Defendant Barr’s Flip-Flops Finally Attract Press Attention

Bill Barr’s sloppy lying may finally be catching up to him.

The press should have stopped treating the Attorney General as credible after he obviously lied about the contents of the Mueller Report. But he continued to be accorded the courtesy of the office, through changing DOJ stories about his involvement in Trump’s effort to coerce a quid pro quo in Ukraine (and the impeachment that followed) and his cover stories to explain unprecedented interference in the prosecution of Trump flunkies.

But over the course of the last week, the press has gone from reporting anonymous DOJ scoops, to noting how later DOJ claims conflicted with that scoop, to outright debunking of Barr (even if they’re not yet treating him as the consistent liar they recognize Trump to be).

On Tuesday, WaPo had a scoop citing an anonymous DOJ official stating that Barr personally ordered the attack on protestors, perhaps an effort to shift the focus from Trump.

Attorney General William P. Barr personally ordered law enforcement officials to clear the streets around Lafayette Square just before President Trump spoke Monday, a Justice Department official said, a directive that prompted a show of aggression against a crowd of largely peaceful protesters, drawing widespread condemnation.

The claim took the heat off of President Trump.

In a presser on Thursday, Barr offered a more elaborate explanation. He claimed he made the decision to move the perimeter around the White House on Trump’s orders — to protect the White House from protestors — before the arrival of protestors on Monday.

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.

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.

In the same presser, he claimed that he saw “instigators” before the move to push them back, thereby claiming both advance planning but also an imminent threat.

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.

On Friday, however, Barr started backing away from responsibility. That day, the AP reported that Barr had not given the tactical move to attack the protestors. Instead, some unnamed person who could not be directly tied to a Barr (and therefore a Trump) command did that.

On Friday, Barr told the AP that both he and U.S. Park Police were in agreement on the need to push back the security perimeter. He said he attended a meeting around 2 p.m. Monday with several other law enforcement officials, including Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham, where they looked at a map and decided on a dividing line. Under the plan, the protesters would be moved away from Lafayette Park and federal law enforcement officials and members of the National Guard would maintain the perimeter line, Barr said.


Barr said it was a Park Police tactical commander — an official he never spoke to — who gave the order for the law enforcement agencies to move in and clear the protesters.

“I’m not involved in giving tactical commands like that,” he said. “I was frustrated and I was also worried that as the crowd grew, it was going to be harder and harder to do. So my attitude was get it done, but I didn’t say, ‘Go do it.’”

Barr insisted there was no connection between the heavy-handed crackdown on the protesters and Trump’s walk soon after to St. John’s Church.

Finally, on Sunday, Margaret Brennan interviewed Barr on Face the Nation, one of the first times during this tenure as AG Barr has sat for an interview with someone who was neither (like Pete Williams or Pierre Thomas) someone he knew from the Poppy days, nor (like Catherine Herridge) a right wing stenographer. Brennan challenged a lot of these inconsistencies, leading to Barr to make a comment — that pepper balls are not tear gas — that has been widely mocked since.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about some of the events of the week. On Monday, Lafayette Park was cleared of protesters. You’ve spoken about this. The federal agents who were there report up to you. Did you think it was appropriate for them to use smoke bombs, tear gas, pepper balls, projectiles at what appeared to be peaceful protesters?

BARR: They were not peaceful protesters. And that’s one of the big lies that the- the media is- seems to be perpetuating at this point.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Three of my CBS colleagues were there. We talked to them.

BARR: Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: They did not hear warnings. They did not see protesters–

BARR: There were three warnings.

MARGARET BRENNAN:–throwing anything.

BARR: There were three warnings given. But let’s get back to why we took that action. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, OK, there were violent riots in- at Lafayette Park where the park police were under constant attack at the- behind their bike rack fences. On Sunday, things reached a crescendo. The officers were pummeled with bricks. Crowbars were used to pry up the pavers at the park and they were hurled at police. There were fires set in not only St. John’s Church, but a historic building at Lafayette was burned down.

MARGARET BRENNAN: These were things that looters did.

BARR: Not looters, these were- these were the- the violent rioters who were- dominated Lafayette Park.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But what I’m asking about–

BARR: They broke into the Treasury Department,–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –on Monday when it was a peaceful protest.

BARR: I’m going to- let me get to this, because this has been totally obscured by the media. They broke into the Treasury Department, and they were injuring police. That night,–


BARR: Sunday night, the park police prepared a plan to clear H Street and put a- a larger perimeter around the White House so they could build a more permanent fence on Lafayette.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This is something you approved on Sunday night?

BARR: No. The park police on their own on- on Sunday night determined this was the proper approach. When I came in Monday, it was clear to me that we did have to increase the perimeter on that side of Lafayette Park and push it out one block. That decision was made by me in the morning. It was communicated to all the police agencies, including the Metropolitan Police at 2:00 p.m. that day. The effort was to move the perimeter one block, and it had to be done when we had enough people in place to achieve that. And that decision, as I say, was communicated to the police at 2:00 p.m.. The operation was run by the park police. The park police was facing what they considered to be a very rowdy and non-compliant crowd. And there were projectiles being hurled at the police. And at that point, it was not to respond–

MARGARET BRENNAN: On Monday, you’re saying there were projectiles–

BARR: On Monday, yes there were.

MARGARET BRENNAN: As I’m saying, three of my colleagues were there.

BARR: Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: They did not see projectiles being thrown–

BARR: I was there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: –when that happened.

BARR: I was there. They were thrown. I saw them thrown.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you believe that what the police did using tear gas and projectiles was appropriate?

BARR: Here’s- here’s what the media is missing. This was not an operation to respond to that particular crowd. It was an operation to move the perimeter one block.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And the methods they used you think were appropriate, is that what you’re saying?

BARR: When they met resistance, yes. They announced three times. They didn’t move. By the way, there was no tear gas used. The tear gas was used Sunday when they had to clear H Street to allow the fire department to come in to save St. John’s Church. That’s when tear gas was used.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There were chemical irritants the park police has said–

BARR: No, there were not chemical irritants. Pepper spray is not a chemical irritant.

It’s not chemical.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Pepper spray, you’re saying is what was used–

BARR: Pepper balls. Pepper balls.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, and you believe that was appropriate. What I want to show you is what a lot of people at home who were watching this on television saw and their perception of events. So while the president says that he appreciates peaceful protest, around the same time, this crowd–

BARR: Well, six minutes- six minutes difference–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, around same time the area is being cleared of what appear to be peaceful protesters using some force. And after the speech is finished, the president walks out of the White House to the same area where the protesters had been and stands for photo op in front of the church where the protesters had been. These events look very connected to people at home. In an environment where the broader debate is about heavy handed use of force in law enforcement, was that the right message for Americans to be receiving?

Along the way, however, Barr’s explanation got more and more inconsistent.

What started out as an apparent effort to shield the President from direct responsibility for attacking protestors to clear way for his photo op became, by the end of the week, an effort to create a legal justification — protestors throwing things — while still distancing the time of the order from the photo op.

That’s a conflict Phil Bump highlighted in a particularly good job of shredding Barr’s statements, relying on an earlier detailed timeline he did. In addition to mocking Barr’s claim that pepper balls are not tear gas because they’re naturally occurring, Bump shows how Barr’s statements yesterday conflict with the justification for using tear gas.

“Here’s what the media is missing,” Barr said to Brennan on Sunday. “This was not an operation to respond to that particular crowd. It was an operation to move the perimeter one block.”

The problem with that framing is twofold.

First, it contradicts that same statement from the Park Police that serves as the backbone of the tear-gas defense. In that statement, the Park Police claim that protesters “began throwing projectiles including bricks, frozen water bottles and caustic liquids” at 6:33 p.m. This prompted the effort to clear the square to “curtail the violence that was underway.” There’s nothing about this being a planned operation.

What’s more, Barr himself made the claim to Brennan that the protesters were being violent at the time that the effort to remove them began.

“Three of my colleagues were there,” Brennan told him. “They did not see projectiles being thrown.”

“I was there,” Barr replied. “They were thrown. I saw them thrown.”

The timing of Barr’s visit is important, and we’ll get to it in a bit. But suffice it to say that video evidence from the period not only doesn’t back up the Park Police claim, it also doesn’t show Barr reacting to any such events.

It has been rare, possibly unprecedented, for the press to track Barr’s obvious lies this closely, even in the case of legal cases (like the Flynn prosecution) where Barr’s flip-flops are docketed.

I think a lot of things explain the unusual attention to Barr’s flip-flops. The assault on protestors and Trump’s tone-deaf photo op was so pathetic, the White House went into damage control. And because there were so many journalists at Lafayette Park, there were a slew of witnesses attesting to inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the official version of the story (starting with the Park Police’s flip-flops on the tear gas). Now, Barr is in a position of accusing three CBS reporters and at least one WaPo reporter, whose versions of this story differ dramatically from his own, of lying: His word against the reports of outside observers who have film to backup those reports.

But Barr’s changing excuses may also be partly explained by one other thing.

As noted, Barr’s first instinct seemed to be to distance the President from the order targeting peaceful protestors, and as he has repeatedly done, he took responsibilty (and Kayleigh McEnany happily gave him responsibility). But that created new problems: including why the Attorney General was ordering cops, many of them not within his chain of command, but more importantly, why Trump —  through orders given to Barr who executed those orders by issuing orders of his own — had responded to First Amendment protected activities with a violent assault.

The stakes of the answers to that question may have gone up with the filing of a lawsuit captioned, “Black Lives Matter v. Donald Trump:” Bill Barr is a named defendant.

Defendant William Barr is the Attorney General of the United States. He is sued in his individual and official capacity. He personally issued the order that resulted in the unlawful actions complained of in this lawsuit.


At approximately 6:08 pm, Defendant Barr entered Lafayette Square.

At 6:10 pm, Defendant Barr was behind the law enforcement officials in Lafayette Square pointing north towards St. John’s Church. The Department of Justice subsequently acknowledged that Defendant Barr personally ordered that Lafayette Square be cleared.

Let me be clear: because this suit focuses on Bivens complaints about the violation of Constitutional rights, it probably won’t succeed in terms of the damages requested. Recent proceedings have largely gutted Bivens.

But what the suit does do is trace a link between Barr’s actions and the complaints of the plaintiffs (who include a 9-year old boy, a Navy veteran, and a former Eagle Scout). It does so through some of the same details that Barr is now trying to obfuscate.

And what the lawsuit may do is force a way to make the events that Barr is trying to cover up public.

Barr’s lies are consistent with all his other lies. He makes broad claims to power — not authority — and then he keeps changing the story as needed to try to give his claims retroactive legal cover.

This time, he may be forced to do so in court.

Update: WaPo did an unbelievably detailed piece showing no evidence for Park Police claims of dangerous projectiles, and making evident how the clearance of the Square led to the photo op.

106 replies
  1. Rugger9 says:

    Of course, it also depends upon who is assigned the case, and the DC system has been getting packed by McConnell and DJT. If it’s one of the newbies, look for it to be summarily dismissed to avoid having any further inconvenient questions being asked. But, the court filings are a start to force things out into the open.

    However, the House still needs to approve DOJ’s budget IIRC and they can just defund AG Barr’s (apparently operating) riot slush fund and force McConnell to put it back in. That means hearings and Barr will have to sit through questions. He won’t answer them, but the TV will not look good nor will the press reports. The Ds like Swalwell, Lieu and others will hammer the inconsistencies in story lines as the coverup continues.

    • drouse says:

      Recent history suggests that defunding isn’t going to work. We’ll just get another national emergency and take funding away from actual constructive things to do it. Better to vote out articles of impeachment for Barr and make every republican stand up and defend him. If you want to make a stink in the middle of a hurricane, you better do more than just fart.

      • Rugger9 says:

        Impeachment for sure, and thanks for reminding us. This week’s nonsense ought to do it, and DJT can’t be happy about AG Barr saying he hid in the bunker (to excuse the use of force) on Faux with Baier.

        That’s on top of the DCC play for which I believe we get our answer this week.

  2. SteveL says:

    I had also wondered why the AG was involved in security. WaPo addressed this, saying:

    “Because of the District of Columbia’s special status and its dizzying mix of jurisdictions, the FBI field office had been selected to serve as a command post to coordinate the movements and functions of various security forces. Attorney General William Barr was in charge. That’s why Esper was headed there from the Pentagon on Monday afternoon when he got the call to go see Trump again.”

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The FBI has its HQ just down Pennsylvania Avenue, as J. Edgar might have directed, roughly half way between the White House and Capitol Hill. So, it doesn’t need the excuse of using its DC field office.

      Barr runs the DoJ, not the FBI. Although the FBI reports to the DoJ, it is run by someone else. Barr would ordinarily be expected to observe the chain of command.

      As EW points out, in a relative power vacuum – owing to Trump’s bizarre behavior – Barr, like Cheney nearly two decades earlier, is assuming the power to control rather than having the authority to control. Outside of his remit as AG, Barr’s authority is limited to acting as Trump’s ad hoc extra pair of tiny hands. His actions are deemed to be Trump’s actions. Naturally, Bill Barr is dong what he can to muddy the water so as to obscure that, to avoid accountability for either of them.

        • SaltinWound says:

          Haig is an example of someone who had a desire to be in charge and announced it like an idiot. He didn’t have Cheney, Addington, or Barr’s bureaucratic and legal tools.

  3. John K says:

    While Barr tap dances around the letter of the law, he simultaneously stomps on the spirit of the law.
    As U.S. Attorney General, his egregious behavior can be compared to the pope going on a month long bender with a squad of hookers. Speaking of which, I believe his theory of the unitary executive derives from his maximized Catholicism and the concept of papal infallibility. He views himself as this humble servant to a higher power that brooks no criticism and that forgives any means employed to achieve its divine ends.
    If only the rest of the world could see just how righteous Billy really is beneath all of his skullduggery.

    • Re entry says:

      Why didn’t/doesn’t Barr take his righteous pilgrimage somewhere else?

      He could serve his catholicism differently and retire pleased that he fed the poor and took out some trash for the pope during his time. But no, he hitches up with Donald Trump and lies.

      How to rationalize his motives is beyond me.

    • oldoilfieldhand says:

      Like all Tralfamadorians, Billy Barr has had intergalactic assimilation training to blend into the Earthlings’ culture. Although he possesses rudimentary skills in verbal communication; when scared, nervous or confronted by a more powerful intellect, Barr instinctively regresses to his native Tralfamadorian means of communicating… Blinking incessantly, Tap Dancing and Farting!

      Apologies for paraphrasing my favorite author when I was in college, back in the late 60s and early 70s, Kurt Vonnegut!

  4. BobCon says:

    By coincidence, I just a read a Twitter thread that has eerie resonances.

    It’s about a Burger King in Pittsburgh that lost its franchise rights and tried to continue operating without its legitimacy.

    At first nobody realized it, but bit by bit the supplies started running out, and they resorted to buying frozen burgers from the grocery store and serving drinks in generic cups.

    Eventually the press caught on and exposed the fraud, and corporate headquarters stepped in to administer Burger King justice.

    Here, Barr is running a rogue operation and the press is finally catching on about his “whoppers” although it’s unclear whether final flame broiled justice will be served on him.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      It’s not rogue – no more so than Dick Cheney’s in GWB’s White House – if Trump ratifies what Barr does. Barr will work hard to elicit that ratification by describing what he does in ways that appeal to Trump. That partially gets Barr off the hook, although the “following orders” schtick resonates badly and goes only so far in protecting him.

      Their lies are conjoined, as are their fates. Barr is by far the smarter of the two. He should have learned by now how unreliable Donald Trump is in a pinch.

      • BobCon says:

        Barr wishes Trump had the final say on everything he does, but the courts may disgree — if Trump goes, we may see some more courage at last.

        I’m skeptical about his risk of criminal or civil penalties, but I’m a bit more hopeful about a serious hit to his reputation. He’ll always have the right wing gravy train, but I think he may be shut out of the corporate board member/senior statesman role he probably would have liked to have in a couple of years.

  5. MB says:

    Media and wishy-washy politicians have given Trump way too much time and leeway for him to act “presidential” – something he’s only capable of for several seconds at a time, and then only after a “good” teleprompter session.

    Although there’s no good suffix to add to “attorney general” as “president” is to “presidential”, and the ghost of John Mitchell notwithstanding, Barr has yet to act “attorney-general-ish”, starting with his pack-of-lies testimony during his confirmation hearing, through his distortion of the Mueller report and now pepper-balls-aren’t-tear-gas. I’m surprised he didn’t try to appeal to liberals and progressives by stating that pepper balls are “organic” and therefore desirable.

    Dick Cheney and Billy Barr are human exemplars of Teddy Roosevelt’s “speak softly and carry a big stick” philosophy applied to their own twisted and cherished ideologies, and if the general public continues to be accepting of such softly-spoken liars, then the blizzard of lies continues apace, the goalposts for truth are moved once again and “normalization”, that dreaded concept warned about since 2016 takes place. I personally look forward to the day that no amount of squirming or “mendaciousness” or “uttering falsehoods” will offer sufficient cover for these power-mad people. If Trump refuses to attend the inauguration of Biden on 1/20/21, and has to be pulled out of the WH bunker by federal marshals, with a crowd of protesters surrounding the White House on that day, then so be it…

    • Dark Phoenix says:

      Bill Barr is the guy Republicans bring in after crimes are committed, to justify them and get everybody off without any punishment. That’s what he was used for in HW Bush’s Presidency, and that’s what he’s here to do in Donald’s Presidency.

  6. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    It has been rare, possibly unprecedented, for the press to track Barr’s obvious lies this closely, even in the case of legal cases (like the Flynn prosecution) where Barr’s flip-flops are docketed.

    As a result of this thread, I took the time to go read the press reports, and it’s heartwarming to see the quality of reporting: the specifics, the attention to detail, the refusal to believe Barr’s lies. Bump, explaining Barr’s mushiness about the definition of ‘chemicals’, was a reportorial gem. One might even say: ‘badass’ ;-)

    Every time Barr opens his mouth, I hear, ‘Out damn spot! Out!’ Evidently, Barr is not simply trying to ‘wash his hands’ because of COVID19… or Flynn. I can’t even imagine what this man ‘has had a hand in’, since the era when he helped cover up Iran-Contra.

  7. Jenny says:

    Thanks Marcy.
    The lack of responsibility, reliability and accountability creates flip floppers.

  8. GKJames says:

    “[W]e 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.” Really? From H Street to the White House fence is a good 500 feet, and to the front of the building itself another 300 feet. That’s one hell of an arm. More likely, this was always intended to be a show of force for the enjoyment of the faithful regardless what the crowd was / wasn’t doing, just as Barr’s after-the-fact rationales aren’t really intended to convince anyone .

  9. Nehoa says:

    Consider what happened earlier in the day last Monday. Trump had a call with Putin, then demands that 10,000 active military troops be sent into the city(ies?) which results in a big fight with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Did Putin put that thought into Trump’s mind? Would love to see call transcript.
    Also, Barr had already brought in thousands of non-DOD law enforcement officers to take control of as much of Washington DC as he could. Then bringing in NG from distant states and noting that the Old Guard and 82nd Airborne units were across the river. Barr was setting things up to take control of all of Washington DC, and was hoping that the military would at least remain quiet. The violence instigated Monday was intended to trigger an escalation into greater violence. That did not happen, and as the retired military leaders started speaking up, Esper got some backbone and pulled the DOD troops out, told the NG troops not to carry firearms, and schedule a return home. The fact that Trump has not fired Esper yet means that the brass are backing him up.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      I wonder if DT was thinking that pulling troops from Germany would enhance his domestic “human capital stock” needed to “dominate the battlespace” for his personal defense (Keith Schiller clones, so to speak.) Putin may have given him some tips during that call. Transcripts would be good. They seem to have interesting talks around the time of SPIEF. This year it was scheduled for June 3 – 6, 2020. But, allegedly, it was canceled due to Covid 19. I wonder if they did any Zoom meetings.

      “Trump move to take US troops out of Germany ‘a dangerous game’ | US military”| The Guardian, 6/8/20

      • Peterr says:

        Trump was angry that Angela Merkel refused to come to the G-8 meeting in June, and forced Trump to reschedule it for September. This is Trump’s reaction, in his typical middle school manner: “I’ll show her . . .”

    • FL Resister says:

      What about Trump’s call with Putin on Monday. I haven’t seen anything in the press about that particular strange move given the domestic circumstances at the time.
      Are they coordinating the on the “protest” and “crackdown?”
      Is this another call like the one Trump made with Putin before US planes bombed inside Syria?
      Inquiring minds really want to know the substance of exchanges between Trump and Putin. Doesn’t the CIA keep track of such things? Shouldn’t CongressIonal Intelligence Committees be able to access the call transcripts?
      Are these rhetorical questions?

  10. Peterr says:

    I’m sure there’s no truth to the rumor that Barr is talking to the US Army Corps of Engineers about tearing up 15th and 17th Streets between H Street and Constitution Avenue, as well as H and Constitution between 15th and 17th, to put in a moat around the White House, the EOB, Treasury, and Lafayette Park.

    I’m also sure there’s no truth to the other rumor that Barr is in talks with the National Zoo to put crocodiles, piranhas, and other meat-eating sea creatures in the moat.

    And there can’t possibly be any truth to the other other rumor that Barr has been consulting with the chair of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation board, to have their carpenters create several sets of wooden stocks, to be placed on the South Lawn of the White House in clear view of both the Oval Office and the Jim Brady Briefing Room, where petulant members of the press corps might be detained for His Majesty’s amusement.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      He would extend it up to K St., to include Lobbyists’ Row. That way he and they could visit each other without having to leave the compound. He might want to enclose a bit more: I think the nearest McDonald’s is at about 19th & M.

      El Presidente and his lobbyists would have a good view of the newly-renamed Trump Monument. Not as large as Trump himself, but a decent approximation. There would be plenty of room in President’s Park for the new stocks and scaffolds, and on the Mall for the designated fire pits.

      • posaune says:

        I thought the nearest Mickey D’s was on 17th across from the Renwick — at least that was the location when Bill Clinton was prez.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Oops, you’re right. I thought there was one closer, but couldn’t remember where. Next to Potbelly and across from the New Executive Office building. (I’m more familiar with Mackey’s, Kramer’s and Firehook, farther north.)

  11. pdaly says:

    Did the conversation with Barr get into the “show of force” helicopter flying low in DC that Monday night?

    A retired general, interviewed on TV later that week, flatly stated that only the highest level government official could override the tightly controlled/highly restricted airspace over that area that the helicopter flew. No National Park Service, local police service, or local National Guard and not even the FBI could order a violation of that airspace on their own.

    • Rayne says:

      I wondered who authorized that because of the No-Fly Zone over the White House, Capitol, and Pentagon.

      Which suggests not only did Donnie pitch a fucking tantrum when he demanded 10K troops to quell protests across the country — he ordered the helicopter to harass protesters about the same time.

      The question now is how the order got from Trump to the helicopter since Esper is now investigating this after he and Milley told Trump he couldn’t have troops.

    • harpie says:

      This NYT reporter at the scene says they were military Lakota and Blackhawk helicopters.
      10:03 PM · Jun 1, 2020

      But might they be DEA instead?
      [Trump] >> Barr >> Tim Shea
      6:55 PM · Jun 2, 2020

      SCOOP w/ @a_cormier_: DOJ granted DEA the authority to conduct “covert surveillance” & collect intel on people participating in protests over George Floyd’s death. We obtained the DEA memo written by Timothy Shea, DEA acting administrator & ex-US atty

      DEA was granted the authority on Sunday for the next two weeks on a nationwide basis to “intervene” to “protect both participants and spectators in the protests,” and to conduct interviews and searches, and arrest protesters who are alleged to have violated federal law. [MORE] [link to BuzzFeed]

      • Rayne says:

        Reaction from military and Mayor Bowser suggests military resources were deployed — probably attached to DC National Guard.

        DEA “covert surveillance” would be just that, more covert than a helicopter above the crowd. There’d also be an international shit storm if DEA had used any aircraft marked with Red Cross for covert ops. DEA is more likely the aircraft detected running loops over major cities where protests were held.

      • vvv says:

        FWIW, a link further down that tweet gives this:

        It’s a National Guard UH-60 and UH-72 Lakota
        ht tps://

        I seem to recall seeing a daylight pic outside the WH of a copter with a medical red cross logo on it.

    • madwand says:

      Actually this airspace is Prohibited, here is the FAA explanation from it’s website.

      P-56A & B are prohibited areas surrounding the White House, the National Mall, and the vice president’s residence in Washington, D.C.
      The only aircraft that are allowed to fly within these prohibited areas are specially authorized flights that are in direct support of the U.S. Secret Service, the Office of the President, or one of several government agencies with missions that require air support within P-56. These prohibited areas have been in effect for about 50 years.
      P-56A covers approximately the area west of the Lincoln Memorial (Rock Creek Park) to east of the Capitol (Stanton Square) and between Independence Avenue and K Street up to 18,000 feet.
      P-56B covers a small circle with a radius of about one nautical mile (about 1.2 statute miles) surrounding the Naval Observatory on Massachusetts Avenue up to 18,000 feet

      My guess is the President authorized the helicopters and it was implemented by the Secret Service through the providing military agency.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        For those less familiar with DC, P-56A is a generous rectangular zone, roughly centered on the White House, but comprising most of political, legal, and tourist NW DC (outside of G’town).

        The Naval Observatory, P-56B, is the VP’s official residence. It lies on the edge of G’town, in large circular parkland, between Wisconsin and Mass. Ave, about 1.5 miles NW of Dupont Circle and about three miles from the WH.

        As for who authorized the helo flights, I agree, it looks like another spastic “get it done” command from the Oval Office. That the aircrew were apparently immediately grounded suggests a conflict between the military and WH chains of command – or they were just thrown under the bus.

        The effects of the rotor wash suggest the aircraft was below 200′. It’s hard to understate how dangerous that is in a congested urban area. The debris, buildings, wires, etc., and the chaotic airflow bouncing off buildings make control difficult, and that’s assuming no mechanical problems or pilot error. It was a dangerous and unnecessary stunt.

        • oldoilfieldhand says:

          “assuming no mechanical problems”
          Private helicopters seldom fly at night due to the risks involved.
          I’ve logged many thousands of miles and hundreds of hours flying in helicopters to remote deepwater drilling vessels and have heard the retired and ex-military pilots and mechanics describe choppers as “ten thousand low-bid parts attempting to fly in a tight formation”.
          Thankfully there were no mechanical issues or pilot error.

          • madwand says:

            “Private helicopters seldom fly at night due to the risks involved.” Actually that depends on the market helicopters are flown in. Corporate and ENG will fly at night as will EMS which routinely flies at night. The Coast Guard flies in most weather situations to include night ops. The uniformed services also require pilots to maintain flight currency for night flying and so does the National Guard. It would be interesting to see if the pilots in the DC incident were night current.

            The issue with offshore oil was when were the deaths from helicopter operations occurring? The answer was mostly at night for a lot of factors to include impact dynamics, aircraft float deployments deployment of personal and group flotation devices, water egress, available rescue resources, temperature of the water, etc. While crew underwent annual water egress and survival training, clients normally did not. As a result around between 2003 and 2009 operators and clients started limiting night flying offshore for non-essential flights such as normal rotation of personnel, but emergency flights were maintained.

            The “flying in close formation” comment is a pilot canard meant to make oldoilfieldhands smile.

            • oldoilfieldhand says:

              Forty two years flying offshore all over the world, every 28 days, and I didn’t learn everything about helicopters. Fortunately for me senility isn’t painful!
              I remember telling a chopper pilot flying into Luanda, Angola from the drillship Robert F. Bauer, back in 1981, that hydraulic fluid was dripping through a seam in the insulation on the cabin ceiling. He handed me a metal Folgers coffee can and said “Catch it please, we don’t have a lot to spare”.

              • madwand says:

                Which means your pilot already knew about it up in the cockpit. Some of em fly real well without hydraulics, some have dual hydraulics, great in a hydraulic failure, some fly like a rock with a complete hydraulic failure, glad you were on one of the other two.

              • Eureka says:

                I love these stories, oldoilfieldhand, and am highly bemused by this subthread w/madwand.

                Also, shout out to the *metal* coffee can; they were so useful.

  12. Ginevra diBenci says:

    “So my attitude was get it done, but I didn’t say ‘Go do it.'”
    General Barr did not give that order. His attitude did. General Barr bears no personal responsibility for that order.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Mickey Cohen said it a long time ago. Trump doesn’t have to say, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” (Not that Trump has anything in common with Henry II, except his wish to be an all powerful ruler.) Trump’s lieutenants know what to do – and how he wants it done – without being asked. That’s why they were chosen and why they remain – at least until the next conveniently timed bus comes along.

      • Peterr says:

        That’s what former Secretary of the Navy Modly thought when he decided to quickly get rid of Captain Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. He justified it with a comment on the order of “Trump didn’t tell me to fire him – I knew what he wanted and did it before he had to raise the subject.”

      • posaune says:

        Remember Michael Cohen’s testimony at the House Oversight Committee – Rep Jim Cooper (TN):

        Cooper: Have you seen Mr. Trump personally threaten people with physical harm?
        Cohen: No. He would use others.
        Cooper: He would hire other people to do that?
        Cohen: No, they were already working there.

  13. Duke says:

    If you know Cub’s History use the melody when you read: Hey, Hey! holy Mackerel! NO DOUBT ABOUT IT! The law abiders are going to win someday.

    Just not while the white supremacists rule. There was s no place for racism In USA, unless the constitution is subverted and destroyed by by Trump, et al.

    Don’t listen to me, though. My mother asked me if I put my Faith in Satan all because She actually believes Donnie is appointed by Gawd.

    American Taliban, or more commonly known as ev(il)angelicals have struck at home.

    Another family succumbs to the snake oil massage of Gawd before love.

    Love yourself, love your family, love your neighbors, love your fellow man and the world is a better place. Hate will destroy it all.

    WishIng everyone well.

  14. CD54 says:

    Geez, who could expect any reporter to remember all the way back to two months ago?

    “These circumstances generally, and Attorney General Barr’s lack of candor specifically, call into question Attorney General Barr’s credibility” . . .Walton added.

  15. rosalind says:

    if Barr is being quoted acurately, he just publicly contradicted Trump’s “story” he went to inspect the bunker, saying on Fox news “Things were so bad that the Secret Service recommended the president go down to the bunker.”


  16. Rugger9 says:

    OT, and I am a little surprised that it is happening already because Ivanka is not going to be pleased (or, is she?). It seems Vanity Fair is publishing that Jared is next up for the bus along with Brad Parscale because of the wretched polling numbers (down 13, apparently). So, that’s what it took, not complete and chronic incompetence in everything he touched (the “Source of All Bad Ideas”, or SABI was rumored to be his WH nickname). It’s the price of being too close to power and too arrogant when wielding it next to a jealous monarch-wannabe.

    DKos has other interesting links to some other GOPers happy to see Jared go:

    Dougie Feith ought to be happy he’s no longer the “Stupidest F*%^$ing Guy on Earth”.

  17. Nehoa says:

    WaPo has a great timeline video on what happened last week Monday evening at Lafayette Square. Further evidence of Barr’s BS. Sorry I dont know how to link properly. Top of their webpage.

  18. John Paul Jones says:

    Politico had an interesting piece on Billy Barr’s attendance at a protest at Columbia in 1968, which is apparently a story he’s been repeating for years, and which turns out, in some respects, to have a pretty narrow factual basis, so to speak. In short, they make him sound like a bit of a fantasist. Note that at that protest too, it was alleged that some people were tossing chemicals in Billy’s direction, ammonia, supposedly at Columbia, bleach, supposedly, in Washington. Barr’s defense/description of the protesters is eerily similar to the defense/descriptions quoted from him about that earlier protest, as if he’s simply repeating a script that he’s gone over so many times in the last 60 years that it has become his model protest narrative, and the facts be damned. I doubt that he realizes how weak and unreflective it makes him seem, how it paints him as almost completely lacking in serious self-reflection.

    Here’s the link:

  19. Eureka says:

    An interjection that stood out to me was when he says this (while apparently manufacturing the projectiles-as-excuse story):

    Frequently, these things are thrown from the rear of the demonstration, […]

    Which is a non sequitur but to his own theory of mind and story spinning about the projectiles, it seems, given the preceding text, the future changes, and the known facts.

    Small potatoes in the grand scheme, but a weird thing to say at that time nonetheless. Not relevant to a truthful story about what he had witnessed, and why that required action; a leaked trail-off.

    That snippet with surrounding text as you introduced and quoted:

    In the same presser, he claimed that he saw “instigators” before the move to push them back, thereby claiming both advance planning but also an imminent threat.

    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.

  20. drouse says:

    That first sentence is a perfect example of the convergence of military and policing. The exact same rationale used to justify “collateral damage” in our war on terror overseas

    • drouse says:

      I realized that I wasn’t being really clear. I meant this sentence.
      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.

      • oldoilfieldhand says:

        The Israeli governments’s long standing rationalization for attacking schools and hospitals.

  21. joejim says:

    Seems like the general tactic to exhaust and confuse so as to remain unaccountable. For me, brings to mind how Esper, Trump, and Pompeo couldn’t even manage to put together a consistent story among themselves about the rational for the attacks that killed Qassem Suleimani, how far in advance the planning had been, whether it was provoked, an imminent threat, or a whim.

  22. galljdaj says:

    Well Mr. Barr, There’s no ‘instigating’ in and from the lil white house? Right Mr Barr?

  23. laura says:

    Australia’s equivalent of the Today Show had a camera crew and reporter at Lafayette Park providing live feed to viewers who saw them being manhandled without warning and well in advance of the curfew along with the rest of the peacefully protesting crowd. Bill Barr’s attempts to convince the public not to believe their own lying eyes doesn’t seem to be working as well as he’d hope.

    • P J Evans says:

      The cameraman was out of the way, tucked up against a fence post. They weren’t violent, and they weren’t doing anything except reporting – which apparently has become a crime for the rioting police.

  24. Corey says:

    Point of clarification: there is no such thing as a former Eagle Scout, unless the award has been revoked.

    -An Eagle Scout.

    • Molly Pitcher says:

      It would appear that we are saddled with our very own Douglas Neidermeyer as Attorney General [see Animal House].

  25. harpie says:

    1] Barr writes a letter to Bowser:
    6:45 PM · Jun 9, 2020

    Letter from Attorney General Barr to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on the Trump Administration’s restoration of law and order to the District. [photos of letter]

    2a] Steve Vladeck interprets the letter:
    7:45 PM · Jun 9, 2020

    According to AG Barr, this vague statute—32 U.S.C. § 502(f)—[on page 2 of letter] is the source of the President’s authority to use out-of-state National Guard troops *without* federalizing them.

    If he’s right, it seems the President—or SecDef—could use such troops at any time for any purpose. Yikes. [screenshot]

    2b] Why Were Out-of-State National Guard Units in Washington, D.C.?
    The Justice Department’s Troubling Explanation
    Steve Vladeck Tuesday, June 9, 2020, 10:47 PM

  26. harpie says:

    1] Barr writes to Bowser:
    6:45 PM · Jun 9, 2020

    Letter from Attorney General Barr to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on the Trump Administration’s restoration of law and order to the District. [photos of letter]

    2a] Steve Vladeck writes about Barr’s letter:
    7:45 PM · Jun 9, 2020

    According to AG Barr, this vague statute—32 U.S.C. § 502(f)—[on page 2 of letter] is the source of the President’s authority to use out-of-state National Guard troops *without* federalizing them.

    If he’s right, it seems the President—or SecDef—could use such troops at any time for any purpose. Yikes. [more]

    2b] Why Were Out-of-State National Guard Units in Washington, D.C.?
    The Justice Department’s Troubling Explanation
    Steve Vladeck Tuesday, June 9, 2020, 10:47 PM

    […] But under what legal authority were they deployed to D.C. in the first place? The answer was not obvious, and the administration initially remained silent as to its reasoning. Now, in a letter to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Attorney General William Barr has cleared up that mystery, explaining that the out-of-state National Guard troops were there under the authority of 32 U.S.C. § 502(f).

    In solving one mystery, however, Barr unearthed several more. One of two things is true: Either § 502(f) does not authorize the use of out-of-state National Guard troops in the manner in which they were deployed in Washington last week, or it does—and is therefore a stunningly broad authorization for the president to use the military at any time and for any reason, including as a backdoor around the Posse Comitatus Act. Simply put, either Barr is wrong, or he’s right—in which case Congress should immediately close the loophole he’s identified (and, apparently, seized upon). […]

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        If it is a loophole, Congress can only close it if the House and Senate agree to do it. Then again, Barr could be wrong, and often is, but he is a maximalist when it comes to inventing rationales for state power (defending the Inquisition would have been a no-brainer for him).

        Unfortunately, it will take a Circuit or Supreme Ct. challenge to declare it so. That would require an active case or controversy coming to them from a district court. That, in turn, takes a long time to resolve. Barr is betting, correctly I think, that it will be years, if ever, before the issue is directly decided through the courts.

        A Democratic president could refuse to use the law, and engineer an OLC opinion declaring Barr’s interpretation invalid. But that would delay, not stop, a future authoritarian president from resuscitating Barr’s interpretation. So, back to Congress.

  27. Molly Pitcher says:

    From the Washington Post just now:
    Outsider Tapped in Flynn Case Calls Justice Dept. Reversal a ‘Gross Abuse’ of Power

    “A former federal judge said that the attorney general gave special treatment to a presidential ally, undermining public confidence in the rule of law.

    Accusing the Justice Department of a “gross abuse of prosecutorial power,” a former mafia prosecutor and retired federal judge urged a court on Wednesday to reject the Trump administration’s attempt to drop the criminal case against Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser.

    “The government has engaged in highly irregular conduct to benefit a political ally of the president,” wrote John Gleeson, who was appointed to a special role to argue against the Justice Department’s unusual effort to drop the Flynn case. He added: “Leave of court should not be granted when the explanations the government puts forth are not credible as the real reasons for its dismissal of a criminal charge.” ”

    • bmaz says:

      But, then, everybody in the world knew this was what Gleeson would say, because he had already publicly said so in an op-ed piece before being appointed by Sullivan. One of the very few poor decisions Sullivan has made; he has been mostly superb.

      • Molly Pitcher says:

        He does kind of slap back by saying “in a 73-page brief that Mr. Flynn should not be held in criminal contempt of court for lying under oath when he gave conflicting statements about his actions. Instead, he wrote, the federal judge overseeing Mr. Flynn’s case, Emmet G. Sullivan, should take that behavior into account when imposing a sentence on Mr. Flynn.”

        • bmaz says:

          That is NOT “slapping back” it is being an idiot. Any “brief” Gleeson offered up was already completely worthless because of his prior activity.

          Now he has affirmatively argued that Judge Sullivan should not even have the full use of his inherent contempt power.

          This is a cockup of such giant proportion, in every respect, that I cannot even properly describe it.

      • AndTheSlithyToves says:

        bmaz, I’m thoroughly confused. Did you mean Sullivan rather than Walton on this comment? (So many judges, so little time.)

          • AndTheSlithyToves says:

            No worries–glad that I asked! Frankly, I don’t know how everyone at emptywheel can keep it together with the Advanced Clusterfuch being aimed from the WH at the American public currently. Kudos to all of you!

  28. Molly Pitcher says:

    On a more heartening note:

    1,250 Former DOJ Workers Call for Investigation into Barr’s Decision to Tear Gas Protesters

    “Over 1,250 former Justice Department workers have called on Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to investigate Attorney General William Barr’s involvement in the June 1 effort to push back peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square, using horses and tear gas, so President Trump could walk to a church for a photo op. The former employees wrote in a letter to Horowitz that they were “deeply concerned” about the Justice Department’s actions in response to the protests. The letter calls for the immediate opening of an investigation into the decision.”

  29. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I’m sure I’m late to the party on this, but if anyone expected Donald Trump to change tack rather than triple down on his violence and racism, Stephen Miller has dashed those obscene hopes. Trump will deliver Miller’s racism speech in Tulsa, OK, on Juneteenth. For their next act, they will celebrate the birth of the Confederacy on April 15th at Ford’s Theater.

    In Mr. Miller’s self-hating, I-was-born-to-the-wrong-people-in-the-wrong-century mind, Tulsa is the perfect location, June 19th the perfect date, to express Mr. Trump’s fervent hopes for racial equality in America. Mr. Trump will claim to celebrate America’s success in combating racism – thanks to Him. (Real news does not penetrate the White House perimeter.) In reality, he will desecrate an important celebration of black emancipation, and hold a picnic on the embers of a race massacre.

    Juneteenth celebrates the spread of the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) to the last Confederate state, Texas (1865), and the current hope that one day equality will exist for people of color in America. Tulsa’s Greenwood district was once home to the largest and most successful black community in America. On the night of May 31-June 1, 1921, whites burned it to the ground. They used guns, aircraft, fire bombs, and roving gangs. Never let it be said that Donald Trump has no vision for the future of America.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      A movement in England to remove the statues of the great and good – pirates, murderers, thieves, slavers, land grabbers and asset strippers – stands in sharp contrast to Miller and Trump. (Even as the UK government mimics their neocon policies and de facto racism.)

      It is analogous to those here who want the statues of Confederate generals and KKK leaders removed from the public square – and their names removed from countless buildings. It is not the “removal of history,” as opponents claim. It is reclaiming the lost history of what they fought for and did, and of whom they oppressed. It is refusing to honor them and an attempt to impose the consequence of derision for their handiwork.

      The toppling of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol is a recent example. An ancient port city as beautiful as Oxford before WWII German bombs destroyed it, was enriched through Colston’s decades of slave trading in the late 17th century. In the 18th century, Robert Clive claimed India for the Crown and pillaged it for himself and the East India Company. His statues are on the block.

      The next step (all slopes are slippery), will be removing the names of contemporary “benefactors.” In Bristol, that would include the Wills family – once owners of the world’s largest tobacco conglomerate, it remains a major player. The family name adorns countless buildings, including a large student residence in the Oxbridge style and the university’s towering Gothic revival main building.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        This sort of language from the first Guardian article makes that project harder:

        [M]ore than 1,000 protesters in Oxford renewed a prominent 2016 campaign for the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes, a 19th-century businessman and politician who supported apartheid-style measures in southern Africa.[emphasis mine]

        The Guardian writer neuters Rhodes’ tenure in Africa beyond recognition. In the same style, Hitler would be a “politician and orator.” Rhodes devoted his adult life to claiming Africa for Queen and country (in the picture books), while claiming for himself and his backers its diamonds (De Beers), gold, and other metals. Africans were a disposable commodity used to get them. He violently disposed of a lot of them. His successors still do, because Diamonds Are Forever.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        This story includes a short piece about the toppling in Belgium of a statue of Leopold II, late 19th century king of the Belgians. (His descendant is still on the throne.)

        Leopold was the avatar of colonial murder and asset stripping, outdoing even the competitive Cecil Rhodes. His employees pillaged the Congo – Conrad’s heart of a darkness – a fiefdom Leopold claimed as his personal property. (See, Hochschild, King Leopold’s Ghost.) From the picture, I see that the statue, unlike many of Leopold’s victims, still has its hands.

        Western companies continue Leopold’s project. Along with western governments, they manipulated the territory into a failed state, and have kept it there since it declared independence from Belgium in 1960. Murdering reformers (Lumumba) and Paying off a revolving set of dictators and henchmen is much cheaper than paying market prices for the Congo’s unique resources.

  30. Rapier says:

    In light of this, Murdoch says Trump will lose the election, it brings me back to the night Barr paid him a visit at his home. Oh to have been a fly on the wall that night. WTF was Barr visiting Murdoch’s home for at all?

    I will attribute it to fealty but whatever. If Murdoch knows Trump is toast than so does Barr. Don’t be surprised if Barr starts taking his chips off the table.

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