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As riots, vandalism and even all out autonomous zones, combined with calls to defund the police, we sit down with the nation's top cop, Attorney General William Barr. This is verdict with Ted Cruz.
Welcome back to Verdict with Ted Cruz. I'm Michael Knowles. We will get to the attorney general in just one second. But first, I want to thank all of you who have listened and watched the show. We've now hit over 10 million views. That is more than I think we thought was going to happen. So thank you so much. If you haven't already, please go over to Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts, leave a five star review and subscribe.
Now, we're in a new location today, not our usual studio. Senator, you have brought a friend. Thank you, Mr. Attorney General, for being here. You know, the news broke just moments ago that you will testify before the House Judiciary Committee next month. So we are honored that you would sit down with us first and very much appreciate it. I want to get right into this. Obviously, there's so much going on. And it occurs to me we have a man who writes the laws.
We have the man who enforces the laws, and we have popular calls for utter lawlessness in the country. How do we restore order? Well, it's going to it's going to take both state and local government as well as federal government, the federal government is best positioned to address this kind of violence and lawlessness after it occurs because we don't have FBI agents walking the beat. And in fact, when when the real violence started around May 25th, 6:00 and so forth, we started using our joint terrorist task forces around the country and there 35 them around the country.
It involves all state and local in those jurisdictions and all the federal agencies. And it's the system we designed to follow terrorists. And now they are starting to go full bore, cranking out investigations, indictments against the people who were involved in this violence. So we've had scores of indictments already from for such things as arson and destruction of federal property, things like that. And we have right now about 500 investigations underway. So it's picking up pace and we are committed to holding accountable the people who engaged in this.
But we still have to try to stop it before it happens. And that's where the burden is right now on state and local. And in many places, they're not stepping up to the plate. They're they're not doing their job. So I know it's early, but but how much indications are you all saying of coordination and planning rather than spontaneous acts of violence? Right. We are we are seeing strong evidence of coordination in many of these violent episodes.
Fundamentally, what you have here is you have demonstrators, some of them go there with the intent of demonstrating, but you have a group of provocateurs and agitators, sometimes a significant group that try to convert those into violent activity. And they seem to be very well coordinated when they show up a number of men associated with the movement called Hand Tifa, but they go by various names, but frequently anarchistic. They want to tear down the country. The they're different than many traditional groups.
And frequently the signs of coordination and activity are very close to the event itself. Like the morning of or the day before. And things are very fast moving. But we definitely see signs out on the street of communication, of organization, of preplanning, prepositioning of things.
So it's definitely organized act and will if if you're calling in the terrorism task force, that means presumably that we're dealing with terrorism here. I know the president came out and said just a couple of days ago that this will not be tolerated on federal land. You cannot destroy federal property, and he's authorizing the government to go and hold people accountable. What will this mean in terms of a change of policy or an acceleration of a policy that was already in place?
Well, that's not it.
It's not a change in policy in the sense that we've always had the obligation as the federal government to protect federal facilities and federal landmarks and monuments and so forth. But now because in some places the local police are not doing an adequate job, we're going to have to step up the federal effort to do that. And there are two aspects to it. Obviously, we're going to prosecute right now. All the videos involved in the attack on the president, Jackson's statute are being carefully reviewed.
And we will go after people.
So if you attack a monument on federal property, you're going to get prosecuted. That's right. But we all here. But we're also going and the criminal statute has has serious jail time. I know that. 10 years and years. Yes. And the other thing is we have to do a better job of trying to stop these groups when they before they are able to do damage to these monuments. And that's fine to punish them afterward.
But I think a lot of us would like the statues to remain up. Right.
Well, and we're seeing a lot of local, whether it's mayors or police departments or governors that may agree with the political agenda of the rioters standing by and allowing them to destroy, tear down monuments they don't like. And and, you know, it started with with Confederate war generals. But now now they're tearing down or defacing Ulysses Grant. They're they're defacing Abraham Lincoln because, you know, Lincoln was it was a Confederate famously. They're going after Saint Junipero.
Serra and surveillant. Is it? It's it's it's anarchy is what it is. And it's, you know, from people who were very ignorant, don't care about history at all. I imagine they looked at U.S. grant statue, didn't know who he really was, wasn't sure what side he was on. But, of course, the bald guy with. Buried he's got to be bad, is a terrible guy. He was a great Republican president who did more for advancing the right of African-Americans in this country probably than any single president.
He crushed the Ku Klux Klan, came down to crush the Klan. Yeah. And I expect the protesters attacking him have no idea of that and don't care. But guess what, Ted?
He used federal troops to do it. He brought out the regular army. He brought out the regular army to protect the right way. Freeman. And he did that before something called the Civil War. Kind of a whole lot of federal troops. It's important role in that one, too. You know, on this point of enforcing the law and going after these, these people were causing violence. The place that the president announced this policy was, as one might expect on Twitter and then Twitter censored the president's tweet.
So the president said we are going to enforce the law against people committing crimes. And Twitter said this violated the policy. I know, Senator, you have been talking about this kind of thing for years. At this point, I think it ties into another question. People are asking if the DOJ. What are we going to do about abuses at big technology companies?
Well, there's sort of a couple of lines being pursued.
You know, we have antitrust investigation of all the major Internet platforms or most of the major Internet platforms, and that's very much underway. I expect to be making decisions in the next few weeks about actions on that. So I think during the summer we'll see some developments. But this issue of censorship is is very troubling because our country was based in the framers, as you know, believed in the thing that would ultimately keep us free and keep a majority from repressing a minority is a lot of diversity of voices out there in a robust marketplace.
But these behemoths have gotten vast, you know, strong control over the expression of views and then public forum here in the United States. And they got there and I've said this is the biggest bait and switch in history. They got there by saying, hey, we're gonna be open to all views, you know, come join us because then you can have your views. So they built up this powerful network, very strong market power based on them, based on the representation that they were sort of open to all as a sort of a bulletin board.
But then when they got that market power, now they're censoring views just like the example you gave. And they're now censoring views. And they're. And so we're we're getting increasing increasingly monolithic viewpoints being presented to the American people rather than the kind of robust debate. So one thing we're doing there. His were saying that rule 230, which is a rule that gave immunity to companies for taking down taking down nothings and didn't therefore convert them into a publisher where they'd be responsible for everything that appears on the on their site.
We want to modify that so that they have to have clear terms of service. They have to show that what they took down reasonably had reasonable grounds for saying it violated their terms of service. And they have to give notice and process to peoples whose content they take down. That's one of the things that we're proposing. This is perfectly reasonable to me.
And yet, Senator, I know when you've brought up rule two, 30 people have harangued you for it and said this is absolutely not the right way to go and just leave Twitter alone and leave Google alone and let them control the flow of information on the Internet. Well, look, there's there's good news on this and that. I think there's a growing and even bipartisan frustration with big tech that you've got a handful of Silicon Valley billionaires that that are the new colossus.
And and and they are they behave as if they're untouchable. And Leslie used the Twitter example from this week. You don't have to go back very far. So the president of the United States sent out a tweet that if violent anarchists try to set up a lawless autonomous zone in Washington, D.C., that law enforcement will stop them. Twitter blocked that tweet. Yeah. Yeah. And said it was abusive for the president to say we're not going to let violent anarchists take over our capital.
And and this is you know, I assume, you know, you've got a Silicon Valley billionaire on his yacht saying, no, no. Silence, little one. And by the way, if they have the right to do that, you know, if they could silence the president, if they can silence media outlets. What hope does an ordinary citizen have? They look to the president, at least has a pretty big megaphone. Even if they do silence him, true, he doesn't have difficulty being heard.
How about the rest of us? And the absolute brazenness of it. Another example from this week, Google went after the Federalists, a conservative media outlet called them up and said, OK, our problem is actually not with your content. They said, we're going to demagnetize you.
Because there's some comments on your comment section that are objectionable, I don't if they identified the comment. So they're going to they're going to take this news organization off of the advertising platform, which the advertising is what allows the news organization to exist. If you kick them off, you're bankrupting the news. It is. It is doing exactly.
That is sucking the oxygen out. And, you know, a quick perusal of liberal Web sites show a bunch of them have comments, sites, and you can find all sorts of obnoxious and offensive comments on on the liberal Web sites. They're not imposing that on them. And here this is an interesting development, actually, for the DOJ investigation.
One place you find comments is YouTube. Now, YouTube is a wholly owned subsidiary of Google. It's an incredibly profitable subsidiary of Google. I guarantee you can go right now today on YouTube. Take a look at the comments and you will find racist. You will find profane. You will find offensive comments all over YouTube.
And that's just what they write to us. That's just what they say about us. Imagine all the other video.
And Google is not imposing those terms on its wholly owned YouTube, but is instead using it. This is where the censorship and free speech and issues intersect with antitrust laws because they're a monopoly power, imposing differential standards on their competitors than they are on their own wholly owned subsidiary. And also, just think of the hypocrisy, the point that these big companies are saying is, look, we shouldn't be held responsible for third party content on our Web site. So YouTube says if people say things that are defamatory on our Web site, we shouldn't be held accountable for that because it it's good to have this kind of forum for people to come in.
And yet when someone comes in on their Web site, they're saying the rules that we want applied to us don't apply to you. You're responsible for what's on your comments section.
Right. It's hard to have those both at the time. Of course. You know, Senator, you mentioned the autonomous zone before. Mr. Attorney General, I would like to ask you about that, but perhaps I should instead ask the secretary of state, because these zones in Seattle and in Washington, D.C., they've declared themselves fully autonomous, separate from the United States as a legal matter. How does the DOJ look at such a claim? Well, obviously, they're not separate from the United States.
They're a bunch of agitators who have planted themselves in the middle of Seattle and are bullying the people who live there and the businesses that are there. And the Seattle government is not protecting its people. It's not enforcing. It's not it's not protecting the federal rights of those citizens. Right.
And the police do not seem to be enforcing the law there. But, of course, this is another question that has come up on the show quite a bit. This matter of police reform, it's talked about from the question of police on the ground. I'd like to talk about it from a higher level, particularly in your role when people talk about corruption in the DOJ. I am reminded of your predecessor, Loretta Lynch, who sat on a tarmac with Bill Clinton three days before Hillary Clinton was going to speak to the FBI.
I am reminded of her predecessor, Eric Holder, who referred to himself as Barack Obama's wingman in 2013 while he was in office. I'm reminded of Loretta Lynch again, who wrote the description that James Comey used of Hillary Clinton's email server. How politicized was the DOJ before you got there? Well, I think there were many examples of political decisions, but I think one of the things that perplexed me about this is that we we we had one of the largest frauds and injustices in American history conducted during the 2016 election by the Justice Department and the FBI right in the center of it.
And that was turning the law enforcement, intelligence agencies of the government against an opponent's political campaign that, as far as I know, has never happened before. And it's one of the ultimate dangers in a democratic republic like ours. And the things that I've been criticized for generally are coming in and trying to get to the bottom of that and hold accountable the people that were involved.
I know. I know there was just a development on this over the past couple of days to in the case of Michael Flynn, Michael Flynn, who was entrapped when he was coming in as the national security adviser and the DOJ turned over. I believe it was exculpatory, to use the phrase of Flynn's lawyer memos from an anti Trump official named Peter Strock. Now, a judge has told the other judge to drop the case. Where does this all stand?
Well, we moved to to drop the prosecution of General Flynn because we had investigated that investigation and prosecutorial decision and we had determined and felt that there was strong indications and evidence that the decision to move against Flynn was not bonafied and that they didn't really have a basis for a counterintelligence investigation. And we just put out a dossier, filed a document in court yesterday that hasn't been seen before. They're handwritten notes of the January 5th meeting in the White House between the president, the vice president, James Comey, and others.
And in there call me in response to a question from President Obama. Seems to I mean, he says, according to the notes, that the calls between Flynn and Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, appeared legitimate. So just a few days later, they became the basis of a counterintelligence investigation. These were Peter structure. Yes. Who was an FBI, who was an FBI counterintelligence agent running. So he's admitting it. It appears legitimate. And then all of a sudden we're being told it isn't legitimate and he's got to be prosecuted.
The notes also indicate that it was Vice President Joe Biden who suggested the Logan Act could be used to target General Flynn.
Well, what the notes show is that the vice president raised the Logan Act in connection, it appears, with the calls made by Flynn the Kislyak. Which is a ridiculously unconstitutional statute. I'm no expert, but it certainly seems unconstitutional to me on. Under which no one has been convicted by the Department of Justice. And it purports to prohibit anyone from conducting foreign policy. I promise you. John Kerry today is violating the Logan Act. He's talking to the Iranians or to somebody because John Kerry does that every day, trying to undermine the administration's foreign policy.
And you know what? John Kerry is an American citizen, has every right to do it. And the fact that Biden and Obama were willing and DOJ and the intelligence agencies were willing to go along with it to weaponize law enforcement after Donald Trump had been elected to go after the next president, I think is absolutely scandalous. It is an abuse of power at at a level that I think makes Richard Nixon's abuses and Watergate pale by comparison. And I got to say, Bill.
The job you've done is AJ. To simply be willing to speak the truth, to bring transparency to what happened. Has been historic. And you've done it knowing that the entire world would descend upon you, that you would be politically targeted, that you'd be vilified, that the media would go after you, that the political process would go after you. And I got say, I'm I'm you know, there's a. Popular video on the Internet. Of the honey badger.
I got to say, you had been the honey badger. Thank you. Thank you. And to be clear and end this, you know, because everyone gets this wrong. You have not been a Republican attorney general. I don't want a Republican attorney general. You had been an attorney general dedicated to following the law and in particular reopening some of these prosecutions, going back and looking at and bringing in U.S. attorneys to say, let's go assess what happened here.
How did General Flynn get targeted? What was the basis for it? I think it is incredibly important. And I have to say, I was telling your staff right before we started, you know, they were sort of commenting how were you know, they're coming after us on every front.
And I just said, listen, take that as a compliment. Doing the right thing has a price. And and the job you have done as attorney general is inspiration flat out.
I think it's important.
Thank you, Ted. That's it's real important to me that you said that. You know, and one of the stunning things, and I'm sure I'm sure you'll agree, is that the media just went hell bent for leather on pushing this Russia gate story, that Trump was essentially a agent of Russia and they were merciless. And up until recently, you had former senior government officials sort of talking knowingly about how the president was going to be indicted and so forth and so on to hear any of it.
Is there anyone standing up now and saying that President Trump is an agent of a foreign power? No. Whoops. They got it wrong. And you wouldn't know that yet because there's been no retraction. There's been no readjustment by the media or all the people who've been pushing this story. They're acting. They're you know, they're just on to the next full scandal because their purpose seems to be to cripple this administration and drive it from office at any cost.
It's just sort of gone down the memory hole. We've completely forgotten about it. I, I do want to get back in a moment to all of the top important questions of state. But, Senator, you've brought up something that I think a lot of people are curious about. I certainly am. What am I supposed to call you? Is it is it Mr. Attorney General? Is it General Barr? Is it Honey Badger? What is the proper term to refer to the attorney general, the United States?
Well, people say attorney general, but it's also in the United States. We also use general to refer to the attorney general. But that actually is a mistake. I like it. And I think we should still keep this. But it's actually from the Norman French, which was attorney general, which was then carried over to England by the Normans, and they referred to attorney generals, something general and generals, the adjective men, general, attorney, the general, attorney, like the general counsel.
And we we just use the term general. But every other English speaking country to refer to the attorney general says attorney. So the form of the form of address in Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Canada is attorney. The form of address in the United States is JEMB General. So the plural is a mistake based on a mistake. Unfortunate. I don't like it sounds very powerful. And I would add that the plural is attorneys general. Right? Honeys badger but has not yet put it on well.
And I'll tell you a funny story. So the first time I met Bill was it was 25 years ago and I was a law clerk for then Judge Mike Ludic and Ludic at the time was 41, was the strongest conservative appellate judge in the country and was an incredible friend and mentor. But Ludic had been Bill's deputy at the Department of Justice, and the year I was clerking was Luke's fifth year on the bench. And so we organized a party, a black tie party, to celebrate five years on the bench.
And in addition to former law clerks, we invited people who'd been important in lootings life. And so Scalia was there. Justice Thomas was there. And Bill was there. So that was the first time I met met him. And Judge Ludic, tell stories. You work about 18 hours a day when you clerked for Judge. But at least six of those hours are just listening to stories. And so you hear lots of stories. But one of the stories I remember hearing is, is when so Bill was the head of the Office of Legal Counsel, truly a storied office of the Department of Justice.
Antonin Scalia was also head of L.L.C.. William Rehnquist was head of L.L.C.. So he continued it, a grand tradition, and then he got promoted to deputy attorney general and that attorney general and Ludic told the story of one day in the AG's office. There was, I guess, an Army helmet in there.
I don't know why, but he described Bill putting the Army helmet on and going out to his balcony and saying, I'm a general, I'm survey, actually.
So is that true? Is that. Well, what happened was Attorney General Thornburgh had to leave town and he made me acting attorney general because I was assistant attorney and being made me acting attorney general. And I put the helmet on. I took binoculars and I went out on the balcony and ludic comes out. What are you doing? And I said, I'm looking for injustice. Now, you might not need those very strong binoculars. Half the population will, you know, say, oh, you know what?
We have we tried to keep a sense of humor there in the Department of Justice.
So I will say, so what? When I was solicitor general of Texas, it follows the same same history where when either of us argue the Supreme Court, the justices will refer to use General Bar five and a half years.
I was S.G. in Texas. I begged Heidi just wants to call me General, please.
Come on a come on, do it for me. It did. And that never once. It's like, you know, this story, too. I mean, it occurs to me when you say you were in the office of the attorney general. This was a while ago. This was not just a couple of years ago.
It was 30 years, 30 years ago. You were.
So he was 41 years old. Wow. Bill is only the second person in U.S. history to be attorney general twice.
Right. John Crittendon was the first US more than a century ago, so I'd be interested, Bill, how is it different?
You're 40, want a young man your age, and then you come back. The world's changed a lot.
How is how is this job different? How is DOJ different?
So I would sum it up by saying things on the outside, move much faster and things on the inside move slower. And that's a bad combination. It's more difficult and we have a much different political environment. So, you know, an attorney general last time, we didn't really had we had really no Internet. Our cell phones were like World War Two walkie talkies and my detail had one. And that's my only access. So that's the world we lived in and move with.
The news moved slowly. It was like The New York Times is working articles coming out next week. So now it's everything is instantaneous, obviously. So the world moves much faster inside. The department, I think is slower because I think the laws are more complicated. People are have to dot all the I's and cross all the Ts and there are more rules have been put into effect that can hold prosecutors in jeopardy if they make a mistake. So things move a lot slower in the department and you don't really have many people on the other side, you know, who are willing to work with you on even even when they know that the merits are on your side.
And they would do good for the American people and help law enforcement. They're no longer willing to work. There are few, but not many.
So this leads to one last question on this exact point before we go. You did the job before you got all the glory. You've been there, done that. All that could be left for you to do. Are the headaches, are the difficulties. And as you've said, the world has gotten so much so much faster and more tense. Why come back and do the job again?
Because I didn't want to. And I and I resisted it for a long time and I suggested other people. But at the end of the day, I saw the department being used as a political weapon in our system. And I thought that that was injurious to the rule of law and injuries to our important institutions in our country. And I thought there was a kind of that this idea of resisting a duly elected president of the United States and using every device to to impair his administration was was disastrous.
And I thought that he needed an attorney general at that point, and I agreed to do it.
Well, and the one of the things that I think you have brought to this job is you have an understanding of the legal authority that the Department of Justice has the obligation to follow the law. One of the latest attacks coming at you is, is the firing of Jeffrey Bertman, U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York. Now, all 93 U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president. The president can dismiss any of them, but some voices on Capitol Hill are reacting as if it is an astonishing thing to ask the U.S. attorney to step down.
So I'm I'm curious, what what why did why did you fire Geoffrey Burb? Well, in that particular situation, it wasn't really a move against Jeffrey Berman or be, you know, to get rid of Jeffrey Berman. It was really that the president had not nominated his own attorney general for that position. Mr. Berman had been appointed by the court under a particular provision of Satchu. So how does that work? How does a court appointed. That's unusual.
Yeah. So there are certain situations where if if you're there's a vacancy in the office and there's no one who has been yet confirmed by the Senate, you can be approved and put in place by the court until someone is confirmed by the Senate. And sometimes they're put in by the court. And then there's no. The administration doesn't even proceed with the nominee and they can stay in for a while.
But the president explicitly has removal authority over all U.S. attorneys. U.S. attorneys are assisting the president enforce the law. Seeing that the laws are faithfully executed. So they are agents of the president in that respect constitutionally. And so in this particular case, there is a very attractive candidate, a very prominent and distinguished lawyer from New York, from one of the greatest law firms in the world and well-known in New York. And he had just he was the chairman of the Securities Exchange Commission.
And as you know, securities are really important up in New York. And we thought he would make a great U.S. attorney up there. So we can actually initially you'd plan to offer Berman another position in the administration. Yes, we did. We did. But he didn't want to leave that post. But I got to say, the letter he wrote I thought was extraordinary. He refused to step down. Basically, it was a letter.
And I don't want to drag you into this, but it was a level of defiance that the instant you read that letter saying, I'm not going anywhere. It sets off all sorts of warning bells of someone who has their own agenda, an ax to grind.
I hate it. Which is why it has become a cause celeb. And so I want to ask you to comment to that.
But I'll say that and I'll agree with that. Mr. Attorney General, I am very grateful that you came in to do the job a second time. And I'm very grateful that you came down to speak with us. But we have to let you get back to work. Thank you for being here. Senator, I will see you very shortly. I'm Michael Knowles. This is verdict with Ted Cruz.