that you've been waiting, you know, very eagerly to talk to some of them. And against the backdrop of what happened yesterday where Twitter had to delete Don Jr., the son of the president's account for a while, or freeze it, whatever you call it, because he was tweeting out such bonus misinformation.


They had to delete President Trump's tweet about that doctor that was giving bogus information about how alien DNA is being used in our medicine and how women's ovarian cysts are caused by sex with demons while they're sleeping. I mean I could go on the list of the things that she said.

And so what -- where do you begin with questioning some of these people?

JAYAPAL: Well, I'm sure you never thought you'd be saying words like that on the morning news, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: I really didn't. I -- yes, I was not prepared for that.

JAYAPAL: You know, this is the anti-trust subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee and -- and so, you know, the questioning from our side anyway will be quite limited to anti-trust and monopoly related issues. And certainly how a platform uses its power when it is a dominant platform in terms of speech, in terms of, you know, ad revenues, in terms of how it suppresses newspapers, independent newspapers from operating and how people get their news, how do they get accurate information and not the kind of stuff that -- that you were mentioning. That is certainly relevant as it relates to power and dominance and monopoly power.

But there's also a whole series of issues just around the patterns that companies -- these companies, these for behemoths engage in that stifle competition, that stifle innovation and ultimately hurt consumers. And so a lot of the focus will be around those issues as well, you know, patterns of copy, acquire, kill, when it comes to competitors.

This is the end of a one-year investigation, a major, sweeping investigation that our subcommittee has undertaken with thousands of documents, many hearings, briefings, interviews. And so the last piece is these tech CEOs and then out of this we will have recommendations and legislation that hopefully within the next year will pass because we are far behind the European Commission in terms of regulating these tech platforms. And that's what we're trying to get at.

CAMEROTA: So very quickly, you do think that you will overhaul the anti-trust laws on some level?

JAYAPAL: I think that there will be significant changes, yes. And this is bipartisan, I should say. Whether or not all the Republicans focus on the areas of bipartisanship or whether they take it in a different direction I can't say, but I know that Ken Buck, the ranking member, and Chairman Cicilline have worked together on this. And I hope we can keep it bipartisan because we really do need to overhaul completely our regulation. We can't leave it to these companies to self-police. That's not going to happen. And we need to protect consumers and we need to protect mom and pop businesses and, you know, choice essentially for consumers across the country, frankly across the world because these platforms are global.

CAMEROTA: While we have you, I just want to also ask you about the new reporting that "Axios" just came out with this morning. So their reporter, Jonathan Swan, confronted President Trump at a one-on-one interview about whether or not he confronted Vladimir Putin about the bounty on American troops' heads. And President Trump said, no, he did not confront Vladimir Putin because that information never reached his desk he said. Jonathan Swan pointed out it was in his daily briefing book, but President Trump said never reached his desk.

What's your response to that?

JAYAPAL: Well, we know two things. Number one, that Donald Trump doesn't read briefing books. That's been reported over and over again. And, secondly, we also know that Donald Trump has done everything he can to undermine our intelligence services. And he has done that consistently going back to, you know, when he first became president. And that's what he's doing again.

He has a cozy relationship with Russia. He has not allowed sanctions to take place, even when they're bipartisan, passed by both chambers. He has continued to cozy up to Vladimir Putin and it is inconceivable to me that he did not know this, that the intelligence didn't reach his desk. He made a decision to do nothing about American soldiers who had bounties on their head from Russian because his personal interests with his Trump businesses and whatever other things that Vladimir Putin may have holding over the president's head is to keep Vladimir Putin happy. That's all he cares about. That's all he's ever cared about and that has come at the cost of American soldier's lives.

CAMEROTA: Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, thank you for covering the gamut of issues with us this morning, from alien DNA and beyond. We really appreciate your perspective on all of this.

JAYAPAL: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: You can't make it up.

All right, moving on. Mysterious packages of seeds mailed from China are showing up in mailboxes across America.


What officials say you should know and what you should not do if you get them.


BERMAN: All right, talk about bizarre. This morning a number of states are warning people about mysterious, unsolicited packages of seeds showing up in the mail from China. Authorities say whatever you do, don't plant them.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is live in Washington with more.

I've got to say, this caught my attention. We have a garden. We plant seeds all the time.


BERMAN: I'm nervous about what's going to show up.

SANTIAGO: Yes, it's really odd, isn't it, John? So these packages contain Chinese characters and seeds unsolicited. So people who received them did not order them. The Department of Agriculture in Ohio telling me that they have received roughly 150 reports of this from their residents dating back to early June. Delaware also telling me that they have received reports from their own residents that date back to the last 50 days. And they are not alone. Overall, there have been more than nine states across the country that have issued warnings saying what you just said, John, do not plant the seeds.

[08:55: 06]

Instead, these states are urging people who receive them to save the packaging, save the seeds and turn them over to authorities because USDA is now investigating, testing these seeds to make sure that they are neither invasive or harmful.


RYAN QUARLES, KENTUCKY AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER: At this point in time, we don't have enough information to know if this is a hoax, a prank, an internet scam or an active agricultural bio terrorism.


SANTIAGO: So it's a bit of a mystery, right? And the people who received them say that some of these packages indicate that there is jewelry inside as well. USDA telling me at this point they don't have any evidence that this is anything other than a brushing scam. What is that, you ask? Well, it's a scam in which you receive something you did not order with the idea that you will post a positive review for the seller to boost sales.


BERMAN: All right, be on the alert.

Leyla Santiago, thanks very much for that report. Really appreciate it.

SANTIAGO: You bet.

BERMAN: So, a lot going on this morning, including the breaking news about the president's response to his conversations with Vladimir Putin. Our coverage continues next.