Posts tagged with "Bill Barr"

Striking contrast: Trump officials then and now

June 16, 2022

Many officials have told the January 6 committee that they tried to dissuade the former president from his bid to overturn the election. But in public at the time, their words were far different, reports The New York Times.

For example, when Bill Barr stepped down as attorney general in December 2020, he showered then-President Donald Trump with praise for his “unprecedented achievements” in a flowery letter and vowed that the Justice Department would continue to pursue the president’s claims of voter fraud “to ensure the integrity of elections.”

However, 18 months later, Barr sounded more than slightly different. In videotaped testimony played at the first two public hearings held by the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol, Americans have now learned what Barr avoided saying publicly about Trump at the time.

“I was somewhat demoralized,” Barr said in testimony played on Monday, June 13—describing his reaction to a monologue from Trump in December 2020 that the voting machines were rigged.

Barr’s thinking, he said, was that the president had “become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff. On the other hand, when I went into this and would tell him how crazy some of these allegations were, there was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were.”

Barr’s testimony, as well as that of several aides played at the hearing, represented candid, more brutal versions of what they were saying in public shortly after the election, the Times said.

Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager, and Jason Miller, a top adviser, testified to the committee that they failed to keep Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, away from him on election night. Giuliani, whom Mr. Miller described as “definitely intoxicated,” told Trump that he should declare victory. “It was far too early to be making any calls like that,” Mr. Stepien testified.

Stepien also testified that it became clear after the election that Trump did not have any realistic avenue to overturn the election. But in the days immediately after the vote, he did not publicly challenge Trump or Giuliani. And two days after Election Day, Miller raised the idea on a call with reporters that mysterious bags of ballots were showing up in states where Trump was still contesting the results.

Both appeared to believe that there was an opportunity for challenges that passed in the middle of November. Both continued working with the campaign, but receded from the forefront as Trump put Giuliani in charge of the efforts to overturn the results.

The change for some of the aides reflects the legal consequences of lying to a congressional committee, and how much Trump’s grip on his former aides has loosened in the 17 months he has been out of office.

The testimony so far reflects only what has been released publicly, and it is unclear what else the committee may have. In books written about the election in the last year, Trump’s aides are portrayed as believing that the data showed a likely victory until the afternoon of November 5, when it changed.

Barr, who testified to the committee voluntarily, spoke on the record to Jonathan Karl of ABC News in 2021 about his exasperation with Mr. Trump’s claims of fraud. Barr also recounted tense private conversations with Trump in his memoir this year.

In other cases, people such as Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and daughter Ivanka began to look toward a life after the White House in Florida, while staying inside the Administration. They tried to solidify policy issues they had worked on and, according to their colleagues, said little to try to dissuade Trump from his bid to stay in power.

And yet they remained silent in public as the president, his advisers and political allies pushed the claims on Americans and used them for fund-raising for Trump.

“After the election, he’s advised by his own people not to go out and declare victory, that they needed time for the votes to come in,” said Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, who led the questioning at the second committee hearing on Monday.

She added: “They directly told the president over and over again, they were false. These were his people. This is Trump World, telling the president that what he was saying was false. And he continued to say the same thing.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Justice Department opens broad probe of alleged abuses by Minneapolis police

April 22, 2021

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Wednesday, April 21, that the Justice Department will conduct a broad investigation into alleged abuses at the Minneapolis Police Department, examining whether its officers have a “pattern or practice” violating the civil rights of residents, Politico reports.

The move—made public one day after a jury in Minneapolis found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty in the murder of George Floyd last year—appears to signal a return by the Biden administration to more aggressive and frequent use of such probes aimed at rooting out systemic civil rights abuses in police departments.

“Yesterday’s verdict in the state criminal trial does not address potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis,” Garland told reporters in a brief statement at Justice Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. “Public safety requires public trust.”

While Garland’s predecessors in the Trump administration—Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr—rejected the notion of widespread abuses of Black people by police, Garland struck a decidedly different tone Wednesday—and suggested that such abuses are common.

“I know that nothing can fill the void that the loved ones of George Floyd have experienced since his death. My heart goes out to them and to all those who have experienced similar loss,” Garland said. “I know such wounds have deep roots and that too many communities have experienced those wounds first-hand.”

Under President Donald Trump, the Justice Department announced only one pattern-and-practice probe of a police department: an inquiry into policing in Springfield, Massachusetts. Sessions and Barr said they believed such investigations tended to demonize and stigmatize police and that most officers’ conduct was free of racial bias. They also complained that the consent decrees that often resulted from such investigations effectively tied the hands of officers and sometimes led to increases in crime.

But critics, including civil rights groups, said the reluctance to open such broad inquiries left unchecked broad failures in training and accountability that predictably resulted in tragedies like Floyd’s death, which occurred after Chauvin pinned Floyd’s neck to the pavement with his knee for more than nine minutes.

Under the Obama Administration, the Justice Department opened about two dozen pattern-or-practice investigations. The law allowing for such reviews was passed by Congress in 1994 in the wake of the videotaped beating of motorist Rodney King by Los Angeles police.

“I know that justice is sometimes slow, sometimes elusive, and sometimes never comes. The Department of Justice will be unwavering in its pursuit of equal justice under law,” Garland added. “We undertake this task with determination and urgency, knowing that change cannot wait.”

The pattern-or-practice probe will be separate from a criminal investigation into Floyd’s death that the Justice Department launched last year, Garland said. Federal criminal charges related to the episode appear unlikely in light of Chauvin’s conviction for murder, but three other officers on the scene are facing lesser charges in a future trial.

Garland’s announcement indicated that Justice Department officials have done some preliminary work to assess potential deficiencies with Minneapolis police.

“It will include a comprehensive review of Minneapolis police policies training and use-of-force investigations,” the attorney general said, adding that the investigation also will look at excessive use of force against protesters and whether police act improperly towards citizens with “behavioral health disabilities.”

Garland took no questions following his statement, which was his first appearance in the department’s media briefing room before journalists since being sworn in a little over a month ago.

Research contact: @politico