Attorney general William Barr stands accused of directing violence against peaceful protesters, and pushing Trump’s unhinged conspiracy theories
In a rare wave of accountability for police brutality in the United States in recent weeks, four police officers were arrested in Minneapolis, a police chief was fired in Louisville, and officers were charged with felony assault in Atlanta, Buffalo and New York City.
Barr stands accused of directing violence against peaceful demonstrators outside the White House earlier this month, and with peddling a conspiracy theory advanced by Donald Trump in an attempt to smear protesters, who enjoy wide public support.
Now the top law enforcement official in the country, the attorney general, William Barr, is facing an internal crisis of confidence and growing calls for his own resignation.
In the first 16 months of his tenure, Barr caught criticism for compromising justice department independence with his seemingly lockstep defense of Trump, whether he was protecting the president from the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller or intervening in criminal cases against the former Trump aides Michael Flynn and Roger Stone.
But Barr’s critics now fear that he has taken a new step, of trying on a military hat as the president’s top lieutenant in the antagonistic posture the White House has taken against street protests that have sprung up after the killing of George Floyd, an African American man, in Minneapolis by white police officers.
Nearly 1,600 former justice department officials published an open letter to the department’s inspector general on Wednesday demanding an internal investigation of Barr’s actions in response to street protests.
The attorney general’s denial at the weekend that systemic racism was a problem in US law enforcement prompted new calls for his resignation.
“I think there’s racism in the United States still, but I don’t think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist,” Barr told CBS News’ Face the Nation. “And I would say, you know, the president, before any of this happened, was out in front on this issue.”
On no planet has Trump been “out in front” in the campaign against racist policing, said Kandace Montgomery, director of Black Visions, a Twin Cities-based activist organization.
“William Barr is a white man who is serving a racist administration, so of course he’s going to deny the fact that the current law enforcement system is systemically racist,” Montgomery said. “History and facts have proven otherwise. But we know how that administration feels about facts.”
While Barr does not credit the reality of systemic racism, he is an eager proponent of an elaborate conspiracy theory about the protests advanced by Trump, who tweeted this week that an elderly activist pushed to the ground by police in Buffalo, New York, “could be an antifa provocateur”.
None of 51 individuals facing federal charges in connection with protests in recent weeks has any alleged link to any such conspiracy, according to court documents reviewed by NPR.
Challenged on the hole in the “antifa” story, Barr told told Fox News on Monday that the relevant cases were still in process. “We have some investigations under way, very focused investigations on certain individuals that relate to antifa,” he said [ . . . ]
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