Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Attorney General Bill Barr denied Wednesday that there are "two justice systems" for Black and white people in the U.S., claiming in a wide-ranging interview on CNN that the idea that there is an "epidemic" of police shooting unarmed Black men is "simply a false narrative."

The big picture: Barr acknowledged that there is a "widespread phenomenon" of Black men being treated with "extra suspicion" and "maybe not being given the benefit of the doubt" by police officers, but he denied that this is the product of "systemic racism." A number of other Trump Cabinet officials and the president himself have denied that there is systemic racism in policing.

What he's saying: "I did say that I do think that there appears to be a phenomenon in the country where African Americans feel that they're treated, when they're stopped by police, frequently, as suspects before they are treated as citizens," Barr said.

  • "I don't think that that necessarily reflects some deep-seated racism in police departments or in most police officers. I think the same kind of behavior is done by African American police officers."
  • "I think there are stereotypes. I think people operate very frequently according to stereotypes, and I think it takes extra precaution on the part of law enforcement to make sure we don't reduce people to stereotypes."

He continued: "I think there are some situations where statistics would suggest that they are treated differently. But I don't think that that's necessarily racism."

  • "Didn't Jesse Jackson say when he looks behind him and he sees a group of young black males walking behind him, he's more scared than when he sees a group of white youths walking behind him. Does that make him a racist?"

Driving the news: Barr said he would prefer not to weigh in on the case of Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times in the back by a police officer, stressing that he does not view the incident as "interchangeable" with the killing of George Floyd.

  • He said that Blake was "in the midst of committing a felony and he was armed."
  • According to the initial account released by the Wisconsin Justice Department, Blake told police officers he had a knife in his possession, and it was later recovered from the driver’s side floorboard of his car.
  • Blake's family and lawyer Ben Crump have denied that he was armed.

Of note: Crump said in an emailed statement disputing Barr’s account that the attorney general was "misinformed" and alleging the officers were "the aggressors from start to finish, based on video and witness accounts."

  • "There was never any point in time when there was justification for deadly force. In fact, there were innocent bystanders in the line of fire when he shot seven times into Jacob’s back," Crump said.
  • "At all material times, Jacob’s back was to the officers and he never posed an imminent threat. This was never a life or death situation for the officers."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with Crump's comments.

Go deeper

The cities that are already defunding the police

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

"Defund the police" became a rallying cry for many people on the left almost overnight — but it's also having a real impact as cities move quickly to slash their police department budgets.

Driving the news: In the aftermath of the protests over the killing of George Floyd, city leaders are calling to cut law enforcement budgets or reallocate funds in at least 19 U.S. cities, according to Local Progress, which pushes for racial and economic justice and is tracking the issue in real-time.

Biden's Day 1 challenges: Systemic racism

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor (PA Images)/Getty Images

Advocates are pushing President-elect Biden to tackle systemic racism with a Day 1 agenda that includes ending the detention of migrant children and expanding DACA, announcing a Justice Department investigation of rogue police departments and returning some public lands to Indigenous tribes.

Why it matters: Biden has said the fight against systemic racism will be one of the top goals of his presidency — but the expectations may be so high that he won't be able to meet them.

Scoop: Gina Haspel almost resigned over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel almost resigned in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelations stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency.