Attorney General William Barr, the nation’s top law enforcement official, said Sunday that the Democrats are a “Rousseauian Revolutionary Party that believes in tearing down the system,” that Black Lives Matter is a “Bolshevik’ group that uses “fascistic tactics,” and that antifa is a “highly organized” group using “guerrilla tactics.”
Barr made the claims, for which he didn’t provide any actual evidence, in an interview with right-wing commentator Mark Levin on Levin’s Fox News show. It’s the latest example of top Trump administration officials portraying this summer’s protests not as a popular movement furious about inequality but as a coordinated effort by everyone left of Mitt Romney to bring down the U.S. government.
“The left wing has really withdrawn and pulled away from the umbrella of classical liberal values that have undergirded our society since our founding,” Barr said, adding that the left in 2020 “represents a Rousseauian Revolutionary Party that believes in tearing down the system.”
Barr added that some House Democrats who challenged him at the July 28 hearing, during which Barr answered questions about the Russia investigation and the Trump administration sending federal law enforcement to Portland to crack down on protests, were “true believers” and “essentially revolutionary,” but that the majority were “cowards who are mostly interested in getting reelected.”
The attorney general saved his harshest words for the protesters, however. Of Black Lives Matter, Barr said it’s “a revolutionary group that is interested in some form of socialism, communism,” adding that they’re “essentially Bolsheviks, their tactics are fascistic.” (The irony of comparing the group to fascists while defending harnessing the power of the state to enable unidentified police forces to indiscriminately beat and arrest protesters should not be lost on anyone.)
In July, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which investigates potential Hatch Act violations, ruled the movement was neither partisan nor political in nature.
Barr similarly criticized antifa: After Levin claimed that antifa get “a lot of their funding online,” Barr compared the loosely-tied antifascist groups to Maoists.
“It’s a new form of urban guerrilla warfare,” Barr said. “Mao Tse Tung used to speak about the guerrilla being like fish swimming in the ocean the way the guerrilla moves through the people. The guerrilla hides out among the people as a fish in the ocean.”
“And what they do is, they are essentially shielding themselves or shrouding themselves in First Amendment activity. And they go into the demonstrations, which are exercising First Amendment activity, and they insinuate themselves in there to shield themselves; that’s where they swim,” he added.
There’s little evidence for the claim that antifa (or Black Lives Matter, for that matter) is a highly organized network that’s driving violence in American cities.
An analysis of documents from the BlueLeaks hack in June found “repeated instances of antifa and left-wing protesting activities cast in cartoonishly grim terms alongside more substantive reports of lethal right-wing violence and threats,” The Intercept reported last month.
An internal Department of Homeland Security assessment of the property damage and arrests in the early days of the George Floyd protests also found that much of the so-called violence among protesters was driven by “opportunists,” Reuters reported in June. And last week, U.S. federal prosecutors confirmed that out of the dozens arrested in recent protests in Portland, none had been alleged to have ties to antifa or any anarchist group.
Cover: Attorney General William Barr appears before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the oversight of the Department of Justice on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, July 28, 2020 in Washington. (Chip Somodevilla/Pool via AP)