Attorney General William Barr held a press conference in Phoenix Thursday, to announce the results of Operation Crystal Shield, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) six-month-long effort to combat, command and control elements of Mexican cartels that operate major methamphetamine “transportation hubs” in the United States.
Watch Barr’s remarks in the video player above.
Barr along with Acting Administrator Timothy J. Shea said the operation generated a total of more than 750 investigations, resulting in nearly 1,840 arrests and the seizure of more than 28,560 pounds of methamphetamine, $43.3 million in drug proceeds, and 284 firearms.
“The trafficking of methamphetamine poses a major danger to our communities, and the federal government is determined to disrupt, dismantle and destroy the violent drug trafficking organizations that place profits over human lives,” Barr said.
During the news conference Barr responded to his recent defense of the Justice Department’s move to intervene in a defamation lawsuit against President Donald Trump, even as experts were skeptical of the federal government’s effort to protect the president in a seemingly private dispute.
He cited the Westfall Act, which enables the Justice Department to be substituted as a defendant when federal employees are sued in state court for actions within the scope of their official duties, and for the case to be transferred to federal court, where recovery of damages may be more difficult.
“Courts have held explicitly that in a representative democracy like ours, elected officials who respond to press questions relating to their private affairs, even though their private affairs as office holders, that is considered to be action in the course of employment and falls under the Westfall Act,” he said.
The Justice Department’s action is consistent with the expansive view of executive authority it has taken under Barr and with its practice of taking legal positions benefiting the president’s personal interests, including asking the Supreme Court just last month to allow him to block critics from his Twitter account.
It is likely to deepen concerns from critics that the department is functioning as a private law firm for the president, with the attorney general as his personal lawyer, which Barr has adamantly denied.
Barr responding to a reporter question on his position toward mail-in ballots for this year’s elections.
“What I’ve said is that opens the floodgate to potential fraud and coercion and has always been recognized as creating those significant risks,” he said.