Rep. Kelly Armstrong to AG Barr: Tell Courthouse Personnel ‘Thank You’

By Melanie Arter | July 28, 2020 | 5:52pm EDT
Attorney General William Barr watches a Republican Exhibit video of people rioting, during the House Judiciary Committee hearing in the Congressional Auditorium at the US Capitol Visitors Center July 28, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by CHIP SOMODEVILLA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Attorney General William Barr watches a Republican Exhibit video of people rioting, during the House Judiciary Committee hearing in the Congressional Auditorium at the US Capitol Visitors Center July 28, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by CHIP SOMODEVILLA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) told Attorney General Bill Barr to tell federal courthouse employees - the prosecutors, clerks, judges, courthouse personnel, and public defenders “thank you” for still conducting business despite rioters attacking federal courthouses in cities like Portland, Ore.

“Tell them thank you. Tell the courthouse personnel thank you. Tell the clerks thank you. Tell the prosecutors thank you. Tell the judges thank you, and if you can handle it, can you tell the public defenders thank you too, because they’re still conducting the business. They do this every single night,” the congressman said at Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing.


Armstrong said that “one of our problems is how we talk about this and how it’s covered versus what is actually going on every single night in Portland” at the federal courthouse. He asked Barr to explain what is happening at night to the U.S. marshals guarding the courthouse.



They have initially tried to contain themselves in the courthouse. There have been efforts to push through in the main door. When people have succeeded in breaching the courthouse, they have thrown kerosene and fireworks and started fires. So, then the effort was to make sure they cannot breach. 

There still have been breaches into the courthouse, but basically, they tried to remain in there and starting after the fourth, they tried to arrest the people who were directing fireworks. They would climb up onto the side of the court, break windows, shoot fireworks in, and whenever the marshals came out to try to put an end to that, interdict it, they were shot at with slingshots. 

Lasers were constantly being put into their eyes, even when they’re inside the courthouse. There’s a good description of it in an AP story.
 

Armstrong picked up where Barr left off, by quoting the Associated Press article.

“‘I watched as injured officers were hauled inside. In one case, the commercial firework came over so fast, the officer didn't have time to respond. It burned through his sleeve and he had bloodied gashes on both forearms. Another had a concussion from being hit in the head with a mortar,‘” the congressman said, quoting AP.

Armstrong noted that acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf has said that violent mobs even published the personal information of federal officers, putting their lives and the lives of their families at risk.

“Why is doxing federal agents so dangerous, and are you concerned about it?” the congressman asked.

“Well, it's dangerous, because people can take retaliation against their homes, their families, or them when they are by themselves. I see some of these Latin American countries in Central America where the police are very, very brave, because the gangs they are trying to deal with go to their houses and kill their families, and you never think that could happen here, but you can never think some of the stuff we’re seeing today could ever happen here,” Barr said. 

The following is a transcript of the exchange:


ARMSTRONG: Ten years ago this summer in July, in my hometown,  It was a beautiful day. People were golfing, kids were swimming, everybody was playing baseball. Just a perfect gorgeous sunny summer day in Dickinson, North Dakota. In the span of 8 minutes, a tornado came through and destroyed, caused unbelievable economic devastation. I don't think anybody woke up the next morning and said it was a mostly peaceful day. 

I want to talk specifically about what is going on in Portland with you, Mr. Attorney general because for 61 nights, the federal court house is under siege, but not just the courthouse. Federal agents are under siege. You have men and women there protecting that courthouse. Now I have no doubt if they were there that courthouse would not be standing right now. Would you agree with that?

BARR: Absolutely. 

ARMSTRONG: I think one of our problems is how we talk about this and how it’s covered versus what is actually going on every single night in Portland at that courthouse. Can you explain what your officers and your agents are going through over there?

BARR:  Yes. I'm talking about the U.S. Marshals who were in the courthouse. They have initially tried to contain themselves in the courthouse. There have been efforts to push through in the main door. When people have succeeded in breaching the courthouse, they have thrown kerosene and fireworks and started fires. So, then the effort was to make sure they cannot breach. 

There still have been breaches into the courthouse, but basically, they tried to remain in there and starting after the fourth, they tried to arrest the people who were directing fireworks. They would climb up onto the side of the court, break windows, shoot fireworks in, and whenever the marshals came out to try to put an end to that, interdict it, they were shot at with slingshots. 

Lasers were constantly being put into their eyes, even when they’re inside the courthouse. There’s a good description of it in an AP story.

ARMSTRONG: I was just going to quote that. We don't have to take your word. I watched as injured officers were hauled inside. In one case, the commercial firework came over so fast, the officer didn't have time to respond. It burned through his sleeve and he had bloodied gashes on both forearms. Another had a concussion from being hit in the head with a mortar. 

BARR: That's right, and We've had a lot of injuries out there and these are people who this Congress has charged with protecting federal courts. They’re directed to protect federal courts in the U.S. Code and they are under attack, and are injured, and It's been constant for 60 days. 

ARMSTRONG: Acting secretary wolf has said that they are publishing personal information and federal offices, jeopardizing not only them, but their families. Why is doxing federal agents so dangerous, and are you concerned about it? 

BARR: Well, it's dangerous, because people can take retaliation against their homes, their families, or them when they are by themselves. I see some of these Latin American countries in Central America where the police are very, very brave, because the gangs they are trying to deal with go to their houses and kill their families, and you never think that could happen here, but you can never think some of the stuff we’re seeing today could ever happen here. 

ARMSTRONG: Is being burned by essentially improvised explosive devices, being blinded by lasers, is this something that typically happens with federal marshals in federal court houses?

BARR: No, not at all. 

ARMSTRONG: How is this going for recruitment? Morale? How are they doing? I generally want to know, how are they doing? 
 
BARR: Well I think that AP story gives you a feel. They feel that’s their duty, and they feel that’s where they have to be. A number of them are from that area, but they are extremely tired and we've had to rotate in some more, put in some more people, because they’re very, very tired, and you make mistakes when you're tired. 

ARMSTRONG: Well, and I think that's an important part, because I think that’s the amazing thing. It started with under 30 agents there. Now it's a little under 100. Sixty-one nights in a row, they defend against a siege, fires burning down these things. You know what is the most amazing thing? They get up every morning and that courthouse is still running. 

They’re still conducting the federal government’s business, so I’m going to say something that I think should be said a lot more often. Tell them thank you. Tell the courthouse personnel thank you. Tell the clerks thank you. Tell the prosecutors thank you. Tell the judges thank you. And if you can handle it, can you tell the public defenders thank you too, because they’re still conducting the business. They do this every single night. Are they getting sleep? 

BARR:The marshals are having a difficult time, because their demonstrators go to the hotel. They also go from hotel to hotel, because the demonstrators try to disrupt their sleep at the hotel. 

ARMSTRONG: There is a difference between a protest and a riot, and every night at some point in time in Portland, it turns into a riot. Eventually when you wake up the next morning, and you know what's going to happen, we need to figure out a way to stop it. One last question. Why would we have to negotiate a cease-fire with a peaceful protest? 

BARR: Correct. That's right. What we would like to say, and all we would like is what we see in the rest of the country, which is state and local law enforcement taking care of their own city and taking care of the streets around the courthouse. 
 

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