Sep 9, 2020
AG Bill Barr Operation Legend Chicago Press Conference Transcript September 9
Attorney General Bill Barr held a press conference to provide updates on Operation Legend—the federal law enforcement presence in Chicago—on September 9. Read the transcript of the briefing with updates for Chicago here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
John Lausch: (00:07)
Good morning and thank you all for being here. I’m John Lausch, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. I’d like to start this morning by taking a moment to introduce you to my law enforcement colleagues, some of whom you will hear from in a few moments. We’re honored to have Attorney General William Barr here with us today. From the ATF, we have Acting Director Regina Lombardo and the special agent in charge here in Chicago, Kristen De Tineo is here as well. We also have from the FBI Deputy Director Dave Bowdich, we also have the special agent in charge of the FBI here in Chicago, Emmerson Buie present as well. From the DEA, special agent in charge Robert Bell is present. With the U.S. Marshal Service, we have Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal David Gelement and Chief Inspector Diego [Grimaldo 00:00:57]. Also up here with me are two other United States attorneys. We have my counterpart from the Northern District of Illinois, Tom Kirsch. Tom’s office and my office, we work together frequently on combating illegal trafficking of firearms across our common border between Indiana and Illinois, and finally, my colleague Justin Herdman who’s the U.S. Attorney in Cleveland, the Northern District of Ohio, he’s here and he’s quarterbacking the Department of Justice’s nationwide efforts on Operation Legend.
John Lausch: (01:28)
We’re here today to discuss a critically important topic, violent crime in Chicago. As Attorney General Barr has made clear, the most basic responsibility of government is to protect the safety of our citizens. For those of us in law enforcement, our top priority is to keep people safe. For much of this year, Chicago and many other cities have experienced significant unacceptable and in many instances staggering spikes in homicides, shootings, and other violent crime. In response, the Attorney General launched Operation Legend, a systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative in which federal law enforcement agencies work with state and local law enforcement departments to fight these crimes.
John Lausch: (02:23)
In Chicago, we are fortunate to have one of the finest police departments in the country, the Chicago Police Department. The brave men and women in uniform have worked tirelessly to protect the citizens of Chicago. The goal of Operation Legend is to reinforce and to accelerate their efforts to reduce violent crime. The attorney general has endeavored to do so by sending additional federal resources to Chicago, including a substantial number of agents from the ATF, FBI, DEA and the United States Marshal Service. The Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigation also committed additional agents.
John Lausch: (03:04)
Since that time, about seven weeks ago, when Operation Legend began in Chicago on July 22, my office and our federal and local partners have worked together to investigate and to prosecute the individuals who are driving the violence in Chicago. The trigger pullers, drug traffickers, carjackers, and critically, those individuals who illegally possess, use and traffic firearms. Fortunately, the significant investment of resources under Operation Legend has had an immediate impact on reducing homicides and shootings in Chicago, and the attorney general will speak about that in a few moments.
John Lausch: (03:44)
But even with the success of Operation Legend to date, much work remains to be done. The level of violence in Chicago remains far too high and it can be demoralizing. Many children have been senselessly killed and injured and while there are many things that need to be done to help Chicago’s violent crime process, one thing that all rational people can agree upon is that violent offenders need to be held accountable for their crimes. Enforcing the rule of law and holding these offenders accountable are essential components of every reasonable strategy to ensure public safety in Chicago and it is the backbone of Operation Legend, and with that, it is my honor to introduce Attorney General William Barr.
AG William Barr: (04:31)
Thank you John and good morning everybody. Thank you for coming this morning. I’m pleased to be in Chicago to address the most significant threat facing this city, the explosion of violent crime, particularly homicides in Chicago earlier this year threatened not only the safety but this city’s way of life. The federal government responded with Operation Legend, one of the most significant federal law enforcement operations in recent years. We have dedicated hundreds of federal government’s best investigators, analysts, fugitive trackers and other experts to work with our state and local colleagues in law enforcement here in Chicago to help get violent criminals off the streets and I am pleased to report that Operation Legend is working. Crime is down and order is being restored to this great American city.
AG William Barr: (05:36)
Operation Legend is a vivid illustration of what dedicated law enforcement officers at all levels of government can do to keep people safe. Unfortunately too many people in too many cities insist on denigrating, demonizing, defunding police. Just yesterday the police chief in Rochester, New York decided to retire rather than to stand by while the character of his police force was attacked. Seattle’s police chief made a similar decision last month after the city council decided to cut the budget of her department. Other cities including New York, Baltimore, Los Angeles and San Francisco have recklessly slashed police funding at a time when their residents need protection more than ever. This is a misguided and shortsighted policy and I fear the costs will be devastating.
AG William Barr: (06:39)
There is no harder job in America today, and I think no more noble job, than serving as a police officer, and on behalf of the Department of Justice, I want to thank all of those in Chicago and beyond who protect and serve. The increase in violence that has plagued Chicago and other cities is what prompted the department to launch Operation Legend two months ago in Kansas City, Missouri. The operation is named for LeGend Taliferro, a four-year-old Kansas City boy shot and killed while asleep in his bed. The purpose of the operation is to make clear that his life mattered, his name should be remembered, and other innocent victims like him, including the eight-year-old girl killed in Chicago on Labor Day, should not suffer such senseless deaths.
AG William Barr: (07:36)
After starting in Kansas City, Operation Legend expanded to Chicago two weeks later and has now acted in nine major cities. As part of the operation the federal government has dispatched over 1,000 of our most skilled agents to help state and local law enforcement fight violent crime. Over the past two months, federal agents involved in Operation Legend have made more than 2,500 arrests, many for violent crimes, including homicide and sexual assault. One of these arrests came on August 13 when Kansas City Police, with the support of the FBI and the U.S. Marshals, arrested the suspected murderer of LeGend Taliferro, the four-year-old boy who inspired the operation’s name. In addition to those arrested, the arrests, the 2,500 arrests I’ve mentioned, federal prosecutors have brought federal criminal charges, federal criminal charges, against 600 defendants through Operation Legend. Bringing federal charges is significant because defendants arrested for violent crimes are often detained before trial, unlike state defendants who are too often released. In addition, federal defendants will face serious sentences if convicted with a real possibility of longterm imprisonment at the Bureau of Prisons facility out of state. Knowing that, many of the arrestees cooperate with the government and lead to even more violent offenders such as leaders of gangs or drug organizations.
AG William Barr: (09:24)
In short the basic premise of Operation Legend is that by taking chronic violent criminals off the street, we will force crime rates down and the strategy is working. Here are a few examples. In Kansas City, violent crime has dropped by 32% since we launched Operation Legend, with homicides down 18% and aggravated assault down a remarkable 47%. In St. Louis, homicides have dropped by 47% in the four weeks since Operation Legend began and more than 120 defendants have already been charged federally. In Detroit, homicides have dropped more than 25% and non-fatal shootings have dropped by more than 35% in the seven weeks of Operation Legend in that city. In Memphis, homicides in August dropped by nearly 27% and U.S. Marshals arrested 47 persons wanted for homicide. In Milwaukee, non-fatal shootings have dropped by 25% in the five weeks since the operation began.
AG William Barr: (10:44)
Operation Legend’s success is perhaps most dramatic here in Chicago. When the operation was announced on July 22, homicides in the city were up 51% over 2019. Over the previous weekend, more than 60 people had been shot in Chicago with over a dozen fatalities. Other violent crime including looting and rioting was increasing also and the signs pointed toward the problem getting even worse with the campaign to demonize and defund the police gaining traction and criminals increasingly believing that they could operate with impunity. What we committed to Chicago in connection with Operation Legend were 400 federal agents, over nine million dollars of grant money to the police under our COPS program which allowed the police to bring in 75 more positions, and 3.5 million technical [inaudible 00:11:53] to support the expanded anti-crime operations.
AG William Barr: (11:58)
Together, federal, state and local law enforcement in Chicago, working as part of Operation Legend and our joint task forces, have reversed that dangerous spike in violence. Federal agents and deputy U.S. Marshals along with state and local task force officers have made more than 500 arrests, many for violent crime like homicide, sexual assault and robbery, and federal prosecutors have charged federal charges 124 defendants including 90 with firearms-related charges and 30 with drug trafficking related charges. Many of those defendants are now detained pending trial rather than causing harm on the streets.
AG William Barr: (12:46)
The results of those actions speak for themselves. Over the first five weeks of Operation Legend in Chicago, murders dropped by 50% over the previous five weeks. August ultimately saw a 45% decrease in murders compared to July.
AG William Barr: (13:03)
A 45% decrease in murders compared to July and the 35% decrease compared to June. In fact, Chicago in August so the lowest number of murders at any time since April. The bottom line is that Operation Legend has played a critical role in cutting Chicago’s murder rate roughly in half since before the operation. This progress has come at a price. Tragically, an officer in Cleveland who was participant participated in Operation Legend was killed in the line of duty on his first day with Operation Legend. He was an experienced detective who had volunteered for the program and he was investigating gangs, particularly those involved in drug trafficking. His sacrifice is a reminder that it takes a special kind of courage to sign up as a police officer. All of us mourn his loss and we will carry on his legacy by continuing the good work in Operation Legend, not only in Cleveland but here in Chicago and beyond. I thank the state and local law enforcement partners here in the Chicago area who have helped make this operation successful and I look forward to continuing to work together in the days ahead. Thank you.
Speaker 1: (14:39)
Good morning. The commitment to justice and upholding law and protecting and representing all is at the heart of our nation. This year, we have faced challenges and in adversity, we must not succumb to fear. Tragically in Chicago and many other cities, one of those challenges has been the intolerable spike of violent crime, particularly firearm violence. ATF has responded, faithful to its core mission, protecting our communities from violent crime. I stand here today on behalf of the brave men and women of ATF, along with my colleagues from the Department of Justice led by Attorney General Barr, US Attorney John Louche, Tom Kirsch, Justin Herdman and my friend and colleague from the FBI, Deputy Director, Dave Bowdich.
Speaker 1: (15:32)
We stand here today to reiterate our unequivocal commitment to honor the lives of Legend Taliferro and all of the victims and families that has died from firearm violence, bringing to justice the trigger pullers who terrorize our neighborhoods like in Chicago and the traffickers who fuel the violence by illegally supplying them with guns. There is no higher mission for ATF and our law enforcement partners than to protect the public from violent criminals. That is the purpose of Operation Legend. We are in Chicago. We are in other legend cities working with the communities to identify, investigate, and prosecute those who inflict pain and destruction by engaging in firearm violence. We do this with the promise to uphold the rule of law with the fairness that reinforces the dignity of all community members, most particularly the victims and their families. Every day across the country, ATF special agents and industry operations investigators pursue criminals who illegally use and possess guns that trafficking organizations that illegally supply those guns to thieves who also steal those guns federally from licensed dealers.
Speaker 1: (16:52)
We are committed to removing the most violent firearm offenders from our communities and is most critical to dismantle those firearms trafficking networks, the gangs and organizations that fuel the violence and interdict those firearms before they are used in crimes. One of the ways that we ensure that we stay focused on the most violent criminals, the actual shooters, is by using forensic science, particularly ATF’s national integrated ballistic information network. We commonly refer to it as NIBIN. NIBIN allows us to use shell casings from recovered shooting scenes to specific firearms and to other shooting incidents. We know this from decades of experience that a relatively small number of offenders in our communities are responsible for multiple shootings. By generating prompt, actionable leads NIBIN allows ATF and our partners to identify, investigate and apprehend the shooters before they reoffend.
Speaker 1: (17:57)
One of the tools that we use, we’ve deployed right here in Chicago is our mobile command center. The mobile command center is configured to process ballistic evidence within hours of a shooting to support the Chicago police laboratory facility. It contains NIBIN acquisition imaging units, a test fire room to obtain ballistic samples and is equipped to facilitate the processing of fingerprints, DNA from recovered shell casings and firearms. Since its deployment in Chicago, the mobile command center has processed at least 288 shell casings generating over 50 leads. These are investigative leads to solve gun crimes. One of the ways to eliminate and to really be effective here in Chicago is by providing our national corelation center access. We bring that to the Chicago Police Department. Almost without exception, within 48 hours, Chicago Police Department can enter shell casings into NIBIN, our correlation center completes the correlation analysis that can link multiple shooting incidents or link a recovered shell casing to a specific firearm.
Speaker 1: (19:12)
Our correlation center’s 48-hour turnaround time is essential to providing timely leads so that investigators can identify and apprehend the shooters who are driving the grim statistics Chicago is combating. And as the Attorney General emphasized, our combined efforts are working. Operation Legend investigators are working around the clock. We have seized more than 500 firearms in nine cities, including 200 in Chicago alone. We are on the streets, making cases, watching our partner’s backs, holding the line and holding accountable those who terrorize our communities. You don’t have to be in law enforcement to know that this is dangerous work. Our entire ATF workforce has answered the call to protect and serve. This is ATF’s mission. We are committed as we took an oath to protect the United States and uphold our constitution. We serve you. We serve the communities and we serve your neighborhoods. We are here to ensure that you are safe. Thank you.
Speaker 1: (20:20)
Director Bowdich: (20:25)
I do. Good morning. As Attorney General Barr noted, our nation has made great progress against violent crime, but it still plagues way too many of our communities. And those of us in law enforcement cannot rest while any American lives in fear in their own home, or certainly in their own neighborhood. The violent crime threat we face today is very diverse, it’s very dangerous and it’s much too all encompassing for anyone agency, be it state, local, or federal to tackle alone. This is why the Attorney General has launched Operation Legend. While every agency here today that’s represented has a different role and responsibility, fighting violent crime is a responsibility and a duty that we all share. It’s one team and one fight. That’s why Operation Legend was established to marry the resources of the federal government to assist in tackling the rise in violent crime in many cities throughout the US. By combining the resources of all these players, we believe we can have a lasting impact and make our communities safer.
Director Bowdich: (21:35)
Operation Legend reflects that team approach. And the men and the women of the FBI are committed just as our partners are committed to meeting this challenge. Through our violent crimes and gang safe streets task forces, the FBI and our partners bring to the table what we do best. Prior to, and even more so throughout this operation, we continue working closely with our federal, state, and local partners to combine our expertise, our knowledge, and our resources to identify, investigate, and prosecute those responsible for the violent crimes occurring in our cities. The FBI’s focus is on targeting the overall leadership structure of our gangs and our criminal enterprises that drive the scourge of violent crimes in many of our communities. What we bring to the table is the ability to target some of the most violent offenders in the short term, while pursuing a longterm strategy to dismantle criminal enterprises in gangs. The Bureau has already dedicated significant resources and leveraged our partnerships in cities chosen for Operation Legend.
Director Bowdich: (22:47)
We’ve surged additional resources to help further reduce violent crime in Operation Legend. For example, right here in Chicago, we brought in 60 FBI special agents in addition to those already assigned here, we also surged analytical resources and data exploitation personnel to help in those investigations. Many of these folks have left their own communities to come and work side by side with the FBI agents, the ATF agents, the Chicago Police Department, and other agencies that are here. They left their own families in their own homes because they want to help and they want to be here to help Chicago in any way. We’ve done this to help investigate and take the worst offenders off the street and with the hope that we can cripple some of these organizations out there.
Director Bowdich: (23:35)
This effort includes agents, intelligence analysts, digital evidence experts, and personnel from field offices across the country, all working together to reduce violent crime, to keep people safe and to find and stop dangerous criminals through law enforcement actions, digital forensics, mapping trends, tips, hotlines, digital billboards, social media, press releases, and the like. It’s a true team effort which cannot be accomplished through the law enforcement partnerships alone. It also needs the hard work of the community, but I will tell you this, there are a lot of hardworking assistant United States attorneys throughout this country that are side by side with these investigators, trying to help curtail the violence in many of these communities and we’re already seeing real results.
Director Bowdich: (24:26)
Many of those have been discussed already so I won’t go through those, but we have had hundreds of cases, arrests and seizures, which have been made across the country and Op Legend already. Last week alone between August 31st and September 7th, the FBI alone opened 50 cases. We made 18 arrests and recovered 46 weapons. That’s in one week. Investigating violent crime is a 24/7, 365 day a year job that we do not take lightly. I am confident that with our partners working close together, we will continue to make progress against these violent crimes and progress that the American dream both expect, but more importantly, that progress that they deserve.
Director Bowdich: (25:15)
So I want to talk now to those who are responsible for the violence. If you are responsible for the violence and you hear nothing else that’s said, hear this. We will bring down the full weight of the federal government, in our case, the FBI, to address your violent acts. If you are convicted in federal court, it’s very unlikely you’re going to walk in the front door and out the back. If you are convicted, federal time in court is 85% minimum time served. To the citizens of Chicago, the Attorney General has used the word will, if we accept this as status quo, that is not going to make any progress. If we have the will to pursue and endeavor throughout these challenges, I believe we can-
Director Bowdich: (26:03)
… to pursue and endeavor throughout these challenges. I believe we can accomplish a lot. That will is being led by the Attorney General and all the agencies here, but it also needs the will of the community. We’re asking the citizens of Chicago to trust us, pick up the phone and provide the information we need to help solve crimes of violence, which are plaguing your communities and our communities. In short, we are trying to instill confidence in the system and I’m asking you to trust us. And with that, I talked to you about tips. I’m going to leave you with a tip line. If you have information about significant violent crime, I would ask you to please call 1-800-CALL-FBI, or send us an E-tip online at tips.fbi.gov. Thank you.
AG William Barr: (26:56)
Okay. So we’ll take some questions now.
Speaker 2: (26:58)
Mr Attorney General, welcome to Chicago. I wonder if you could comment on just two things. On September the first, President Trump said, and I’ll read you a quote. He said, “We’ve already conducted more than 1000 arrests in our first month in Chicago. Chicago was a total disaster with a radical left Democrat in charge.” Number one, there’s a difference in the number of arrests from what you’ve announced. I think you said 124 versus the thousand the President claimed.
AG William Barr: (27:29)
So US Marshals make arrests based on state warrants, and then turn those individuals over to the state for state charges. The number I gave you were for those who were charged federally.
Speaker 2: (27:45)
Do you share the President’s view that the problems of violence in Chicago are really related to the leadership of the city. The Mayor and the President has also singled out the Governor of Illinois in making those comments.
AG William Barr: (27:59)
Well I’m not going to comment on the specifics here in Illinois or Chicago in terms of the leadership, but I’ll just say generally that I’ve observed the most important ingredients to maintaining safety and dealing with violent crime is a strong police force, a DA that is oriented toward taking violent offenders off the street, the backing of the law enforcement community by the political leaders, both the Mayor and the Governor. And when those are in place, then I don’t think we will be seeing the increases in crime that we’ve seen recently. I think the increases in crime, there may be a number of factors involved, but part of it is the emboldening of the criminal elements, the chronic offenders, and the perhaps withdrawal of the police in the wake of the attacks on the police. So I think it’s very important to support the Police Department and the Chief of Police in these cities.
Speaker 2: (29:05)
You believe the mayor and the governor have not been doing so?
AG William Barr: (29:09)
I’m not going to comment on that. I think the Mayor, and maybe I can ask the US Attorney, but my understanding is that the Mayor and the President talked, the President discussed Legend and our desire to come in and to help with Operation Legend. And she said she would accept the help. And so she approved us coming in and providing this assistance. I know the US Attorney had discussions with her about it. So this is all about working in partnership with state and local, and that partnership is working well right now.
Speaker 3: (29:46)
Sir, what about the local States serving your local judges and talking about taking offender’s off the street, are you and Park kind of putting this at the feet of the State’s Attorney?
AG William Barr: (29:56)
I think unfortunately in our country, and I think that’s the case here at Illinois, the system of justice, state justice, is going back to a revolving door system that we had earlier. 1992 was the peak of violent crime in the United States. It had trebled over the proceedings 30 years, and it just shot up three times to ’92. And then it’s been halved since ’92. And part of that process was stopping the revolving door and having pretrial detention of people who still posed a threat to the community. A lot of States are now pulling back from that. And I do think that, I think maybe John could give you some specific examples, but nowadays a lot of these hoodlums on the street feel that have impunity to carry their guns out on the street. They don’t hide them anymore and pick them up when they think they’re going to need them, but they just carry them as a matter of course, because they think they can do it with impunity.
AG William Barr: (30:59)
And they’ll be in the front door and out the back door under the state system. And I think that one of the reasons why federal support at this stage is so important is because we have stronger laws in this regard. There’s a lot said about community policing. That’s sort of one of the buzz words out there, “Oh, we just need more community policing.” Well, what isn’t discussed and what people have to understand is there is an essential prerequisite for a community policing program. And that is pretrial detention because people in the community and I think any police chief who’s been involved in law enforcement, I saw this back in ’92, will tell you that people in the community will not come forward and engage with the police if they feel that someone about whom they’ve given information is going to be right back out on the street.
AG William Barr: (31:53)
They need to know that when the police take someone away, they’re not going be there the next day to retaliate. So in New York, for example, which had one of the best community policing programs in the country, just amazing program. It’s essentially falling apart right now because of the changes made in state law on bail reform, where people are just out on the street almost instantaneously, and their lawyers get access to the information provided to the police that served as the basis for the arrest. So that community police policing program is drying up. It’s broken. So I’m all for community policing, but people have to recognize, you have to keep the violent offenders off the street otherwise you will not get the cooperation of the community.
Speaker 4: (32:47)
You mentioned when the operation first started, the amount of arrests you all have made [inaudible 00:32:51] the streets. The murder rate in shooting is up, as you mentioned, right around 50% of the time. Well right now, that murder rate is shooting. It’s still around 52% compared to the same time last year. Is it a little premature to say that this is for sure working and driving down the violence rate here in Chicago? Is it too early to say that or do you feel confident that the work that you’re doing is making significant strides?
AG William Barr: (33:19)
I’m confident that that the work we’re doing is improving the situation.
Speaker 4: (33:30)
[ inaudible 00:00:33:29].
AG William Barr: (33:30)
It has gone down. It has gone down. It’s half of what it was the proceeding month. And it’s the lowest murder rate since April. So we’re starting from a very high level and it’ll take some time to get it down to a perhaps what, would you say?
Speaker 5: (33:56)
I would agree with that. I mean, very, very clearly Operation Legend helped. It helped stop what we were seeing, where increases in homicides month after month after month, you’ve obviously seen the data. May, June, July, it was getting out of control and it dropped in August.
AG William Barr: (34:12)
Dropped by half in one month. So I do think there’s a correlation and it’s a correlation we’re seeing across all our cities right now. All of the cities are going down, the homicide rates and the violent crime rates. Now we’re obviously going to continue to watch what happens and adjust our activity based on that.
AG William Barr: (34:33)
I’m sorry. You had a question.
Speaker 6: (34:37)
I did, thank you. As President Trump talked often would name check Chicago and its bloody gun violence. Mayor Lightfoot, and our former Mayor Emmanuel would respond that if he seriously wanted to help, he would send in more federal resources. And when the former Attorney General Sessions did temporarily send a few dozen federal agents here, they seem to be welcomed very warmly at that time, what took your office so long?
AG William Barr: (35:03)
What took my office so long? So long to do what?
AG William Barr: (35:08)
I described what the Genesis of Legend was, which was before COVID, we started seeing violence upticking in a number of cities, nowhere near the level it got to most recently. And we tried to launch a program called Relentless Pursuit, and then the COVID hit almost at the same time we were mobilizing the agents to go into the cities. So that program is effectively boarded. In the meantime, with the incident with George Floyd and the attacks on the police and the demonization of the police and discussions at defunding, we saw a sharp increases in a number of cities, including Chicago. And so at that point, we essentially rebooted the idea of targeting various cities and targeting the increases in violent crime and sort of tailored it to the phenomenon we were seeing in the wake of the defund the police effort and Chicago didn’t meet all the criteria that we have been looking for in cities, but given the visibility of Chicago and the very high levels of homicide, we decided we would include Chicago. And I’m glad we did, because it seems to be bearing fruit. But I think a lot of the public commentary as we launched this program was that cities didn’t want federal help. But now you’re telling me that we’re welcomed with open arms? That’s news to me around the country. But as I said, Mayor Lightfoot did agree to and seemed happy that we were coming in.
Speaker 7: (37:09)
President Trump is seen to suggest at times that he has a quick fix for a violent crime in Chicago, that it could be fixed overnight or within a week. Do you know what he’s talking about? Is it involvement of the National Guard? Is it this? Do you know what he’s referring to?
AG William Barr: (37:21)
Well, I think it’s important that this is a distinction that the media doesn’t frequently make, but in my mind, and I think the mind is most people in law enforcement, there’s a distinction between addressing violent crime, which is what Legend is about and addressing civil unrest and some of the violence that we’ve seen in conjunction with supposed protests. And I think he’s talking about the latter in that, which is that you can deal with the occupation of areas in the city and you can deal with the sieging of various government buildings with dispatch. I don’t think he’s talking about eliminating violent crime that way.
Speaker 7: (38:07)
Dispatch of what? National Guard?
AG William Barr: (38:10)
Dispatch meaning quickly. Well, it depends on the circumstances. There’s some places where state resources are completely adequate. Even state civilian law enforcement resources can be completely adequate. It depends on the circumstance, the size of the demonstration and the size of the state’s assets. And then we can also use civilian federal assets as we have in some places.
Speaker 8: (38:40)
AG William Barr: (38:40)
Speaker 8: (38:41)
How many of those 400 agents are new bodies on the ground here in Chicago?
Speaker 5: (38:49)
So I would say we already have a large number of law enforcement working in Chicago. At a minimum, there were a hundred new FBI, ATF, and DEA agents that came in.
ATF and DEA agents that came in. There were several dozen repurposed Homeland security agents as well and the same with the United States Marshall Service. So, it’s hundreds of new people who came in to help and to work directly with the people that were already here beforehand.
Speaker 9: (39:20)
So 100 new…
AG William Barr: (39:23)
I think there were 200 new bodies of the 400 and the other 200 were repurposed from the other work they were doing and shifted to violent crime.
Speaker 9: (39:34)
I have a question.
AG William Barr: (39:37)
Speaker 9: (39:38)
Sorry, my question is a little bit off-topic, I apologize for that, but I need to ask about Ms. Carol and how the President was acting in his official capacity when be denied knowing her and also why the Americans detective might be on the look for any damages that could be rewarded to her?
AG William Barr: (39:54)
Okay. So this has to do with something called the Westfall act. That is an act that provides that when tort cases, state tort cases are brought against government employees in the executive branch and in the legislative branch, and the tort was allegedly committed in the course of federal employment. The case can be certified for shifting to the federal courts and the United States can be substituted as the responsible party. This has become somewhat routine to the extent that the certification process has been delegated to an attorney in the tort section of the civil division of the justice department.
AG William Barr: (40:46)
The process involves the employing agency, which in the case of a president has been the white house sending in a memorandum requesting certification. That process was followed in this particular case. The case law is crystal clear that the Westfall act applies to claims against the president, the vice president, as well as other federal employees and members of Congress. There was case law in DC. It has been invoked by previous presidents, including most recently, Bush 43, vice president Cheney, president Obama, and now president Trump. The case law is very clear and there’s a DC circuit case called Ballenger on the topic that says that because we are a representative democracy, officials who are elected and answer press questions while they’re in office, even if those questions relate to their personal activity and could bear upon their personal fitness is in fact, in the course of federal employment and can be therefore certified under the Westfall act. The case in that situation was a Congressman who was answering questions about why he had separated from his wife. And he was sued for defamation because of something he said in that answer and so the court said that elected officials in our, in our democracy or representative democracy, when they’re answering questions in office, even about personal affairs, any defamation claim is subject to Westfall.
AG William Barr: (42:41)
So this was a normal application of the law. The law is clear, it is done frequently. And the little tempest that’s going on is largely because of the bizarre political environment in which we live and the, well I’ll just leave it at that. Yep.
AG William Barr: (43:09)
As they always are under Westfall, that’s the statute. That’s the statute.
Speaker 10: (43:15)
The guns that have so far been collected by Operation Legend, and idea as to how many of them were acquired illegally? And just to build on that, where they’re coming from?
AG William Barr: (43:32)
I’ll ask Gina at the ATF to see if she has any more specific information. But I know that a number of the cases, because I was looking over some of the cases here, and a number of the cases relate to straw purchasers who were going out and gathering guns for gangs. So I know that that’s one of the areas that ATF has been targeting.
I can comment a little bit on that. We look at the patterns of the trafficking factors. When we recover crime guns here in Chicago, we trace that weapon. What we find then, many of the weapons that are either purchased maybe lawfully, but also go into unlawful commerce by trafficking organizations. Many of the, we call the pipeline of weapons that are being recovered here in Chicago, do come from other States. Some come from the Milwaukee area. Every state has a different source, but particularly for Chicago, we see a lot of that trafficking patterns. So we have what we call a trafficking group. We focus primarily on those in particular source States to cut that pipeline down. When the firearms are recovered here, we trace them to the last known purchaser. The foreign arms trace gives us what we call from cradle to grave, where the firearm was purchased and where it ended up.
And we try to fill in the blanks and it kind of gives us a life of crime i led in between that time. So we do see, we call it straw purchasing, lying and trying, lying and buying. So those are also part of our Project guardian aspect, which is we’re looking at going after those traffickers, particularly to cut that pipeline of weapons coming into Chicago. So that’s what we’re predominantly seeing. And that is also allowing us to put resources there in our sources States because I believe if we cut the pipeline of weapons, we would have what we call a little bit less of the use of those weapons. So that’s what we’re seeing primarily is our trafficking groups are giving us that.
Speaker 10: (45:38)
So follow up question to that, are you surprised? I’ve read about how you’re actually tracking guns that have been used in specific crimes and then are you surprised how active some of these guns have been in a short time period?
AG William Barr: (45:50)
Actually that was something I was going to add to what Gina said, which is, this Niven technology which the ATF deploys and brings in extra resources with these mobile units are amazing because they can take a shell and link a gun that was used in one crime to other crimes. And I think most police chiefs will tell you that in their city, they could tell you, sit down and make a list of the people who were responsible for most of the shooting. In their mind, they think, the suspects. And usually a relatively manageable group or a modest group is responsible for a disproportionate number of the shootings. So it doesn’t surprise me that you can find a gun and then tie it to a lot of different shootings. I’ve seen this done and it’s really remarkable. And the Niven technology is a game changer. In the old days to take the chronic violent offenders off the street, you had to cast a broader net. Now you can figure out exactly who’s doing the shooting.
Yeah, I was going to add, we call that fishing with a spear as opposed to a net. Many times the shell casings, something similar to this are recovered on the street. So we take the shell case and we put it through our Niven system, it makes a correlation. It’s almost like a thumbprint of a fingerprint that you would do as a comparison. Our shell casings are compared to different shooting scenes, as well as the actual firearms at this one shell casing, which is unique to each firearm. So that’s really been a game changer for us and putting all of that in a mobile unit right now here in Chicago is really what’s been helping Chicago police department’s laboratories, because we can do that now in a 48 hour turnaround time. Those leads that are coming out are generated, investigators get that lead. And that’s a lead to a potential homicide or an assault. We take those leads, we give it to our investigators, our Chicago crime gun strike force. And that’s where we go work. As we say the technology is great. We have the tools to do some of the things that we do, but it takes, what I say, the carpenter that builds a house. So, that’s where our special agents with all the law enforcement organizations working together. So it’s this shell casing that’s allowing us to make those connections.
AG William Barr: (48:14)
I’ll take one more.
Speaker 11: (48:15)
Mr. Attorney general just a quick question.
AG William Barr: (48:16)
I think that…
Speaker 11: (48:18)
AG William Barr: (48:19)
You asked one earlier.
Speaker 12: (48:21)
I have one more question. I didn’t get to ask my main question.
AG William Barr: (48:23)
I’ll let both of you answer your question.
Speaker 11: (48:25)
Speaker 12: (48:27)
Speaker 11: (48:27)
No go ahead.
Speaker 12: (48:28)
Okay. We see big shifts month to month, up and down over the years. This is not something unusual. July is, as you mentioned, it was the worst July since at least 1957, as the records go, but we’ve seen other big shifts month to month. So what I’m hearing is that you’re crediting this drop to the federal agents and the federal mission. What I want to know is, how many of those murders can you credit to…
AG William Barr: (49:00)
That is an absurd question. I did not attribute it entirely. What I said is I believe that it was an important part of that drop. And if you want to maintain that taking fugitives off the street, who are armed and already have committed homicide, known gang members and persons who are correlated to guns that have committed murders in the past, at the numbers and rates we are doing that, not only the federal charges, but all the state people that we’ve delivered over to the state, if you don’t think that that has an impact on violent crime, I think that’s a much harder proposition to maintain.
Speaker 11: (49:41)
Mr Attorney General, I’ve come to dozens of press conferences in this building with federal authorities and the Chicago police standing side by side. Chicago police are not here today.
AG William Barr: (49:52)
Speaker 11: (49:52)
What is the reason for that and why are they not included in this unified message?
AG William Barr: (49:58)
They were certainly invited and could have attended, but one of the odd things about our program in this city are some of the politics involved. I’m sure that was an element of it. I think you’ll have to ask the mayor and the police chief.
Speaker 11: (50:14)
They were invited and they did not come?
AG William Barr: (50:18)
Yes. Am I right about that?
AG William Barr: (50:21)
Yeah. I am later spending time with the chief, going on a drive around with him. But I know that the city has put out information about the drop in crime and is crediting a number of factors. Absent among those factors is the federal contribution. So it’s just the way things roll here in Chicago,
Speaker 11: (50:55)
So that would seem to indicate there’s still a disconnect between initiative and the city.
I’m not focused on those aspects of it. I’m focused on the law enforcement, working together, the professional law enforcement approach, and actually getting the job done and politicians can do what they want to do. Okay.
Speaker 13: (51:17)
I think John has something to add.
If I may.
AG William Barr: (51:19)
To be very clear. There is no disconnect between federal law enforcement and the Chicago police department. We work together all the time. They’re very supportive of all of our efforts and we are thrilled to help them fight violent crime. Law enforcement to law enforcement level, things are going very well. I can assure you that. Thank you.
Speaker 13: (51:36)
Thank you very much.
AG William Barr: (51:36)