On Tuesday, the Justice Department released text messages of former Attorney General William Barr in response to American Oversight’s lawsuit for the records.
In June 2020, American Oversight sued the Justice Department for records, including text messages, that could shed light on Barr’s tenure in the Trump administration. The records released this week by the department include communications related to the administration’s response to last summer’s racial justice protests.
Last May, as tens of thousands across the country protested against police violence following the murder of George Floyd, Trump tweeted that he would be designating antifa as a terrorist organization. Many were quick to point out that there was no legal authority to designate domestic groups as such, but in a text conversation both Barr and Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec focused the statement’s popularity with the president’s base.
“Hoping for more retweets,” Barr wrote on May 31, before he and Kupec discussed the legality of such a designation.
“Thanks for reminding me,” Barr wrote. “There is no such thing as ‘designating’ a domestic group.”
“I’m well aware,” Kupec replied. “It’s too bad he used that language. But things have gotten to an okay place. The base loved it. The most retweets I’ve ever seen of one of his tweets.”
That summer, the president’s law-and-order campaign messaging was reflected in his administration’s authoritarian response to racial justice protests, including the violent clearing of Lafayette Square near the White House that took place on June 1. “Theme for WH this week is restoration of law and order,” Kupec texted on June 7.
The day before, Barr’s chief of staff, Will Levi, texted both Barr and Kupec with an update about the protests in Washington, D.C. “Just for situational awareness the new estimate of DC based protestors is 6-7 thousand. And the city sent us a nice FU placing portapotties next to DOJ.”
The records released this week also include apparently unanswered messages that Barr sent to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, a message from Levi informing Barr of former White House strategist Steve Bannon’s impending arrest, and messages about White House meetings. View the full set of records here.
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