Jun 4, 2020
William Barr & Chris Wray DOJ Press Conference Transcript on George Floyd Death
Attorney General Bill Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray held a Justice Department press conference June 4 on the death of George Floyd and the ongoing federal investigations. Read the news briefing speech transcript here.
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William Barr: (00:02)
Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you for joining us at this remote press conference. Over the Constitution Avenue entrance to this building is a Latin inscription that translates, everything is created by law and order. That ancient principle still holds true. Our free society depends on the rule of law. The assurance that ordinary citizens can go about their lives without being subject to arbitrary violence or fear. When the rule of law breaks down, the promise of America does also.
William Barr: (00:48)
Our nation is now confronting to serious challenges to the rule of law. The first is a longstanding one, but was recently crystallized and driven home by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The video of the police conduct in this episode, as I said before, is harrowing. When you watch it and imagine that one of your own loved ones was being treated this way and begging for their lives, it is impossible for any normal human being, not to be struck to the heart with horror. This matter is being pursued by both the state and the federal government. The state has filed already second degree murder charges against one of the officers and aiding and abetting charges against the other three officers. As we typically do in cases such as this, the Department of Justice and the FBI is conducting a parallel and independent investigation into possible violations of federal civil rights laws. The president has directed me to spare no effort. We are coordinating our work with the attorney general of Minnesota. And as a matter of comedy, the Department of Justice typically lets the state go forward with its proceedings first.
William Barr: (02:29)
This afternoon, our United States attorney in Minnesota and the FBI special agent in charge of our Minneapolis field office, the FBI’s field office, will attend a memorial service for Mr. Floyd. Today is a day of mourning and the day is coming soon, I am confident, when justice will be served. George Floyd’s death was not the first of its kind. And it exposes concerns that reach far beyond this particular case, while the vast majority of police officers do their job bravely and righteously, it is undeniable that many African Americans lacked confidence in our American criminal justice system. This must change.
William Barr: (03:26)
Our Constitution mandates equal protection of the laws and nothing less is acceptable. As the nation’s leading federal law enforcement agency, the Department of Justice will do its part. I believe that police chiefs and law enforcement officials and leaders around the country are committed to ensuring that racism plays no part in law enforcement and that everyone receives equal protection of the laws. In October 2019, the president established the first Commission on Law Enforcement since the 1960s. And I am meeting with them later this month. And I have been talking to law enforcement leaders around the country and in the weeks and months ahead, we will be working with community leaders to find constructive solutions so that Mr. Floyd’s deaf will not have been in vain. We will work hard to bring good out of bad.
William Barr: (04:34)
Unfortunately, the aftermath of George Floyd’s death has produced a second challenge to the rule of law, while many have peacefully expressed their anger and grief. Others have hijacked protest to engage in lawlessness. Violent rioting, arson, looting of businesses and public property. Assaults on law enforcement officers and innocent people. And even the murder of a federal agent. Such senseless acts of anarchy are not exercises of First Amendment rights. They are crimes designed to terrify fellow citizens and intimidate communities.
William Barr: (05:21)
As I told the governors on Monday, we understand the distinction between three different sets of actors here. The large preponderance of those who are protesting are peaceful demonstrators who are exercising their First Amendment rights. At some demonstrations, however, there are groups that exploit the opportunity to engage in such crimes as looting. And finally, at some demonstrations, there are extremist agitators who are hijacking the protests to pursue their own separate and violent agenda. We have evidence that Antifa and other similar extremist groups, as well as actors of a variety of different political persuasions have been involved in instigating and participating in the violent activity. And we are also seeing foreign actors playing all sides to exacerbate the violence.
William Barr: (06:26)
The Department of Justice is working to restore order in the District of Columbia and around the nation. Here in Washington, we are working with the local police, the citizen soldiers of the national guard and other federal agencies to provide safety and justice. We have deployed all the major law enforcement components of the department on this mission. Including the FBI, the ATF, the DEA, the Bureau of Prisons and the US Marshall Service. Their leaders are with me today and we’ll be talking shortly. I thank all of these leaders and their components for working bravely and professionally to protect the district.
William Barr: (07:16)
I’m pleased to say that, especially over the last two nights, the demonstrations while large have been peaceful. The Justice Department is also working closely with our state and local partners to address violent riots around the country. Our federal law enforcement efforts are focused on the violent instigators. Through the FBI, US attorney’s offices, component field offices, and state and local enforcement. We are receiving real time intelligence and we have deployed resources to quell outbreaks of violence in several places. I urge governors and mayors and other state and local leaders to work closely with the national guard and with us. The federal government has thus far made 51 arrests for federal crimes in connection with violent rioting. We will continue to investigate, to make arrests and to prosecute where warranted.
William Barr: (08:25)
When I was attorney general in 1992, riots broke out in Los Angeles, following the acquittal by the state, of police officers accused of beating Rodney King. Ultimately, the Department of Justice at my direction filed federal civil rights charges against those officers. As President Bush assured the nation at that time, quote, “The violence will end, justice will be served. Hope will return.” The same is true today. The rule of law will prevail. Thank you.
William Barr: (09:09)
Now I’d like to introduce my colleague, Chris Wray, the director of the FBI. And I have to say, this is the FBI that I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the last few days. The FBI that I know and love that have really stood up here and performed magnificently. Not only here in DC, but around the country and in all their field offices. And their enforcement functions, their intelligent functions are now in full gear. And I’m confident that with the FBI’s leadership, we are going to deal effectively with the criminals who were involved in extremist violence. Chris.
Chris Wray: (10:00)
Thank you, general for your leadership. Good morning. This is needless to say an incredibly challenging time for our country and for all the citizens we serve. I want to begin by expressing my deepest sympathies for George Floyd and his family. Like most of you, I was appalled and profoundly troubled by the video images of the incident that ended with Mr. Floyd’s tragic death. Within hours of his death, on May 25th, the FBI had opened a criminal investigation to determine whether the actions by the former Minneapolis police department officers involved, violated federal law. We’re moving quickly in that investigation and we’re going to follow the facts wherever they may lead in our pursuit of justice.
Chris Wray: (10:53)
Mr. Floyd’s family, like a lot of families who have lost loved one’s in recent weeks are suffering right now and trying to find a way forward. In fact, our entire country is trying to find a way forward that’s because this is not just about George Floyd. This is about all of those over the years who’ve been unjustifiably killed or had their rights violated by people entrusted with their protection. When law enforcement fails to fulfill its most basic duty to protect and serve its citizens, particularly members of a minority community. It not only tarnishes the badge we all wear, but erodes the trust that so many of us in law enforcement have worked so hard to build. And when people feel that we haven’t lived up to the trust that they place in us, it is understandable that they want to speak out and protest. And the FBI holds sacred the rights of individuals to peacefully exercise their First Amendment freedoms.
Chris Wray: (11:58)
Nonviolent protests are signs of a healthy democracy, not an ailing one. The FBI’s mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution. That mission is both dual and simultaneous. It is not contradictory. In engaging with our communities during these protests, we in law enforcement must balance the safety and security of our communities with our citizens constitutional rights and civil liberties. One need not, and must not come at the expense of the other.
Chris Wray: (12:35)
In recent days, the violence, threat to life and destruction of property that we’ve seen in some parts of the country, jeopardizes the rights and safety of all citizens, including peaceful demonstrators. And it has to stop. We’re seeing people who are exploiting this situation to pursue violent extremist agendas. Anarchist like Antifa and other agitators. These individuals have set out to sow discord and upheaval rather than join in the righteous pursuit of equality and justice. And by driving us apart, they’re undermining the urgent work and constructive engagement of all those who are trying to bring us together. Our community and religious leaders, our elected officials, law enforcement and citizens alike. Many have suffered from the violence instigated through these radicals and extremists, including members of our own law enforcement family. Officers killed or gravely injured while just doing their jobs, fulfilling their duty to the public by trying to keep everyone safe.
Chris Wray: (13:46)
To be clear, we are not in any way trying to discourage peaceful protesters and to those citizens who are out there making your voices heard through peaceful, lawful protest. Let me say this, we in law enforcement hear you. We have to make sure that our policing and our investigations are conducted with the professionalism and commitment to equal justice that you all deserve. But we are also committed to identifying, investigating and stopping individuals who are inciting violence and engaging in criminal activity. So at the FBI, we’re focusing our efforts on supporting our law enforcement partners with maintaining public safety in the communities we’re all sworn to protect. We’re making sure that we’re tightly latched up with our state, local and federal law enforcement partners across the country by standing up 24 hour command posts in all of our 56 field offices.
Chris Wray: (14:46)
We’ve directed our 200 joint terrorism task forces around the, to assist law enforcement with apprehending and charging violent agitators who are hijacking peaceful protests. On a national level, we’re soliciting tips, leads and video evidence of criminal activities through our National Threat Operation Center, NTOC. And over the past few days, like the attorney general, I’ve been speaking with law enforcement leaders in various parts of the country to ensure that we’re providing the support they need. And to let them know that in every community, the FBI stands ready to assist wherever we can. The relationships that we’ve built with our law enforcement and community partners are more important now than ever because the reality is we can’t do our jobs without the trust of the American people.
Chris Wray: (15:40)
I want to close by reiterating that the FBI will remain steadfast in its mission to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution. Protecting civil liberties and civil rights has been part of our mission since the days of the Civil Rights Movement. Those investigations are at the heart of what we do for the simple reason that civil liberties and civil rights are at the very heart …
Speaker 1: (16:03)
Reason that civil liberties and civil rights are at the very heart of who we are as Americans. Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal government largely left protection of civil rights to state and local governments. And it took the Mississippi Burning case and the Civil Rights Act for the federal government and the FBI to get off the sidelines and to begin to fully protect civil rights for all people of color. Since then, we’ve been working hard to identify and prevent hate crimes and to investigate abuses of power and authority. Our civil rights cases are among the most important work we do, and that will never change. Now, I will repeat today what I’ve long believed about the men and women of law enforcement. It takes an incredibly special person to willingly put his or her life on the line for a complete stranger. And to get up day after day after day and do that is extraordinary.
Speaker 1: (17:03)
And in these turbulent times, we won’t forget the bravery of our law enforcement members who have risked life and safety to protect the public and keep the peace. But the difficulty of that job doesn’t diminish the role we play in society which is to protect and serve all citizens no matter their race, creed, orientation, or station in life. And when we lose sight of those solemn obligations to the citizens we serve, the protectors can quickly become the oppressors, particularly for communities of color. As law enforcement, we’re bound by an oath to serve all members of our community with equal compassion, professionalism, dignity, and respect. The American people should expect nothing less from us. Thank you.
Donald Washington: (18:04)
Good morning. Hi, I’m Donald Washington, Director of the United States Marshals Service. First of all, thank you, Attorney General Barr. Let me begin by specially noting that today marks the first of three days in which the family, friends and the loved ones will host memorials to honor the life of George Floyd in Minnesota, North Carolina, and in Texas. On behalf of the men and women of the United States Marshals Service and personally, I extend my deepest sympathy and my heartfelt condolences to the family of George Floyd. What started as peaceful protests in Minnesota after the death of Mr. Floyd has morphed into a national emergency, resulting in many injuries to many people, thousands of arrests, along with arson, theft, and vandalism to property in many cities. As of last night, US Marshals report damage and vandalism to 21 federal courthouses located in 15 states and the district of Columbia.
Donald Washington: (19:10)
There has been damage and vandalism to many other federal properties. The US Marshals Service is assisting other agencies in efforts to address violent disturbances that have occurred in the district of Columbia and in other cities around the United States. Peaceful protests are good for our country. This rights should be respected by all persons and this right absolutely deserves the full protection of officers of the law. Among our basic functions is the absolute duty to protect people who are exercising constitutional rights. However, rioters, arsonists, thieves, looters, and their protagonists are criminals. They have undermined peaceful and lawful demonstrations and protests. These criminals threaten our basic constitutional rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and they must be brought to justice. Since the earliest days, just after our nation’s birth US Marshals have worked to ensure the rule of law by making sure that the federal judiciary and the federal judicial process operate unfettered and unintimidated.
Donald Washington: (20:26)
We have also worked tirelessly over the years to bring thousands and thousands of fugitives to justice and today one of our primary missions is to find and protect endangered children. In the last week, US Marshals have coordinated with US attorneys and state, local, and federal partners to protect protestors and to address the criminal acts of others. Deputy US Marshals are assisting with and conducting criminal investigations required by the criminal acts of persons who are instigating and causing violence against persons and property where such acts violate federal laws. Working with our local law enforcement partners, we’re also securing federal properties threatened by criminal acts and protecting persons from the violent acts of others. I believe strongly that this special mission is important to our democracy. We will protect those who are engaged in lawful protests, but we will arrest those who commit felonies in our presence. We are working violent crime warrants and investigating gang activities that incite riots or terrorism. We are assisting and partnering with federal, state, and local authorities consistent with our broad federal jurisdiction. To our local governments and private sector leaders, we know that we are stronger, much stronger when we work together. We will achieve our collective goals of protecting lawful protestors and lawful protest while also enforcing the law. I do not pretend even for a moment to speak for the other leaders here, but I am certain that we all want local leaders to have the confidence and the conviction to request and utilize all available resources to fight violence and to protect our communities. The US Marshals Service is your partner too. In summary, the US Marshals Service will continue to perform our many day to day missions, and we will also assist our federal, state, and local partners during this emergency. We will work urgently to keep citizens and law enforcers safe.
Donald Washington: (22:44)
I thank our concerned citizens for their patience and for their continuing support and I look forward to any questions you may have. Thank you.
Regina Lombardo: (23:00)
Good afternoon. My name is Regina Lombardo, the Acting Director of ATF. For many special agents, one of the proudest moments is when you raise your right hand to take the oath of office to support and defend the United States constitution. And we take that oath seriously. However, in the moment, we don’t know exactly what we will be faced with, what challenges we will have to overcome in order to uphold that oath that we took. In this moment today, we express our warmest sympathies to the family of George Floyd and acknowledge the pain and suffering for his family. We also have sympathy for those that are suffering across the country. Unfortunately, where our constitutionally protected right to peacefully assemble has sometimes turned to the riots and criminal acts, the resulting violence involves crimes of ATF’s core mission. Shootings, responding to shootings, burglaries, arsons, bombings, especially destructive devices, such as a Molotov cocktail.
Regina Lombardo: (24:19)
At the request of the Attorney General, ATF has provided every available resource. We have deployed a large number of special agents, our special response team here in our nation’s capitol. We have supported the Washington Metropolitan Police Department, the United States Secret Service, and the United States Park Police to protect the public, property, and the national landmarks that belong to each and every one of you. Our national response teams are here in Washington DC in order to quickly respond the emerging arson incidents. We are working with the DC Fire to assist investigate the seven incendiary fires in the DC area caused by criminals, including the arson at St. John’s church, the AFL-CIO, the National Park Service building and the DC Fire District Four Police Department.
Regina Lombardo: (25:24)
The individual we believe responsible for that fire at the Metro PD’s Fourth District has been arrested and charged. Our certified fire investigators, chemists, fire engineers, and explosive specialists are working around the clock to support the ongoing safety of operations. Across the country, ATF special agents, industry operations investigators from all 25 of our field divisions are responding to shootings, arsons, bombings, and thefts of federal firearms licensed dealers. We are providing investigative support and assistance to all of our local and state partners. ATF has responded to numerous shooting scenes at the disturbances of cities that is actively working with local law enforcement and we are entering those shell casings into our National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, NIBIN.
Regina Lombardo: (26:24)
Our national tracing center is running traces on the recovered firearms, and we are collecting DNA from shell casings and ballistic evidence. Our crime gun intelligence centers are collecting valuable intelligence and sharing all of that information in a joint environment. ATF’s JTTF representatives are working with the FBI in multiple cities, as well as our Department of Justice partners, the US Marshals Service, the DEA and the Bureau of Prisons, all state and local federal law enforcement working in partnership.
Regina Lombardo: (27:03)
Our special agents and certified fire investigators are tracking and assisting more than 847 arsons, over 76 explosive incidents and providing valuable technical expertise and intelligence support. Two of our national response teams, our NRT have been activated and responding to Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota. We have developed efficient and effective strategies to triage and quickly assess the scenes even in an unstable environment. ATF has also responded to 73 federal firearms licensed dealers. We have identified many suspects that made arrest and recovered many firearms already. We have responded to assaults and murders of our law enforcement partners. Our team of ATF professionals at our National Corelation Center and our laboratories and our tracing center are all working day and night to make those arrests.
Regina Lombardo: (28:08)
We are on the streets, making cases and protecting the American public from violent criminals. You do not have to be in law enforcement to know that this is dangerous work. ATF has answered the call. As the Attorney General stated, the most basic function of government is to provide security for the people who live their lives and exercise their rights. And we will meet that responsibility. This is our mission, and we deeply are committed to that mission, to protect and serve. Thank you.
Michael Carvajal: (28:54)
Good morning. My name is Michael Carvajal, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The Bureau of Prisons staff are federal law enforcement officers who are often called upon to assist during crisis situations within our communities. The Attorney General asked the BOP to request and assist other law enforcement agencies in maintaining order and peace in the district of Columbia. BOP crisis management teams are highly trained to deal with various types of emergency situations, including crowd control and civil disturbances. They are experienced in confrontational avoidance and conflict resolution. In the aftermath of the tragic death of George Floyd, it is unfortunate that these services are necessary. On behalf of the BOP, and it’s 36,000 staff, I extend our greatest sympathies to the family for his loss.
Michael Carvajal: (29:45)
We also respect the rights of the public to express their frustration and grief. We appreciate those who seek to ensure the events surrounding Mr. Floyd’s death are never repeated again. It’s shameful those voices are being drowned out by those seeking to incite violence and destroy property. I’m proud of the work our staff do every day to keep our institutions safe and I’m honored that they were called upon to assist our communities. Thank you.
Tim Shea: (30:20)
My name is Tim Shea. I’m the Acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and I’m honored to represent the brave men and women of the DEA, and to share with you the important work our special agents have been performing these last few days. But first I’d like to join the Attorney General and take a moment to express my sincere condolences on behalf of myself and the men and women of the DEA to the family and friends of George Floyd as well as to all those who mourns his passing. It was a tragedy for us too in law enforcement. The DEA’s mission, like all law enforcement partners is to protect the American people. Before they receive their badge and credentials, every one of our special agents takes an oath to uphold the constitution and the rule of law. And that’s exactly what they’re doing this week.
Tim Shea: (31:16)
As is the case with other significant events, our agents have been authorized to respond as needed to violations of federal law. And I’m proud of what our agency has done to assist our state and local partners, to ensure that those who wish to peacefully protest may do so in safety and without fear of violence. While these events have been largely peaceful, agitators continue to attempt to sow chaos. We’ve recovered weapons, we’ve had rocks thrown in our vehicles, and our agents along with other law enforcement partners have endured the continual verbal assaults. And during that time, our agents have acted professionally and admirably under these very difficult conditions.
Tim Shea: (32:02)
… in admirably under these very difficult conditions. DEA special agents are providing security, conducting threat assessments, sharing that information on potential violations of federal law in real time. In addition, DEA continues to investigate drug related crimes, including the theft of controlled substances from looted pharmacies, which is happening here in the District of Columbia and across the country. In the national capital region, approximately or over 150 DEA special agents have partnered with the metropolitan police department at their request and the National Guard to enforce security posts and maintain a secure perimeter in designated areas.
Tim Shea: (32:46)
DEA has also provided over 11 mobile response teams, SRT teams, who are prepared to respond to high risk situations and other requests for assistance, including medical services. DEA owes much of its success in enforcing our nation’s drug laws to the assistance provided by the very federal, state, and local partners that need our help now.
Tim Shea: (33:13)
Every DEA agent out on the street helps free up one of our local law enforcement counterparts. In the case of Washington, the MPD, to carry out their policing functions and protect the public. DEA is committed to providing that support as long as it’s needed, requested and authorized. Our country was founded upon basic principles and rights, and chief among them is the right of free speech and the right to assemble peaceably. We’re supporting those rights and the peaceful demonstrators by ensuring their voices can be heard and that those seeking to exploit the situation are held to account.
William Barr: (34:03)
Thank you. And with that, I’ll open it up to questions.
Speaker 3: (34:10)
Thank you. To ask a question, you may press star one. Once again, ladies and gentlemen, press star one to ask a question. Today’s first question comes from Pete Williams with NBC News. Please go ahead.
Pete Williams: (34:28)
Thank you, Mr. Attorney General. Washington, D.C. has a lot of experience in dealing with large complex events that include protests, like the inauguration or meetings of the World Bank. Why did you think it was necessary for you to take command of this and where does that authority come from?
William Barr: (34:46)
Well, I think the rioting got going I think on Friday, May 29th and it got worse and worse over the weekend. It culminated or came to a crescendo over the weekend on Sunday evening, right around the White House on H Street on the Northern side of Lafayette Park. And it was very serious rioting.
William Barr: (35:16)
The treasury department annex there was broken into. A historical building on Lafayette park, which is federal property was burned down. There was a fire set at the historical St. John’s Church right there across from the White House. And an old church that goes back to the 18th century and is referred to as the church of presidents. The rioters used crowbars to dig out the pavers at Lafayette Park and used them as projectiles, thrown at secret service and other federal agents. There were numerous head injuries among the federal personnel whose responsibility is to protect the White House.
William Barr: (36:12)
Just to give you an indication, but from Saturday, until today and virtually… The lion’s share of these injuries came over the weekend. There were 114 injuries to law enforcement. Most of those to federal agents, and most of those inflicted right around the White House. There were 22 hospitalizations and most of those were serious head injuries or concussions that required monitoring and treatment.
William Barr: (36:50)
On Monday, the president asked me to coordinate the various federal law enforcement agencies, not only the multiple department of justice agencies, but also other agencies such as those in the Department of Homeland Security. So we had a coordinated response and worked with the National Guard and also with the DC police. That morning, we decided that we needed more of a buffer to protect the White House and to protect our agents and secret service personnel who could be reached by projectiles from H Street. I made the decision that we would try to move our perimeter northward by a block to provide this additional protection. And later at 2:00 on Monday, I met with all the various law enforcement agencies and we set our tactical plan. And that plan involve moving our perimeter a block North to I Street. It was our hope to be able to do that relatively quickly before many demonstrators appeared that day.
William Barr: (38:16)
Unfortunately, because of the difficulty in getting appropriate units into place, by the time they were able to move our perimeter up to I street, a large number of protestors had assembled on H Street. There were projectiles being thrown and the group was becoming increasingly unruly. And the operation to what… They were asked to three times if they would move back one block, they refused. And we proceeded to move our perimeter out to I Street.
William Barr: (39:08)
It is true that the metropolitan police have a lot of experience in dealing with demonstrations, but we have a lot of federal practices. This is the federal city, it’s the seat of the federal government. Many of the buildings, as you know, and facilities here, and the monuments are the responsibility of the federal government and the proceedings and process of the federal government take place here. And so when you have a large scale civil disturbance that is damaging federal property, threatening federal property, threatening federal law enforcement officers, threatening the officials in government and their offices and our great monuments, it is the responsibility of the federal government to render that protection. And we do so in close coordination with the metropolitan police department. Fortunately, later that evening on Monday after we did establish a buffer zone, we were able to finish that day without further significant violence from the demonstrators. And then the following two days were peaceful. The assemblies and the protests were peaceful. So we’re pleased with that. We working closely with the metropolitan police to plan out the remainder of the week. Next question.
Pete Williams: (40:47)
Our next question comes from Pierre Thomas with ABC News. Go ahead.
Pierre Thomas: (40:53)
Good afternoon, Attorney General Barr. A couple of questions for you if I may. Yesterday, the department charged three members of the group associated with Boogaloo, known as a far right extremist group. Is it important in your remarks in thoughts to point out all the different groups that are involved in this type of violent activity? And then the second question is, do you have any concerns that law enforcement could have perhaps been more surgical in how they operated on Monday? And many of the people who were moved forcibly were peaceful protestors, sir.
William Barr: (41:41)
Well, I do think it’s important to point out the witch’s brew that we have of extremist individuals and groups that are involved. And that’s why in my prepared statement, I specifically said, in addition to Antifa and other extremist groups like Antifa, there were a variety of groups and people of a variety of ideological persuasion. So I did make that point. I’m not going to get too specific, but the intelligence being collected by our US attorney’s office is particularly integrated by the FBI from multiple different sources is building up. There are some specific cases against individuals, some Antifa related.
William Barr: (42:34)
A lot of the extremists are involved in egging on violence and participating in violence, providing the means of violence. And we are pursuing those cases at the same time. I would also add there’s a lot of disinformation out there. People posing as their members of the different groups. So you sometimes have to dig a little deeper to determine exactly what’s going on. And there are some groups that don’t have a particular ideology, other than anarchy. There are some groups that want to bring about a civil war, the Boogaloo group, that has been on the margin of this as well, trying to exacerbate the violence. So we are dealing with, as I say, a witch’s brew of a lot of different extremist organizations. Maybe Chris would have something to add to that.
Chris Wray: (43:45)
Sure. Let me say first, as I’ve said for quite some time and including even my first few months in job, we, the FBI have quite a number of ongoing investigations of violent anarchist extremists, including those motivated by an Antifa or Antifa like ideology. And we categorize and treat those as domestic terrorism investigations and are actively pursuing them through our joint terrorism task forces.
Chris Wray: (44:14)
In the course of the current unrest, while the majority of the protesters are peaceful, there are certainly instigators, agitators, and opportunists seeking to exploit these demonstrations to commit violence or rioting. And exactly who these people are, who’s driving them, what’s driving them, what tactics they use, varies widely sometimes from city to city, sometimes even from night to night. And we’re working with all of our law enforcement partners to gather as much information as we can about that topic and to bring federal charges where appropriate and possible. So we’re about the violence. We’re not about the ideology. And it doesn’t matter what your ideology is, if you commit violence or rioting or acts that we would consider terrorism, we’re going to pursue it.
William Barr: (45:10)
The second part of your question, Pierre, I think one of the difficulties is that while there are peaceful demonstrators and participants in these protests, the instigators, those committed to violence, basically shield themselves by going among them and carrying out acts of violence. I saw the projectiles on Monday when I went to Lafayette Park to look at the situation. And as one of the officials said, he pointed out various knots of people where the projectiles were coming from and we could see… and it was a lot of demonstrators. And it’s hard to know exactly where they’re coming from. Frequently, these things are thrown from the rear of the demonstration, but we could not continue to protect the federal property involved and protect the safety of our agents with such a tight perimeter. And so our object was to move it out by one block. Next question, please.
Pete Williams: (46:31)
All right. Question comes from David Spunk with Fox News. Please go ahead.
David Spunk: (46:34)
Hello, Mr. Attorney General. Yesterday, your colleague over at the Department of Defense Secretary Esper expressed some regret in the way that things were handled at Lafayette Park, Lafayette Square. Posing in a picture with President Trump, said he wants to stay apolitical, stay out of things. As you mentioned, you had this job in 1992, you saw this during the Rodney King riots. What do you think about politics? And do you believe that you’re being too political in this by standing in a picture with the president in front of the church? What is your take on this compared to what Secretary Esper said?
William Barr: (47:10)
Yeah. I don’t know what he was conveying there. Obviously, my interest was to carry out the law enforcement functions of the federal government and to protect federal facilities and federal personnel, and also to address the rioting that was interfering with the government’s function. And that was what we were doing. I think the president is the head of the executive branch and the chief executive of the nation, and should be able to walk outside the White House and walk across the street to the church of presidents. I don’t necessarily view that as a political act. I think it was entirely-
William Barr: (48:03)
I don’t necessarily view that as a political act. I think it was entirely appropriate for him to do. I did not know that he was going to do that until later in the day after our plans were well underway to move the perimeter, so there was no correlation between our tactical plan of moving the perimeter out by one block and the president’s going over to the church. The president asked members of his cabinet to go over there with him, the two that were present, and I think it was appropriate for us to go over with him.
William Barr: (48:43)
Speaker 4: (48:44)
Thank you, sir. Next question comes from Mike Balsamo with the Associated Press. Please go.
Speaker 5: (48:50)
Thank you, Mr. Attorney General. Can you expand a little bit on your comments that foreign actors are responsible or working to exploit all sides here, and do you believe that the organized information effort from a foreign government and as you identified which countries are responsible for that? And then, I have a separate question for Director Carvajal, if I could, right after that.
William Barr: (49:15)
Okay. I may ask Chris if he cares to provide a little more detail. I’m not sure how much detail we want to get into, but people shouldn’t think that countries that are hostile to the United States, that their efforts to influence the US or weaken the US or sow discord in the US is something that comes and goes with the election cycle. It is constant. And they are constantly trying to sow discord among our people, and there’s a lot of disinformation that circulates that way. And I believe that we have evidence that some of the foreign hackers and groups that are associated with foreign governments are focusing in on this particular situation we have here and trying to exacerbate it in every way they can. Unless Chris has something to add, I can turn it over to … Yeah.
Michael Carvajal: (50:19)
Not a whole lot that I can say here, other than to say that it is unfortunately not unusual for foreign actors to choose to try to amplify events in this country to sow divisiveness and discord, and in particular, through the use of state associated media from some of those countries, but also social media provides a bullhorn or an amplifier to gin up more controversy where controversy may already exist and to try to generate upheaval in that regard. And those foreign actors should know that we’re watching it extremely closely and are prepared to act if necessary.
William Barr: (51:03)
And what’s your question for Mr. Carvajal?
Speaker 5: (51:08)
Director, can you address some concerns that have been raised in the last few days about the BOP, specifically that some officers stationed around DC have said that they’ve been specifically told not to tell people that they work for the federal government? And last night, we learned an inmate at the MDC in Brooklyn had died after officers used pepper spray on him after he barricaded himself. Do you have concerns there that that nonlethal force resulted in someone’s death?
Michael Carvajal: (51:35)
Thank you, sir. Thank you, Mike, for the question, and let me clarify this. First of all, I’m not aware of any specific Bureau of Prisons personnel being told not to identify themselves. What I attribute that to is probably the fact that we normally operate within the confines of our institution, and we don’t need to identify ourselves. Most of our identification is institution-specific and probably wouldn’t mean a whole lot to people in DC. I probably should have done a better job of marking them nationally as the agency. Point is well taken, but I assure you that no one was specifically told, to my knowledge, not to identify themselves.
Michael Carvajal: (52:21)
As for your question regarding the incident at MDC Brooklyn, what I can tell you, we did do a press release with the information in there. It was, as you stated, an incident involving a disruptive individual down in his cell. The officers did utilize pepper spray, as you say, OC, and afterwards, the individual unfortunately died. What I will tell you is that we immediately referred the case to the FBI and the Office of Inspector General. I was actually told, notified this morning that the Office of Inspector General is going to take that case, and that’s about all I can comment on because the matter is under investigation.
William Barr: (53:09)
Let me just add that the Bureau of Prisons SORT teams are used frequently for emergency response and emergency situations, in either civil disturbances or hurricanes or other things like that. They’re highly trained. They’re highly trained units. And in fact, in the Department of Justice, we do not really have large numbers of units that are trained to deal with civil disturbances. I know a lot of people may be looking back on history, think we can call on hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of US Marshals, and that’s simply not the case. Our marshals’ response for us is approximately a hundred US Marshals. And so, historically when there have been emergencies where we have to respond with people who do have experience in these kinds of emergencies that are highly trained people, we use what are called SORT teams, response teams from the Bureau of Prisons.
William Barr: (54:10)
And I could see a number … Now, in the federal system, we don’t wear badges with our name. I mean, the agents don’t wear badges and their names and stuff like that, which many civilian police agents, I mean, non-federal police agencies, do. And I could understand why some of these individuals simply wouldn’t want to talk to people about who they are, if that were, if that in fact was the case.
William Barr: (54:36)
I’ll take the next question.
Speaker 4: (54:39)
Our next question comes from Sadie Gurman with Wall Street Journal. Please go ahead.
Speaker 4: (54:48)
Sadie, your line’s open now.
Sadie Gurman: (54:51)
Can you hear me?
William Barr: (54:52)
Sadie Gurman: (54:53)
Hi, there. I’m hoping you can explain how exactly you coordinate the National Guard deployment and movement in and around Washington with those of various federal law enforcement agencies. Is it you who communicates the orders for them and how does that work?
William Barr: (55:08)
No, well, it largely depends who they’re supporting at that time. Some of the National Guard were supporting the Metropolitan Police Department, and some of them would be out beyond the White House perimeter working the streets with MPD, so they would be tactically attached there. Others, we asked the National Guard to protect federal monuments, and so a number of the units, maybe even, I won’t speculate it at a majority, but a lot of the units were dispersed around the city to protect federal monuments or particular federal facilities.
William Barr: (55:58)
Those that were within the White House area and were part of protecting the White House and Lafayette park area, were under the direction of the tactical commanders in that area. But in terms of requesting the resources and asking for their assistance, that was ultimately my responsibility of ensuring that the National Guard that we needed to support law enforcement and support the district were brought to bear.
William Barr: (56:34)
Speaker 4: (56:34)
Yes, sir. Our next question comes from Katie Benner with the New York Times. Please go ahead.
Katie Benner: (56:43)
Hi, Mr. Attorney General. Thank you so much for doing this press conference. I have two questions, but the most important is probably I’d like to ask you about your thoughts on police abuse of power. Last year at a law enforcement conference, you said that such abuse reflected bad apples more than systemic breakdowns, but today you said George Floyd’s death is not the first of its kind. While the vast majority of officers do their jobs bravely and righteously, it’s undeniable that many African Americans lack confidence in the criminal justice system. So has your thinking on whether we’re looking at a systemic issue or not shifted over time?
William Barr: (57:17)
No, my views haven’t shifted recently. And what you quoted I think is consistent. And you were addressing the use of excessive force. Is that right, Katie? Is that what you were addressing or are you, were you talking about-
Katie Benner: (57:33)
Yes, excessive force, police abuse, yeah.
William Barr: (57:37)
Yeah. I do think that those who engage in excessive force that involves … Remember, federal civil rights laws address willful use of excessive force, and those that engage in that kind of activity, I think are a distinct minority. And I think the overwhelming number of police officers try conscientiously to use appropriate and reasonable force.
Speaker 4: (58:16)
And then my second question was just, it seems that we’re ratcheting up in the district the tools and the power of the federal response, giving DEA, BOP, for example, the power to make arrests. I’m wondering why that’s happening now, because it seems that the streets have been relatively calm, and there’s no curfew tonight. And I think that decision was made by the mayor because she has confidence that we’ve sort of returned to order.
William Barr: (58:40)
Well, actually, after assessing the situation last night toward the end of the evening, that is late in, or maybe early in the morning, I felt that we could afford to collapse our perimeter and eliminate some of the checkpoints and so forth and take a little bit of a more low-profile footprint for a couple of reasons.
William Barr: (59:13)
Number one, I think that we have seen, a sharp reduction in violent episodes and peaceful demonstrations, and our hope and expectation is that those will continue. And also because we now have on hand sufficient resources, we feel, to deal with that contingency if violence increases. So I do think that over the weekend, and certainly at the beginning of this week, we had a phenomenon around the country with a number of cities getting extremely violent. A lot of officers have been hurt around the country, a lot of victims, a lot of property damage. And as I said on Sunday, it was probably the peak of violence in DC. And on Monday, we were still facing very large demonstrations that were belligerent and throwing projectiles, although the evening ultimately ended more peaceably.
William Barr: (01:00:25)
As I told the governors on Monday, it’s very important to use sufficient forces, law enforcement, to establish law and order in a city when you have riots running. If you use insufficient resources, it’s dangerous for everybody. It’s dangerous for the officers. It’s dangerous for the protestors. It’s dangerous for the population because things can easily get out of control and you lose control of events. That’s what riots are. And the way to address it is to make sure the resources are there and that people understand the resources are there to deal with that kind of violence. And I think once that occurred, it provided an environment where things could quiet down and they did quiet down and hopefully they will stay quieted down.
William Barr: (01:01:20)
Next … Okay. I think that was it. I appreciate everyone’s attendance. And I, again, want to appreciate the hard work done by all the men and women in the Department of Justice and the Justice Department components and their leaders. Thank you.
Speaker 4: (01:01:38)
Thank you all for attending today’s presentation.