Attorney General William “Coverup” Barr is the most corrupt attorney general in American history. He should have been prosecuted and disbarred for his actions during his first stint as attorney general under George H.W. Bush, and most definitely for his actions under Donald Trump.
William Barr believes in gaslighting Americans with alternative reality and alternative facts that he simply makes up. He thinks if he says it in a dull and somber tone, people will believe him because, hey, “I’m the attorney general.” Barr misrepresented the the Mueller Report before its release and, sadly, this actually succeeded with a number of Americans. He tried it again with the report of Inspector General Michael Horowitz into the Russia investigation with somewhat less success after getting called out for his rewrite of the Mueller report.
Now Barr is trying to gaslight Americans on the Sunday bobblehead shows with alternative reality and alternative facts that he made up about the “Battle of Lafayette Square Park” on Donald Trump’s historic crossing of the square to St. John’s Episcopal Church on the other side of the square for a photo-op.
Kerry Eleveld at Daily Kos explains, AG Barr goes on national TV to spew lies about Trump’s disastrous photo op:
Attorney General William Barr went on CBS News’ Face the Nation Sunday morning to rewrite history regarding the federal troops who, at his direction, violently cleared protesters from Lafayette Square park last Monday—an act that clearly hasn’t played well with the public.
As journalist Margaret Brennan grilled Barr about the over-the-top use of force against peaceful protesters, Barr spun a fanciful web of lies.
“They were not peaceful protesters,” Barr claimed. “And that’s one of the big lies that the, the media is—seems to be perpetuating at this point.”
Brennan called bullshit immediately. “Three of my CBS colleagues were there. We talked to them,” she said. “They did not hear warnings. They did not see protesters throwing anything.”
Brennan’s information matches the account of MSNBC reporter Garrett Haake, who was on the scene for hours and completely contradicted Barr’s reimagining of events. “I want to be super clear,” Haake said, “nothing happened on the side of the protesters. […] It was by far the most peaceful day of protest that we have had in D.C. since this started on Friday night.” (See video).
But Barr continued making things up.
“There were three warnings,” Barr again claimed. Later he added: “The park police was facing what they considered to be a very rowdy and noncompliant crowd. And there were projectiles being hurled at the police.”
Notice Barr’s use of “what they considered”—it’s not an assertion that the crowd was actually rowdy and noncompliant, a conclusion that runs counter to all video evidence of the encounter. It’s an assertion that park police perceived them to be rowdy.
Brennan again challenged Barr. “As I’m saying, three of my colleagues were there,” she noted, “They did not see projectiles being thrown—”
Barr grew almost testy. “I was there. They were thrown. I saw them thrown.”
Oh. Barr was observing this whole encounter. That’s news. How come he never told us before?
Barr spent a lot of the interview trying to conflate Monday’s gassing of the nonviolent protesters with looting and rioting that had happened on Sunday. He also argued over whether the gas used in the gassing was “tear gas.” Eye witnesses on the scene said the gas clearly was a chemical irritant; Barr called it “pepper spray” and “pepper balls” and claimed that “there were no chemical irritants.” Barr also claimed the clearing of the park had absolutely nothing to do with Trump’s photo op.
Barr can claim whatever he wants. There’s video evidence—Americans can see for themselves. There are pictures. There are eye witnesses. And the idea that the timing of this clearing just happened to be minutes before Trump’s stroll through the park is laughable.
Philip Bump at the Washington Post provides the details. Attorney General Barr’s dishonest defense of the clearing of Lafayette Square:
The tear gas
Barr’s effort to reiterate the debunked claim that no tear gas was used yielded the most ridiculous sequence in the discussion.
Multiple reporters on the scene when the square was being cleared indicated that they and others around them were affected by some substance that stung their eyes or made them cough. The White House pool reporter, traveling across the square soon afterward with the president, reported that she and others were still affected by the lingering irritant.
In a statement last Tuesday, the Park Police denied that tear gas had been used, although they admitted that they had deployed “smoke canisters and pepper balls.”
Barr made the same claim Sunday.
“There was no tear gas used,” he said at one point.
“There were chemical irritants the park police has said — ” host Margaret Brennan replied.
“No, there were not chemical irritants. Pepper spray is not a chemical irritant,” Barr interjected. “It’s not chemical.” He later went back to his original point: “There was no gas.”
There are two ways in which Barr is trying to be clever with his phrasing in order to obscure the reality of what happened. He tries to differentiate between the compound used by the Park Police, oleoresin capsicum, which isn’t man-made, and products like chloroacetophenone and chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile, which are. All of these are “chemicals,” of course, just as any constituted physical compound in our known universe is, like water or arsenic or air. Barr is trying to suggest that the difference in the composition of what was used somehow kicks it down to a lower tier of questionability — or removes it from contention as “tear gas.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in an overview of “riot control agents,” identifies the effects experienced by reporters as side effects from tear gas, and even specifically states that pepper spray meets its definition of a riot control agent. A spokesman for the Park Police on Friday admitted that the organization’s denying the use of tear gas was a mistake — although the Park Police later stood by its original denial.
Barr seems to be basing his denial both on recategorizing pepper spray as somehow less bad than synthetic compounds (“chemicals”) and by noting that it’s technically not a gas, but a solid powder. But, then, neither are chloroacetophenone and chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile. Tear gas isn’t a gas, it’s a fine particulate or mist (as the CDC describes). Again, Barr is trying to be cute with his language, offering a pedantic refutation of a common term like a fourth grader who has just learned that a tomato is not a vegetable.
The peaceful crowd
Barr’s effort to cast the assembly as violent was similarly overwrought.
At first, he focused on the turmoil that had, in fact, plagued the square the night before. Barr presented those events, including a contained fire at St. John’s Church, as spurring the need to expand the security cordon around the White House. The decision to move protesters out of the square was conveyed to the relevant authorities at 2 p.m. on Monday, he said.
“Here’s what the media is missing,” Barr said to Brennan on Sunday. “This was not an operation to respond to that particular crowd. It was an operation to move the perimeter one block.”
The problem with that framing is twofold.
First, it contradicts that same statement from the Park Police that serves as the backbone of the tear-gas defense. In that statement, the Park Police claim that protesters “began throwing projectiles including bricks, frozen water bottles and caustic liquids” at 6:33 p.m. This prompted the effort to clear the square to “curtail the violence that was underway.” There’s nothing about this being a planned operation.
What’s more, Barr himself made the claim to Brennan that the protesters were being violent at the time that the effort to remove them began.
“Three of my colleagues were there,” Brennan told him. “They did not see projectiles being thrown.”
“I was there,” Barr replied. “They were thrown. I saw them thrown.”
The timing of Barr’s visit is important, and we’ll get to it in a bit. But suffice it to say that video evidence from the period not only doesn’t back up the Park Police claim, it also doesn’t show Barr reacting to any such events.
Barr at one point tried to suggest that the crowd on Monday was violent because of the incidents that had occurred over the preceding days.
“All I heard was comments about how peaceful protesters were,” he said of the media coverage. “I didn’t hear about the fact that there were 150 law enforcement officers injured and many taken to the hospital with concussions. So it wasn’t a peaceful protest.”
Those 150 law enforcement officers were hurt during violence over the prior weekend. Barr using that as a predicate for describing the Monday protest as violent is like arresting someone for reckless driving because two other cars had driven recklessly on the same road an hour before.
We’ve been over the timeline in detail, but a brief recap is useful.
Shortly after 6 p.m., the White House announced that Trump would speak from the Rose Garden at 6:15. At that point, Lafayette Square was still filled with protesters, but Washington Post reporting suggests that the White House was already telling security officials about the plan to visit the church afterward.
At 6:08 p.m., Barr left the White House and went to the square. By 6:10, he could be seen in CNN’s live shot of the area. He and his aides first spoke with a representative of the uniformed Secret Service and then waited for an apparent representative of the Park Police. Barr could be seen pointing north, in the general direction of the church. This was four minutes before Trump was supposed to speak; a man near Barr checked his watch.
At one point, after Barr pointed north again, the man who looks like a Park Police official dropped his head in exaggerated resignation. One of the men with Barr patted him on the back, as though consoling him. Barr and his aides left the way they came.
Sixteen minutes later, at 6:27 p.m., police moved toward the protesters. Six minutes after that, at 6:33, is when the Park Police say they began to disperse the crowd. Again, this is when the Park Police say that the crowd “began throwing projectiles” — more than 20 minutes after Barr had left.
At 6:43 p.m., Trump began speaking, wrapping up at 6:50 p.m. by declaring that he would be “going to pay [his] respects to a very, very special place.” At 7:01 p.m. Trump left the White House for the church.
Again, maybe it was the case that the perimeter was going to be extended. What we’re asked to believe, though, is that the effort to do so, the push to clear the square which began about 6:30, was entirely distinct from Trump’s 6:50 p.m. mention that he would be heading to the church — some 45 minutes after the White House began planning for that trip.
So the story Barr told is that Trump was planning to go to the church in the 6 p.m. hour, independent of whether the perimeter had been extended by clearing the square. After all, if the square was cleared to allow Trump passage, the clearing of the square was necessarily a function of Trump’s trip. Barr further argues that the extension was imminent — but also that the immediate predicate for removing the protesters was the violence of the crowd that he witnessed despite his leaving 20 minutes before the Park Police say it began.
Barr knows very well that the belief that Trump cleared the square using tear gas for a photo op is politically problematic. So he contests each of those assertions, however flimsily.
“You understand how these events appear connected?” Brennan said at one point. “The timing of this —”
Barr jumped in.
“Well, it’s the job of the media to tell the truth,” he replied. “They were not connected.”
It is the job of the media to tell the truth. The truth is that Barr’s arguments about the events of last Monday collapse under scrutiny and that his flat assertion that there was no link between clearing the square and Trump’s photo op should be treated with the same skepticism that his claims about the use of tear gas earns.
It is also the job of government officials to tell the public the truth. In this case, it’s hard to believe that Barr is meeting that standard.
Lawyers have an ethical obligation to tell the truth under the Rules of Professional Conduct as well, not that Barr has ever much cared.
Bonus Lie: Barr Says There Is No Systemic Racism in Policing. “I don’t think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist,” Mr. Barr said in an interview with the CBS program “Face the Nation.”
“Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?” Those videos of unarmed blacks being shot and killed by police are just a figment of your imagination.
The appropriate response to all this is “Tell it to the judge – I’ll see you in court.”
The District of Columbia chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement, along with four individual protesters, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against President Donald Trump, Attorney General Bill Barr, and an array of police and federal officials who were allegedly involved in a violent police attack on peaceful protesters on June 1 in Washington, DC. Black Lives Matter sues Bill Barr for order that led to tear gas attack on peaceful protesters. The suit is Black Lives Matter DC v. Trump.
The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia (ACLU), in conjunction with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Arnold & Porter LLP. William Barr sued in a personal capacity as protesters who were gassed seek damages for injuries.
“This case is about the president and attorney general of the United States ordering the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators who were speaking out against discriminatory police brutality targeted at Black people,” the complaint reads.
Along with Trump and Barr, the complaint names Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Army Gen. James McConville and the heads of the Secret Service, U.S. Park Police and D.C. National Guard, as well as dozens of anonymous officials who carried out the action.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeks a court order declaring that the assault violated the protesters’ First and Fourth Amendment rights and affirming that administration officials engaged in a conspiracy to deny those rights.
It also demands a court order barring officials from repeating the action, as well as restitution “for trauma and injuries sustained from chemicals and physical blows.”
* * *
A Department of Justice spokesperson told The Washington Post that Trump had directed Barr to personally “lead” the response to the unrest.
“Bill Barr, the attorney general, the top law enforcement agent in the country, is going along, complicit,” the ACLU’s Michelman said.
Barr is the only defendant sued not only in his official capacity but also his personal capacity, which an ACLU spokesperson indicated in an email was reflected in the portion of the suit seeking damages for injuries and would also be the part of the suit most likely to come before a jury.
Barr personally ordered the protesters at Lafayette Square cleared, a pair of senior Justice Department and White House officials told ABC News. Barr “assumed that any resistance from the protesters of being moved would be met with typical crowd-control measures,” an official told The Post. Barr “basically said: ‘This needs to be done. Get it done,'” the official recalled.
A short while later, tear gas, rubber bullets and flash-bang shells were unleashed on protesters.
So civil damages at least are a possibility. But the next attorney general needs to open a criminal investigation into William Barr’s subversion of justice at the Department of Justice. He needs to be facing criminal charges and disbarment. He has gotten away with this abuse of power for far too many years.
UPDATE 6/9/2020: The Washington Post has reconstructed the events outside Lafayette Square captured by dozens of cameras, as well as police radio communications and other records (I’m sure the lawyers will appreciate this evidence). What video and other records show about the clearing of protesters outside the White House.
The Post’s fact checker Glenn Kessler adds, Barr’s Four-Pinocchio claim that pepper balls are ‘not chemical’.
The Post’s James Downie explains “Misrepresentation has long been standard operating procedure for America’s top law enforcement officer.” William Barr’s backpedaling tour continues.