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US AG Barr on racism, George Floyd, crime, Portland and Trump | News



United States Attorney General William Barr appeared before the House Judiciary Committee on July 28 for the first time since taking office in February 2019.

Barr’s appearance came amid the deployment of federal law enforcement officers against crowds of protesters in Portland, Washington, DC, and other American cities.

Barr’s tenure as the top law enforcement official in the US has been controversial. Some Democratic politicians have called for Barr’s impeachment. More than a thousand former Justice Department lawyers have signed a letter urging him to step down. Four former presidents of the DC Bar Association have called for a professional ethics probe.

In the hearing, Democrats, who control a majority in the US House of Representatives, challenged Barr on a wide range of issues including whether he believes there is systemic racism in the US and whether he has favoured the president’s friends in prosecutions stemming from the Mueller probe.

Here are key excerpts of what Barr said during the five-hour hearing:

Police killings of Black men ‘quite rare’

“Police forces today are far more diverse than they’ve ever been. And there are both more Black police chiefs and more Black officers in the ranks. Although the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police was a shocking event, the fact is that these events are, fortunately, quite rare.”

Police killings not rooted in racism

“As one prominent Black professional in Washington said to me, African Americans will often feel treated as suspects first and citizens second, and I think these concerns are legitimate. At the same time, it would be an oversimplification to treat the problem is rooted in some deep-seated racism generally infecting our police departments. It seems far more likely that the problem stems from a complex mix of factors which can be addressed with focused attention over time.”

Four now former police officers were charged in the days following the killing of George Floyd on May 25. From left: Derek Chauvin, who placed his knee on Floyd’s neck and J Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao [Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office/via AP Photo]

Police demonised in wake of George Floyd, most Black people killed by other Black people

“Unfortunately, some have chosen to respond to George Floyd’s death in a far less productive way by demonising the police, promoting slogans like ‘all cops are bastards’ and making grossly irresponsible programme proposals to defund the police. The demonisation of the police is not only unfair and inconsistent with principles of all people should be treated as individuals, but gravely injurious to the inner-city communities. When communities turn on and pillory the police, officers naturally become more risk-averse and crime rates soar. So, unfortunately, we are seeing that now in many of our cities, the threat to Black lives posed by crime on the streets is massively greater than any threat posed by police misconduct.”

Protests have been hijacked by rioters, notably in Portland

“In the wake of George Floyd’s death, violent rioters and anarchists have hijacked legitimate protests to wreak senseless havoc and destruction on innocent victims. The current situation in Portland is a telling example. Every night for the past two months, a mob of hundreds of rioters have laid siege to the federal courthouse and other nearby federal property. The rioters have come equipped for a fight, armed with powerful slingshots, tasers, sledgehammers, saws, knives, rifles and explosive devices. Inside the courthouse are a relatively small number of federal law enforcement personnel, charged with the defensive mission to protect the courthouse. What unfolds nightly around the courthouse cannot reasonably be called protest. It is, by any objective measure, an assault on the government of the United States.”

Hundreds of Black Lives Matter protesters hold their phones aloft on Monday, July 20, 2020, in Portland, Ore.  Federal officers’ actions at protests in Oregon’s largest city, hailed by President Donal

Hundreds of Black Lives Matter protesters hold their phones aloft in Portland, Oregon where federal agents were deployed without local consent, and camouflaged outside Portland’s US court, they clashed violently with civilians leading the governor to call for their removal [Noah Berger/AP Photo 

Rise in violent crime prompted federal deployments to US cities

“However, in the intervening time, we saw violent crime continuing to rise and a lot of that was triggered by the events after the death of George Floyd. So we did reboot the programme after COVID started breaking and we could commit the law enforcement resources to actually accomplish the mission, which is to reduce violent crime. Now, I regret that COVID interrupted our law enforcement activities, but it doesn’t obviate the fact that there is serious violent crime in these cities. These police departments and mayors have been asking us for help and we have put in additional federal agents and investigators to help deal with it.”

Did Barr talk politics with Trump in context of federal police response?

“I’m a member of the cabinet. And there’s an election going on, obviously, the topic comes up in cabinet meetings and other things. It shouldn’t be a surprise that topic of the election was discussed.

“I’m not going to get into my discussions with the president, but I’ve made it clear that I would like to pick the cities based on law enforcement need and based on neutral criteria.”

Donald Trump

Democrats allege Trump is provoking conflict with protesters in Portland and other US cities to boost his election prospects in November. Barr declined to reveal any election discussions with the president and insisted US law enforcement was being deployed as necessary on the basis of neutral criteria [Carlos Barria/Reuters]

Roger Stone’s prosecution excessive

“Stone was prosecuted under me. And I said all along, I thought that was a righteous prosecution. I thought he should go to jail. And I thought the judge’s sentence was correct. But the line prosecutors were trying to advocate for a sentence that was more than twice anyone else in a similar position had ever served and this is a 67-year-old man, first time offender, no violence, and they were trying to put him in jail for seven to nine years. And I wasn’t going to advocate that, because that is not the rule of law. I agree the president’s friends don’t deserve special breaks but they also don’t deserve to be treated more harshly than other people.”

Michael Flynn investigation unwarranted

“Well, I would just say I asked another US Attorney in St Louis, who had 10 years in the FBI and 10 years in the Department of Justice as a career prosecutor, to take a look at it. And he determined based on documents that had not been provided to the Flynn side and not been provided to the court, that in fact, there was no basis to investigate Flynn. And furthermore, it was clearly established by the documents that the FBI agents who interviewed him did not believe that they thought he was lying.”

“What the counsel concluded was that the only purpose of the interview – the only purpose – was to try to catch him in saying something that they could then say was a lie. So then, therefore, the interview was untethered to any legitimate investigation.”

Lafayette Square

Riot police detain a man as they fired pepper spray and tear gas on protesters to clear Lafayette Park and the area around it across from the White House on June 1, 2020 [Ken Cedeno/Reuters] 

Barr’s role in Lafayette Square on June 1

“There was unprecedented rioting right around the White House, very violent. During that time … we had around 90 officers injured. I’m talking about things like concussions, one was operated on and so forth … It was so bad that – as it’s been reported – the Secret Service recommended the president go down to the shelter. We had a breach of the Treasury Department. The historical building on Lafayette Park was burned down. St John’s was set on fire. Bricks were thrown at the police repeatedly. They took crowbars and pried up the pavers at Lafayette Park and threw those at the police. Balloons of caustic liquids were thrown on the police. And it was clear when I arrived at the White House on Monday, there was total consensus that we couldn’t allow that to happen so close to the White House, that kind of rioting. And therefore we had to move the perimeter out one block and push it up toward I Street. And there was already a plan in being at that point that the Park Police and the Secret Service had worked out the night before, which was to put the perimeter further away and then give them time to put a non-scaleable fence across the northern part of the park.”

Tactical decisions were made by US Park Police

“During the day, the factors that led to the timing of it was that movement was going to be made as soon as there were enough units in place to actually perform it and units were very slow in getting into place throughout the day, much to my frustration, because I wanted to move before there was a big buildup of demonstrators, and also the fencing had to be delivered. And when those things were accomplished the tactical commander in charge of the Park Police proceeded with the movement of pushing the perimeter. So this was something conceived long before and didn’t turn on the nature of the crowd, although I would say the crowd was very unruly. And while the tactical considerations were made by the Park Police, they tried to respond to the situation.”

	 St. John's Church

Police officers wearing riot gear push back demonstrators and shoot canisters with chemical agents in Washington DC, during a protest over the death of George Floyd. President Trump then posed outside St John’s church, after the area was cleared of protesters [Jose Luis Magana / AFP]

On Trump’s photo in front of St John’s church

“To say that this had to do with the photo op, I don’t mean to analogise this to a military operation, but it’s akin to saying that we invaded the Philippines in World War II so Douglas MacArthur could walk through the surf on the beach, one follows the other but we did not invade the Philippines so that MacArthur could walk to the beach.”

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Minister Rukutana charged with attempted murder, remanded




The state minister for Labour, Gender and Economic Development Mwesigwa Rukutana has been remanded to Kyamugorani prison in Mbarara district.

Rukutana appeared before Ntungamo Grade One magistrate Nazifah Namayanja this afternoon from where he was charged with seven offences related to attempted murder, assault, malicious damage, and threatening violence.

Rukutana was captured in a video that went viral on social media showing him grabbing a gun from one of his bodyguards and started shooting at a vehicle belonging to supporters of his political rival Naome Kabasharira. At the time of the incident, Rukutana had just lost the Rushenyi country NRM flag to Kabasharira.

The prosecution alleges that on September 5, 2020, at Kagugu village in Ntungamo district, Rukutana and others still at large assaulted Julius Niwamanya and threatened to kill or injure him together with three others. The others are Stuart Kamukama, Dan Rwibirungi, and Moses Kamukama. 

It is also alleged that Rukutana also willfully and unlawfully damaged a motor vehicle registration number UAR 840X Toyota Rav 4 type which belongs to Moses Muhumuza.

According to the Judiciary public relations officer, Jameson Karemani, Rukutana has not taken a plea of these charges against him since they can only be tried by the chief magistrate who was not in court today.

As a result, the magistrate decided to send him to Kyamugorani, awaiting his return to court on Tuesday.      

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Lira district headquarters closed over COVID-19




Lira district headquarters have been closed after one staff tested positive for COVID-19 last week. 

On Monday morning, district staff were blocked at the gate with only the deputy chief administrative officer, his secretary and the receptionist allowed access to their offices. 

Paul Samuel Mbiiwa, the deputy chief administrative officer says that only heads of department will be allowed at the headquarters while the rest will work from home. He adds that the restriction will help to curb the spread of the virus.

“You see corona is not a joke. We have taken a step at fighting it and that is why you are seeing the staff outside. Even in my office here I do not want people to come if there is anything we can discuss on the phone.”

Francis Okello Olwa, a senior community development officer who doubles as the district spokesperson says that the entire district offices will be fumigated and closed for two days.

Health authorities in the district are planning to take samples from all the staff because they could have interacted with the one who tested positive. Currently, there are 19 COVID-19 patients under treatment at Lira regional referral hospital.     

On Sunday four health workers at the hospital tested positive for COVID-19. Dr Patrick Odongo, a senior medical officer at the hospital also succumbed to the virus.  

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Museveni issues ultimatum to police boss




Museveni flagged off distribution of motorcycles for NRM chairpersons

President Yoweri Museveni has given Inspector General of Police (IGP) Martins Okoth Ochola a chilling ultimatum: You either do your work or I will do it myself!

Museveni disclosed the ultimatum he gave to the IGP today Monday at the NRM secretariat at Plot 10 Kyadondo Road in Kampala where he was flagging off the distribution of motorcycles to parish chairpersons of the ruling National Resistance Movement party across the country. 

“I told the IGP that if the police doesn’t do their work, I will do it myself by arresting the police officers themselves,” Museveni stunned his audience as he commented on the electoral violence that marred the NRM primaries held on Friday last week. At least 4 people were killed across the country during the primaries. 

“There was violence in Bukono county [Namutumba district] where people were beaten. I got information that police has not done much work. Some (policemen) have been arrested and given police bond; there is no police bond for somebody who has attacked Ugandans!,” Museveni added. 

Museveni vowed to deal with all persons who messed up the party primaries.  In some parts of the country, there were massive regularities where candidates who had been defeated ended up being announced winners. In some places like Namutumba, Isingiro, Ntungamo, Jinja, Katakwi, among others, there was violence that led to the killing and wounding of civilians. Museveni said that they are going to make sure that all those who participated in these irregularities and violence are held to account. 

Museveni said although the violence was orchestrated by the politicians, the police personnel are to be held accountable for failing to contain it.

Last week, police spokesman Fred Enanga warned police personnel especially those guarding VIPs against being drawn into the politicians’ political wrangles, reminding them that they would face the music if they did. With the president now threatening to go and conduct the arrests of errant policemen himself, IGP Ochola is likely to move fast to avert the spectacle. 

Museveni wondered why police would shoot at unarmed people who were fighting amongst themselves: “That policeman must be arrested; even the ones who are threatening people you will go to jail for that if we get evidence,” a seemingly incensed Museveni said.

He also said that the state minister of Labour, Gender and Economic Development Mwesigwa Rukutana who was captured on camera attempting to shoot people over the weekend in Ntugamo after he lost the  Rushenyi primaries, will be charged with threatening violence and attempted murder. 

 “This game is finished,” Museveni said.

Rukatana has since been charged and remanded to Kyamugorani prison in Mbarara district in western Uganda. Museveni called upon all those dissatisfied with the election results to write petitions to the regional panels of elders which he said are going to be constituted to hear all election complaints.

“We are going to get three respected people who are not part of the struggles, then we shall go and audit village per village and we shall discover. If you have committed forgery, the registrar or the politician who ordered,  you all shall go to jail. The game is finished; the voting is by lining and if you miss-add, you are ‘miss-add’ yourself,” Museveni said.

Museveni’s speech came shortly before that of Justine Kasule Lumumba, the secretary general of the NRM who called upon the president to reign over some senior people who with impunity were freely changing the results of the elections.

“Some of our staff were lured into changing declaration forms on the way forgetting that people who had participated at the village don’t need to write; they registered the record in their faces…Some have done things with impunity… in Butemba county Kyakwanzi district, one of the candidates who got 3,000 votes brought in soldiers, cordoned off that place and was declared a winner and off they went away,” Lumumba said. 

The ball is now in Ochola’s court to get the police to execute their duties professionally and with impartiality. In March 2017, President Museveni warned Ochola’s predecessor Kale Kayihura to clean the police force of wrong elements. As months passed with no visible sign of police officers shaping up, Museveni resorted to other security agencies who started arresting rogue senior police officers and charging them in the military court for various crimes.

Kayihura was then removed from office, arrested and jointly charged with the errant officers in the army court. To avoid similar fate, Ochola is likely to use a firmer hand on the police officers so that by the time of the February 2021 elections, there is no laxity in the force’s execution of its mandate to maintain law and order.

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