Barr says nothing ‘undercuts’ finding Epstein committed suicide

Barr says nothing ‘undercuts’ finding Epstein committed suicide
NY State Sex Offender Registr/AP via CNN

Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday he has seen nothing so far that “undercuts” the New York City medical examiner’s finding that Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide.

Speaking in Dallas, Barr told reporters that investigations into the death by the FBI and Justice Department’s inspector general were “well along,” but that they had been delayed because “a number of the witnesses are not cooperative” and were requiring union representatives and lawyers before interviews could be scheduled.

“However we’re moving expeditiously and I think soon I’ll be in a position to report to Congress and the public the results,” Barr said.

The House Judiciary Committee had set a Wednesday deadline for answers to a number of questions about the conditions surrounding Epstein’s death at a Bureau of Prisons facility in Manhattan earlier this month. The Justice Department was not expected to provide a fulsome response.

Earlier this week Barr removed Hugh Hurwitz, the acting chief of the Bureau of Prisons, from his role and replaced him with Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, whom he had appointed to lead the agency during his first stint as attorney general over 20 years ago.

Barr said that he had “every confidence (Hawk Sawyer) is going to be able to address any management or operational deficiencies” at the Manhattan Correctional Center and other prisons.

Barr has said he was “angry” and “appalled” at the MCC’s “failure to adequately secure this prisoner” and cited “serious irregularities” at the facility in a speech last week.

CNN previously reported that at least one of the two employees on duty in Epstein’s unit at the time of his death was not part of the regular detention workforce but was filling in as a guard, and Epstein had not been checked on for hours before he hanged himself.

Barr delivered his latest comments to reporters Wednesday at a boxing gym in Dallas for an event that highlighted the Justice Department’s signature violent crime reduction effort. That effort, known as Project Safe Neighborhoods, uses data to target high crime areas with extra programming and resources from federal and local law enforcement.

Walking alongside John Cornyn, Texas’s senior GOP senator, Barr glad-handed and fist-bumped with uniformed children who showed off equipment at the center, which was funded by grants established through Project Safe Neighborhoods.

The Trump administration’s response to mass shootings

At the event, Barr also discussed the Trump administration’s response to the back-to-back mass shootings in Texas and Ohio earlier this month, saying he expects policy proposals to advance after Congress returns from recess in September.

“The President has been consulting broadly, particularly with members of Congress and the leadership on the Hill, and when Congress returns from recess I expect that the administration, as well as the leaders on the Hill, are going to be advancing some proposals,” Barr said Wednesday.

Barr said last week that one of the proposals would include legislation that aimed to speed up the use of the death penalty against convicted mass murderers.

Meanwhile, in Washington, President Donald Trump continued to equivocate on the question of expanding background checks, telling reporters on Wednesday that he still has an “appetite” for moving forward with policies that addressed them. His comments came despite a source familiar with the details of a call between the President and the chief of the National Rifle Association on Tuesday telling CNN that Trump said changes to the background check system were “off the table.”