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William Barr
  Attorney General Barr at Wall Street Journal CEO Council Meeting  CSPAN  December 10, 2019 8:01pm-8:48pm EST

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sort of listen to, channel and understand what we would call ordinary americans. blue collar americans. middle class americans. use whatever term you want. to and he understands what's important to. they he started talking more and more on road about traffic. this is a man who hasn't driven himself in years and now doesn't drive in traffic. they close down the long island expressway when we're on that. but he understands it's important to folks back home itch don't know how he does it but he does it and he knows that's important to them. that's why it's important to him. paul: mr. mulvaney: veiny, thank you very much for joining us. -- mick mulvaney, thank you very much for joining us. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019]
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abuse of power founders had in mind when they dropped the impeachment clause of the cause edition? atty. gen. barr: you put so much work into that question. [laughter] there is this political constitutional process underway. on the hill. the attorney general is not part of that process.
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i am just not going to comment on it. otherill say that on the articles of impeachment relating to obstruction, i don't believe somebody case where including a branch of government is asserting a legal privilege that that constitute subsection. atty. gen. barr: president trump directed the unprecedented defiance of subpoenas -- given the house responsibility for impeachment, this is itself a represents a -- represents obstruction. atty. gen. barr: i said what i said, which was predicated on advancing claims of privilege that have been previously advanced in other administration's. i don't consider that
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obstruction. >> let's move on to the other of yourcupying all attention yesterday, which is the publication of the report of the inspector general, michael horowitz, into the origins and the conduct of the investigation of president trump and his associates around russia allegations, collisions with russia. -- pollution with russia. lusion with russia. we concluded the fbi had another rise purpose wanted opened crossfire hurricane, the name given to the investigation, to obtain information or protect federal crime. you said in response to that yesterday, the fbi launched an intrusive investigation on the thinnest of suspicions that were in my view insufficient to the steps taken. could you tell me where exactly you disagree with mr. horowitz?
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atty. gen. barr: first, let me say there are sort of three issues, categories of analysis in the report. investigationthe adequately predicated? the second one, how was it conducted? and i would break that down into do things, how was it conducted before the election and how was it conducted after the election? horowitz's work deals with the conduct of the investigation. think, it quickly became apparent it was a travesty. , andhere were many abuses that is by far the most important part of the report.
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i think mike horowitz would agree with that. >> abuses that a particular refer to the pfizer replication, application -- atty. gen. barr: and also the fact that from day one it generated exculpatory information and nothing substantiated any kind of salute -- any kind of collusion. wasissue is whether it adequately predicated. mike knows i disagree with him. where youstill people can be adults and professionals and have disagreements without tearing each other's hearts out. we have disagreements and the department of justice. it is a big deal to
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use the law enforcement and ofelligence resources opposing parties. i'm sure there were instances in the past. i can't think of any recent instance. >> there were discussions of high levels within the fbi. atty. gen. barr: basically, the department, as you would expect, the principles are, what is the basis you have for looking at something? what are reasonable steps to ?ake the alternatives available? and also, the sensitivity of the area involved here. mike is, igree with
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think this was very flimsy. this was a comment made by a 28-year-old volunteer in a bar described as a suggestion of a suggestion. i personally think the subject matter of it, some vague delusion of the fact the russians may have something they could dump, at that time in may, there was rampant speculation going on in the media and in political circles that hillary clinton's female 2000 -- female servers had in -- had been hacked. this vague comment showed pre-knowledge of the dnc hacking dump. i think it was a big stretch. let me just finalize it, which
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is from my experience, the normal thing to do in this situation, and i had an analogous experience here, is to i don'te campaign and think there is an explanation for why they didn't, especially because they didn't go to the russians. >> in the report, they considered this, but there were concerns that it would be alerting the campaign. they would be alerting the campaign and be able to shut it down. atty. gen. barr: and what the fbi person said as to what he didn't is, we only did that if we uncertain -- if we are certain that there is no possibility whatever that the person is winning. that is something not true. i have authorized defensive briefings, and i know of regularly conducted defensive briefings. if your purpose was to protect the election, then you would
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defensiveit in a briefing, because the chances of people like sessions or chris christie being in cahoots with the russians were pretty minimal. if there was stuff going on, then by going in, you disrupt the activity in time to protect the election. onjust doesn't hold, because august 4, they contacted the head of russian intelligence. president obama did it directly in september. it doesn't strike me as plausible that the russians were guilty of interference. but you wouldn't go and talk to the campaign, that makes sense. >> you believe the predicate was very flimsy. you just laid that out. why did they do it? do think there was some political motivation on the part of people that the fbi or the
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justice department to go off to the trump campaign? atty. gen. barr: that is why we have durham. at all the to look evidence, he is able to not only look at the evidence within the fbi, he is able to require people to testify. he is able to talk to other agencies, he is able to talk to private parties, there was a lot of swirl of activity going on at this time. it was not all in the fbi. i think he will have a broader appreciation of all the facts, and a determination can be made. i don't know what the motivations were, i am not saying they were improper motivations. i think it is premature to roll definitively -- rule definitively that are wasn't. in that regard, people have to understand the role of the ig. -- an agency that
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makes discretionary decisions every day. the right approach, and i respect it, is to say look, if the people involved give us reasonable explanations for what not do, that is unreasonable and i can't find any documentary or testimonial evidence that contradicts it, i will accept it. that is what happened here. he said i have not found evidence of improper motive, he thenot, contrary to what media is reporting, he did not find there was improper motive. he did not find evidence of improper motive. >> christopher wray, the fbi director, similarly said yesterday in response to the report that they did not find political by us or improper motivation. ity. gen. barr: the ig said,
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did not find documentary or testimonial evidence contradicting the explanations that were given. i accepted it. he is not definitively rolling that there was -- ruling that there was no bias. i think that is why we have durham. atty. gen. barr: in the initial -- >> in the initial fbi investigation, your effort to that initial conversation between george papadopoulos and --xander of these acronyms we never heard of this downer guy. there was this conversation that about twoported for months until after the initial conversation. but the fbi regarded that is a tipping point -- that as a tipping point. reasonable given that russianw this extensive
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effort to intervene in the election, along comes somebody inside the trunk campaign who says, we have got this information possibly, offered information possibly a hillary clinton, is that not reasonable than for the fbi to go ahead and say we need to investigate it? atty. gen. barr: that is why a sort of expanded. is basic official version that we thought the russians and hacking into the dnc, on july 23, wikileaks bumped dnc emails. then, i for official comes in this guy you know, said something in a bar to me, a suggestion, before they even interviewed that person, they open the counterintelligence investigation into the idea that this must reflect pre-knowledge of the hack. i am saying when you actually
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look at the surrounding a bridgences, that was too far. it was not reasonable for them to assume that. was to talkesponse to the campaign. this happens all the time in campaigns. foreign donors, hanky-panky going on, and usually, we don't assume as a government that the campaign is part of that blood, we go and we say to the -- of that lot, we go inside of the campaign directly. if you are 100% certain they are not culpable, it is simply not true. replication,zer the report is very critical. document 17, emissions are errors -- or errors in the .ubsequent
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that resulted in applications that made appear the information supporting probable cause was stronger than was actually the case. do you think given that, that should never have been made? atty. gen. barr: this is the meat of the issue. if you spend time and look what happened, you would be appalled. remember, they say, we are not going to talk to the campaign, we are going to send people in, wire them up, talk to the individuals. -october.ened in august exculpatory as to the russians, but as to the specific facts. a, they never did anything about that. b, they never informed the court.
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they were told they did not have probable cause to get a warrant. so they took the steele dossier and used it to get the lower in and collapse everything. -- lure in and collapse everything. they withheld on the court exculpatory information and the lack of reliability of steele. is actuallyke away after the election, because in january, steele was dealing with one person. that is what we call the primary source. that person that had the network of's of sources. -- the primary sub source. that had the network of primary sub sources. andas mostly ballroom talk rumor. i made it clear to him this was my own suppositions and theories. , at that point, it
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was clear that the dossier was a sham. so what happens at that point? tell the court, and they continue to get pfizer warrants based on that dossier, and more damming is that they actually filed a statement saying, we talked to the sub source and found him credible and corroborative, and they put that into bolster. when he is being truthful about is that the dossier was garbage. stuffhard to look at this . i think it was a gross abuse. >> do you think the four separate pfizer judges in the courts were badly misled? atty. gen. barr: yes. >> final question on this. this was a fairly or not only of the operational team in the fbi, but the managers and supervisors including senior officials in
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the chain of command. are people going to be held accountable? atty. gen. barr: gerald on. -- they are all gone. >> you have mentioned there are other investigations going on. is that including jim cobey, andrew mccabe? atty. gen. barr: i am not going to speculate who. >> do you think they are implicated in that statement? atty. gen. barr: i said that i ofnk there was a failure leadership in that group. i will just quote the ig, the ig hes the explanations received were not satisfactory. when you have that kind of rank behavior that that involves, and the ig says he does not get an explanation for it, you can draw your own conclusions from the. that one of the things that's poisonous about our politics is the use of the criminal law process as a political weapon. extent areto some guilty of this. instead of just debating ideas,
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they want to label their adversaries a criminal and pour over the u.s. code to try to find some sort of esoteric in a criminalet investigation. then they start calling for scouts. why aren't people not going to prison for what they did to the president? fiddle bill barr in prison -- so -- throw bill barr in prison. you know, these things take time. [laughter] they are all protected by the fact. is whate fact, which protects all of us, that the government has to have beyond a underable doubt, at least justice department standards, before we invite anybody. that is a pretty substantial
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hurdle. jail, is going to go to and no one is going to be indicted unless that standard is met. if i don't like someone and i don't like what they did and i am morally outraged, send them to jail. that is sort of poisoning the system. issue, thekraine famous july 25 phone call between president trump president zelensky, the cause of this impeachment proceeding we are seeing today, there is a president trump a loto president zelensky of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great. to the ukrainians do anything with you? atty. gen. barr: no. >> nothing at all? atty. gen. barr: that is taken out of context, to be fair.
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in the presidential call, he starts by talking about the abuses the 2016 election. he said our country has paid a heavy price for it and asked to work with the attorney general on that. the fact is, i was smart enough not to get involved with ukraine. at least put it very low on the list. >> [laughter] atty. gen. barr: i'm just saying that had not reached the top of my to do list yet. fortunately, i had not looked at the ukraine situation. then later in the conversation gets into other things and starts throwing different names around. is at the time, i had no dealings with ukraine or rudy giuliani about ukraine. >> it does raise the question, why was this never u.s. investigated? that a citizen was perhaps corruptly acting with the
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y was all the pressure on the ukrainians and not a matter to u.s. investigatory process? atty. gen. barr: you know, at the time, i don't know whether it was or not, frankly. it has been widely reported that the justice department antitrust division is investigating big tech, technology firms. i know you had a strong interest in this over the years. investigation, meanwhile the ftc is also investigating this. there seems to be bipartisan support in washington to do something about the dominant position of big tech. you the timing on it wasvestigation, announced over the summer, are you expecting some imminent
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resolution? can we expect that sometime next year? atty. gen. barr: i don't want to sort of predict that. we started in earnest in july. it has been moving very quickly. ambitious schedules , things keeping up to schedule, talking very broadly with people, getting a lot of input from people in the industry and and doingd so forth, our analysis. i would like to have it completed sometime next year. i think it is important to move quickly on things. that is something i can talk about later. these things have a cost to the marketplace. and businesses. at some point, the government has to fish. >> what are the weaknesses here? it is well-established that scale alone is not sufficient to
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warrant antitrust enforcement action or even raise necessary concerns about unfair behavior. concerns about what google, facebook, amazon, apple are doing? atty. gen. barr: let me just say, our review is not just limited to antitrust, antitrust is obviously front and center. there are also other concerns relating to these concerns that other laws may apply to. there is some pressure. some people suggested strong-arming the antitrust laws to reach things that really were not intended to be covered by the antitrust laws. i am not really in line with that. i don't mind making sure that we are properly applying the antitrust laws to new situations, but we are looking at antitrust, also looking at behavior across the board and how it implicates other laws.
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the problem, obviously, i said this in my confirmation hearing, big is not bad. i worked for verizon and really appreciate that. you haveion is, when the kind of market power that some companies have in their market. then some conduct which may have made sense with the insurgent company in the growing industry can become anticompetitive, because it ends up fortifying the monopoly. so, there is conduct that has grown up in these businesses that we have to take a look at and say the extent to which it really involves maintaining a monopoly. also, this is particularly true when you have a powerful network of things like you do in these sectors. the other thing is these are businesses that operate in multiple submarkets, and you
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have to do a lot of thinking about how they potentially are leveraging power and wanting to another. also the data -- the role data plays in the. >> i want to play some of -- raise some of the concerns. possiblyithms could conceivably be favoring their own products or people is that a possibility, something you're looking into? i think google: has made public the have received civil investigative i think it is sort of a parent to everybody the practices that are potentially -- >> what about the simple scale? google in advertising itself.
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atty. gen. barr: then goes to the market power. then, you have to look at particular practices that may essentially exclude other competitors and lock in their market power. successfully competing in getting to a dominant position is not itself wrong. intriguing article the journal just published today that said while facebook and google may defend themselves on the grounds they are not raising prices, what they provide is free and it provides tremendous benefit, actually what they are doing is in a sense charging consumers by using their data. cost to the consumer, a nonmonetary cost perhaps, but a cost to the consumer. that itself could represent exploitation of a monopoly in a
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way that is unhealthy and potentially -- is that a theory you are open to. atty. gen. barr: i am inclined to think there is no free lunch and something that is free is getting paid for one way or another. i am open to that argument. >> could one solution be that people should be paid? i am happy for facebook to use my data, but it has a value and i should receive compensation for it? atty. gen. barr: i don't want to comment on policy responses. i think the public interest or the consumer interest standard is broad enough to reach not just issues of pricing, but practices relating to so-called freebies. as you said in the beginning, one of the interesting things about this issue is the bipartisan support for the issue. i found that out going around it
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was the only thing people were civil to me about during my confirmation. warren -- youeth and elizabeth warren, exactly the same -- ag's gen. barr: 50 state have now coalesced, and we are working with all 50 state ag's. it is a pretty difficult situation when you are in a business. consensus is complete that something should be done. we are trying to work closely with them. forhere is a basis litigation, basis for other enforcement action, so be it. there also may be an opportunity for legislative proposals. >> one more question on tech. encryption. there has been some consideration of this and your deputy made clear recently this
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issue which is very very crack, doesbody to have implications. want tosomething you address? >> that is one of our highest priorities . we are not talking about encryption and dealing with a bank or a vendor. what we are talking about his consumer products that provide end-to-end encryption on whatsapp and signal and other things. terminal organizations, i am talking about terrorist organizations, drug cartels, child molestation rings, kiddie
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porn type rings, are moving to encryption apps, which completely defeats the ability of the government to get in there. we have increasing number of horror stories about how people are dying or being molested or whatever that we cannot get into. know that it is happening but we can't get into the communications. that also happens with telephones. not being able to get into a terrorist telephone. m thames we can get into it, but not all the time. -- sometimes we can get into it, but not all the time. when you actually have a warrant based on probable cause that the crime is being committed, you cannot get the information. that sort of sums up the whole thing this way. these businesses are essentially saying to people, hey, we can give you a protection against any scrutiny from the government whatsoever no matter what you
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do. you are completely impervious to government surveillance. that might sound good to the individual, but do we want to live in a society like that where everybody is absolutely insulated from any government scrutiny even when there is probable cause to believe crime is underway? i don't think we do. >> one more question on antitrust. the u.s. economy the last 25 years has increasing concentration sector after sector. -- anies recent survey said he was industries have seen a , and there increase is tons of evidence that this is harming the consumer. like twoat things or three major companies providing broadband services,
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cell phone services, an economist in a university estimates the prices in this consumers ino the these areas where there is concentration, is significant. and it compares u.s. prices to prices in europe. don't think as europe as a competitive market. -- of europe as a competitive market. husband this dramatic -- there has been this dramatic concentration sector after sector harming the consumer. do you think that needs to be -- there need to be a fundamental review? of actually examining these and restoring some degree of competitive pressure to many of the sectors? atty. gen. barr: no. >> you don't think it's a problem?
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atty. gen. barr: i don't think you can make that kind of general state across all businesses and sectors. i think it is a sector by sector, market by market analysis to assess concentration. i think some markets benefit from concentration, some degree of concentration. >> which markets? atty. gen. barr: telecom. >> maybe the companies benefit. consumers don't. atty. gen. barr: in certain industries, you can be to bulkanized and no one has the scale necessary for the kind of innovation we are seeing. , it is sometimes hard to assess technological change. 5g sort of changes the whole idea of broadband availability, and so forth. i think you have to look at it sector by sector with appreciation of technology.
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cap when i was in verizon, people were still looking at it -- they wanted to increase the number of competitors by essentially converting the local phone companies into wholesale and everybody jumped on to wood at discounted prices. the regulators were spending their time on that. is itile what happens turns the cable companies into competitors. now, we have wireless and so forth. i think it is a sector by sector, market by market analysis. from a few players, and some may require more. >> final question, we are running out of time. you were attorney general almost 30 years ago, the bush administration, you were 15 years old or something like that. you are back. atty. gen. barr: my view on this
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thing is that the only people who should be attorney general to people who are too young know the risk or too old to care. [laughter] >> we will to decide which category you are in. the private sector, you talked about that a little bit for the interim period. you've obviously been somewhat hit by the impeachment and other issues, investigations and everything else, but from the point of view of is this, what you have seen from outside the justice department, outside government in the last 20 years or so, and you had to deal with the justice department in many ways, what needs to be done -- especially for this business office -- business audience, to make the business dealing more fair and effective and transported. what are your priorities? atty. gen. barr: you shouldn't
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work in a senior position in the department of justice unless you have spent a lot of time on the outside dealing with the department of justice. a number of things. number one, time. i think there is a risk at the department and other agencies, they think they can take forever on their matters and they do, day after day. my attitude is fish or cut bait. there is huge cost to the government for you to be, excuse the expression, dicking around and not getting anywhere, and it's very expensive to the private sector to be under this cloud. it is to make sure someone who is sensible that will look at it and say, can we prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt?
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if were not good to be in that position, we need to move onto the next thing. i am impatient with the backlog of cases and the average life of cases. another issue is esoteric legal theories. law in the core meat and potatoes area where the law is supposed to play, don't come in with an esoteric application of the law just because you can catch the company. the other thing is, let's face it, companies are like shooting fish in a barrel, very few companies are going to take the risk of a trial. , a state of mind has arisen where you get the how muchver a barrel, money you are going to get. we have adopted the policy that in order to come in to resolve
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the case, the prosecutors have to come in with a trial plan. they have to show they can establish beyond reasonable doubt the elements of a crime, and what witnesses they will be able to call to do that. they're going to show they have to do the work, to say we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this company is guilty. company rushes in the day after they are caught and say we want a dpa and we are willing to pay anything, i'm not saying we shouldn't wait to develop the case, but if a company is being held up on something that is unjust, you want to put the prosecutors through the ringer, that they actually have the evidence and can prove beyond a reasonable doubt rather than this is an extortion of the company. i'm is some of the ways trying to address it. there is a lot going on and i can't give this my undivided attention, but this is one of the reforms i would like to seep you'd -- see.
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>> you gave a speech a few weeks ago that attracted a lot of attention, where you talked about the centrality of religious liberty in the u.s., fathersory and founding and the traditional religious values and how important they are to a fully functioning, free democracy. you actually said traditional religious values are the target of organized destruction and you said that people are attacking traditional religious values, whether it is requiring catholic institutions to provide contraception to employees or lgbt rights for organizations that don't accept those. this attracted a lot of attention on the left. on --t a lot of criticism from liberals and the new yorker called it the worst speech in history. this is our final moment, can you give a little more about why
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you think religious freedom is under threat, and what you particularly as the attorney general of the united states defend it and to restore it to its central role in the u.s. constitution, uslife -- u.s. life. atty. gen. barr: there was a consensus 10 years ago, 15 years ago, that there should be an accommodation of religion, it passed overwhelmingly in congress and chuck schumer was a cosponsor. hatchk teddy kennedy and were involved. maximum accommodation to religion. religion is a good thing and we may have a general rule but if it stops on somebody's toes, we try to accommodate it. now some people seem to take delight in forcing particular
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groups to accept something that is anathema to them. religionve lived with for 50,000 years. i'm not saying it's just a utilitarian thing but it has been a very important part of our ability to live together in a community. believed thatrs they could provide the kind of freedom they did in this system precisely because they felt the moral values people had primarily from religion, they would be able to control themselves so we could give the maximum freedom. and if they don't have that, society becomes more and more l andnicole -- tyrannica making all of the rules. i feel there has been a breakdown of self-control and
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the government is performing the role of and alleviate her of the consequences of that, essentially subsidizing irresponsibility and misconduct. we are getting more of it and less self-control. the government is facilitating that. i think we would be better off to take a more neutral and accommodating position toward religion. not a position of hostility toward religion, which i think the constitution has been misinterpreted to butte -- misinterpreted to. >> more and more people are asked to take public stances on this. is that a threat to the religious freedom and values you're talking about? atty. gen. barr: what do you mean? example, issues of social
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rights. lgbtq writes -- some people might object to that because of the religious view. it does seem like the prevailing atmosphere these days requires chief executives to embrace rights -- we've seen religious clashes come along with the stuff that chick-fil-a is going through. were seeing more and more pressure on companies. some regard it as a good thing. what is your view? atty. gen. barr: my view is i don't think it is a good development to have all of these social warriors essentially pushing companies to take positions on these kind of things. the companies that do, that is fine, if the shareholders are happy, that is fine too.
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i think i said this in my confirmation, i personally do not believe that gay people should be discriminated against at work, that's not currently in our law but i have no problem with that. i think that is the right thing. on the other hand, i think there has to be accommodation so that if the catholic school system doesn't want to have a gay person who is living in a single sex marriage as a teacher, they should be able to say that. my attitude is live and let live and there has to be space for real diversity. people talk about diversity, there not really talking about diversity. i want real diversity in society, people to be able to form their own communities according to their values. i think there is a group in our society that views the mission as bludgeoning everyone into uniformity. i said in my notre dame speech
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that it's a little like the roman empire, where the christians were the good citizens, they were the best fighters in the roman army. >> no match for the lions, though. atty. gen. barr: that was earlier. emperorsany of the would not let the christians live in peace. they were not satisfied and less they get up and sacrificed to the emperor as a god. you sort of feel a little of the ine spirit nowadays that less the little sisters of the poor provide contraception, there is something horrible and outrageous going on in society. i don't like that. >> we have to leave it there. thank you. [applause] and reaction from house republican leadership to the articles of impeachment, coming up you'd first, they talk about the