Attorney General William Barr said during a Fox News interview that aired on Monday evening that the reason that people have not seen members of Antifa charged yet as it pertains to the recent spate of violent riots across the country is because the investigations into Antifa are much more in-depth than a lot of the cases that have already been brought against other people who have been arrested.
“We have some investigations underway and very focused investigations on certain individuals that relate to ANTIFA,” Barr told Fox News anchor Bret Baier. “But in the 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.”
“Does Antifa have leaders?” Baier asked.
“It’s a very loosely organized group,” Barr responded. “And they and they have sort of a unique or unusual system of communication and organization. There are people who can be characterized as leaders in any given situation.”
“Are there people funding this effort, an organized effort that goes beyond state specific funding, the effort broadly?” Baier asked. “And are you going off after those people?”
“There appear to be sources of funding and we are looking into the sources of funding,” Barr responded. “And, you know, there is clearly some high degree of organization involved at some of these events and coordinated tactics that we’re seeing. And we’re looking into that as well. And some of it relates to an Antifa. Some of it relates to groups that act very much like an Antifa. As I said, there’s a witch’s brew of extremist groups that are trying to exploit this situation on all sides.”
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BRET BAIER: John, thank you. Joining us now, the attorney general of United States, Bill Barr. Mr. Attorney General, thanks for being here.
BARR: Thank you, Bret.
BAIER: The effort across the country there is this movement to defund police departments, the Minneapolis City Council, with a veto proof vote, saying they’re going to essentially dismantle that police department. What do you make of that effort and what it means for the country?
BARR: Well, I think it’s the exact opposite of the way we should go. You know, I understand, given the history of racial injustice in this country, why the African-American American community, or at least some of it, would view the ghastly events in Minneapolis as manifestations of institutional racism in 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 thirty years ago. And I can tell you there’s a world of difference. Today, the police chiefs, the rank and file officers, understand the need for change. And there has been great change. And I think defunding the police, holding the entire police structure responsible for the actions of certain officers is wrong.
BARR: And I think it’s dangerous to demonize police.
BAIER: But so how did these bad cops. If you want to call them that, get through in these systems? Do you blame police unions? Do you blame the systems themselves for not weeding them out? How do you address what obviously is this frustration and anger?
BARR: Well, not referring to any particular case. I think you have to remember, this is not a monolithic system. There are thousands of different police forces. There are approximately 900,000 police officers in the United States. And we were right now, there’s a crisis in policing because it’s a very tough job.
BARR: We have or we had before it a full employment economy. And if anything, we’ve had trouble attracting people and retaining people. As police officers, we want the best, most responsible people we can get. And we have to attract them into the profession. We have to retain them. We have to train them. And we have to continue to professionalize our police forces. We have, generally speaking, excellent police forces in the United States. None of us as individuals want to be lumped together with us. We want to be judged by what we do as individuals. We don’t want the misconduct of others attributed to us. And that’s in every walk of life. You know, one of the one of the legitimate grievances of the African-American community is that they’re treated with suspicion and braced simply because they’re African-Americans. And that does happen.
BARR: By the same token, demonstrators, peaceful demonstrators shouldn’t be treated as violent extremists simply because they’re out on the streets. It’s the same with police officers. Every organization has individuals who engage in misconduct. And we have to be very careful before we say the whole organization is rotten.
BAIER: What would happen if a major American city, Chicago, D.C., disbanded its police department? What would that look like? Well, the federal government have to step in.
BARR: Well, what it would look like is you would have it increases in vigilantism and you would have increasing chaos in the city. And that’s why doing things that prevent us from having a strong, effective police force are counterproductive. You end up having more killings. And that’s been shown time and time again.
BAIER: But if a major American city was doing that, you’re saying would be dangerous?
BARR: Absolutely. You know, I think we have to put things in perspective. Obviously, when police use excessive force, they have to be held accountable. And right here, both the state and federal governments zoomed in and immediately took up the matter. There’s no question it’s an issue and has to be dealt with. But in terms of sheer numbers, is it is it these police officers who are oppressing African-American communities? They’re a lot more damage, a lot more killing, a lot more fear engendered on the streets from criminal elements. In Chicago, for example, in one week, one weekend, you know, 60, 70 people shot. If you pull back the police for these communities, they’ll be there’ll be more harm done to these communities. The president, you know, has been attempting to address the criminal justice reform issue. He did the first step back. He set up the first police commission since Lyndon Johnson. We’ve been looking precisely at these issues and we’ll be coming out very shortly with our proposals on this. And he’s also advanced opportunity zones in the inner city and he’s pushing for school choice for inner city parents. So that’s to me, the civil rights issue of our era is giving these parents the wherewithal to educate their children in the best schools possible. And so he is addressing that. I think pulling the police back from these communities would make it far more difficult for these communities to have the equal opportunity and the full participation in the American dream that they deserve.
BAIER: As you know, there’s a House bill, an effort for police reform from Congress. It includes a few things. I’d like to get your thoughts on it. A national misconduct register for police.
BARR: Well, I haven’t looked at the proposal, so I’m not exactly an issue of those. But, you know, an issue by issue, I think we have to be there’s a prudent balance to be struck between making sure we can hold wrongdoers accountable, but also by not deterring effective policing. Remember, we put police. The police is not like sitting in an office, you know, checking boxes. We put these individuals into highly charged, dangerous situations where their own life is at stake. They’re adrenalin’s pumping and so forth. And we have to make sure we treat them fairly and those kinds of circumstance.
BAIER: Banning chokeholds…
BARR: I think we should ban chokeholds, lateral chokeholds, except when it’s necessary, unless police officers confronted with potentially lethal force. But I think there’s a general agreement among police agencies that we need clearer standards. We have to make sure those standards are trained to. And we have to make sure that there are systems in place that hold officers accountable. I think there’s universal agreement on that.
BAIER: So is that a federal effort? Does that suddenly come of federal training effort?
BARR: I think we’re going to need strong federal participation in this effort in helping to set standards.
BAIER: A lot of talk about Monday kind of reliving the moment there in Lafayette Park. If you had to do Monday over again, would you do something different based on what I know now?
BARR: You know, on Monday, we were reacting to three days of extremely violent demonstrations right across from the White House. A lot of injuries to police officers, arson. Things were so bad that the Secret Service recommended the president go down to the bunker. We can’t have that in our country. And so the decision was made.
BARR: We had to move the perimeter one block and that is what we were doing.
BAIER: Did the president tell you that he was planning on walking over to the church?
BARR: No, he didn’t tell me. I found out later that afternoon that he might go outside the White House. But as I’ve said, the decision to actually move out the perimeter was was initially made Sunday night by the park police in the early morning hours on Monday when I arrived. I agreed with the general conception of moving out the perimeter so we could fortify in the sense of a stronger fencing and so forth. Lafayette Park and also gives it some breathing space. And that decision was set in execution at two o’clock with all the police tactical chiefs.
BAIER: But I mean, seeing what has come from it and the image that has at least been perceived, you wouldn’t do it differently.
BARR: What? What? Well, the images has somewhat been created and miscreated in the sense that I haven’t seen any videos on TV of all the violence that was happening preceding and were hit or something or thrown,.
BAIER: Something was thrown at you.
BARR: I did go to the park before the actual operation to move out the perimeter, and I personally saw projectiles thrown and two were thrown at me and the police officers there. And my security detail made me move back because they said that projectiles had been landing in a certain area, rock things like rocks, bottles thrown at me.
BAIER: You talked extensively over the weekend about those decisions. Did you dissuade the president from using active military troops? Did the defense secretary voice those up its objections at that time?
BAIER: Did you push back on the use of the Insurrection Act?
BARR: There was no need to push back. I think everyone was on the same page. I think we what we were discussing is what would be necessary around the country and in D.C. specifically. And I think everyone agreed that if it became necessary, we could resort to federal troops as a last resort.
BAIER: You said you wouldn’t do anything differently, but the perception of clearing out the park, understanding you made the decision earlier and then the president walking over even the visual of kind of the group, all white, mostly male, it send an image that a lot of people jumped on and said that it wasn’t a good thing for the president. In retrospect, asked you, would you do anything differently? Would you do anything differently on the even the walk over to the church, you were there. So as the defense secretary. So was the chairman, the Joint Chiefs?
BARR: Well, you know, it’s not that was a decision for the White House and the president to make.
BARR: My decision that you asked me about earlier was moving the perimeter one block to provide greater security for the White House. And I would do the same. And I don’t see it as a critic of, you know, of these kinds of leadership decisions made at the White House. But as I’ve said, the president, the United States should be able to walk one block from the White House out to the Church of presidents. He should be able to do that. And I do. And, you know, this canard that this exercise was done to make that possible is totally false. I don’t see anything wrong with the president walking over to the church.
BAIER: There’s a lot of people that have been charged with crimes related to the protests that devolved into riots and looting. To my knowledge, none of the criminal complaints have mentioned Antifa. Why is that?
BARR: We have some investigations underway and very focused investigations on certain individuals that relate to ANTIFA. But in the 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.
BAIER: Does Antifa have leaders?
BARR: It’s a very loosely organized group. And they and they have sort of a unique or unusual system of communication and organization.
BARR: And, you know, there are people who can be characterized as leaders in any given situation.
BAIER: Are there people funding this effort, an organized effort that goes beyond state specific funding, the effort broadly? And are you going off after those people?
BARR: There appear to be sources of funding and we are looking into the sources of funding. And, you know, there is clearly some high degree of organization involved at some of these events and and coordinated tactics that we’re seeing. And we’re looking into that as well. And some of it relates to an Antifa. Some of it relates to groups that act very much like an Antifa there. As I said, there’s a witch’s brew of extremist groups that are trying to exploit this situation on all sides.
BAIER: You’re saying that there is an organizing cell to it, that there is some kind of leadership structure?
BAIER: When you look back at Covid 19 and what has happened, do you think we will conclude that elected officials went too far in shutting down society to the point of trampling Americans fundamental constitutional rights?
BARR: I think given the uncertainty involved and the very fast pace of the infection, especially in certain areas, the original 30 day or so, and even maybe with some extension’s measures were appropriate. But I think that as time has gone by, the degree of impingement on fundamental liberties has never been anything like this in the United States nationally, forbidding people from engaging in their livelihood, telling them to stay home. It’s just sort of a form of house arrest in many places.
BAIER: Have these protests and demonstrations and what we’ve seen across the country changed that dynamic?
BARR: Well, I think it should, because it raises a fundamental question, which is why, you know, why? Why should some people who are enjoying their First Amendment rights by going out and protesting have broader rights than other people who may want to exercise their, for example, religious First Amendment rights and go to church as long as social distancing rules and things like that are complied with.
BAIER: There’s a report that the U.S. has officially demanded Britain hand over Prince Andrew to be quizzed about his links to the billionaire pedophile, Jeffrey Epstein. Is that true?
BARR: Well, I don’t think it’s a question of handing him over. I think it’s just a question of having him provide some evidence. But beyond that, I’m not going to comment.
BAIER: So extradition? No. Just asking for evidence.
BARR: Evidence. That case is still in process. You’ve commented on the death of [Jeffrey] Epstein, you’re convinced that he committed suicide. Is there more to come from that investigation into that?
BARR: There might be more to come, but I don’t think anything that would change that conclusion.
BARR: Last thing, what is law and order mean to you? What’s your definition of law and order?
BARR: The real the real task in framing a government is to have a government that is capable of governing strong enough to govern, but not so strong that it abridging abridges the rights of the people. And so you have to have power, but you also have to have controls on that power. In the case of the governments, for example, excessive police force, law and order means that the government is bound by law and people have to be accountable for abusing their power. But it also means that we must have law and order in the body politic.
BAIER: That is just this is unprecedented to have a pandemic with lockdowns. And then this event with protests across the country. We’ve never really seen anything like it.
BARR: That’s right. I last time I was A.G., which it was not for that long a period I’d been deputy. Before that, someone showed me a list of all the crises we handled at that time. And I thought, wow, it was a very eventful period. But nothing like we’re seeing today.
BAIER: Mr. Attorney General, thank you very much for the time. Thank you. I appreciate it.