Below is the English-language transcript of Univision News’ interview with Attorney General Loretta Lynch. If you have any questions, please contact Jose Zamora: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Program: Al Punto with Jorge Ramos
Content: Interview with Attorney General Loretta Lynch
Interview Date: Friday, February 12, 2016
JR: Jorge Ramos
LL: Loretta Lynch
JR: Madame Attorney General thanks so much for talking to us.
LL: Thank you for having me.
JR: You have been on a national tour, trying to find the cooperation between police departments and the community; however, we’re noticing also some resistance when the City of Ferguson says “No.” Something is going wrong. Why don’t they want to cooperate with you at this time?
LL: You know I really can’t speak for the decision that the City of Ferguson made, except to say that I was very disappointed that seven months of positive, constructive, substantial negotiations were not able to bring about the change that we feel Ferguson both needed and that the Ferguson residents deserved.
JR: Now, I understand your good intentions, but what we see on national news is Michael Brown being shot by the police in Ferguson, Eric Gardner being killed by the New York Police Department, Tamir Rice – 12 – shot by the police in Cleveland. So, how were you really going to do this?
LL: It’s obviously a challenging time and I think those situations, and so many others that you meant that are similar to them, highlight the breakdown of trust between law enforcement and the communities that we serve, particularly the minority communities. When we look at the incidents of, as for example, in Ferguson, of the unconstitutional policing that we found, which validates what so many members in the minority community have been saying for years is their experience in this country. My view as Attorney General is, that should be no one’s experience in this country, that everyone deserves Constitutional policing, everyone deserves a safe community, and that we can have those two things together. What I’m focusing on, in addition to the specific cases that we work on, is looking at communities that have come back from those situations, where they’ve created – not a perfect situation – but a situation where the law enforcement and community members have come together and built bonds of trust, so that when there is an incident, they have a pathway to communications. They have a way to talk about what happened, where community residents get answers to their questions about situations, where law enforcement develop relationships with community members who will then give them information about those people in the community who are threatening everyone. So we’ve seen that work in a number of communities that have had very challenging relationships. And that’s why I’m here in Miami – is to highlight cities that are focusing on those issues as well as the pillars of the 21 st Century Task Force recommendations. Here in South Florida, we’re seeing some excellent work in that one of the most important pillars there is, building community trust and legitimacy. We’re seeing law enforcement agencies taking on the responsibility knowing that they have to make changes to be responsive to community members, to look out for them, to be guardians of the community. And we’ve seen community members also reaching out to make those connections.
JR: Do you sense a disconnect between your message and what we are seeing again in Ferguson or in Cleveland or in New York City. Did you see Beyoncé’s act during the Super Bowl?
LL: I saw the Super Bowl Halftime Show.
JR: All right. What was your reaction to her act, to the formation show?
LL: You know I viewed it as entertainment. I thought I viewed all the acts as entertainment. I think that art is one way in which we discuss difficult issues. I think the way in which I’m trying to deal with that is have those conversations directly with the people involved in those difficult issues. During the Ferguson negotiations, our team was in the city talking to residents, talking to elected officials and talking to police officials, finding out the information that led to the findings that supported our report. When we go into other jurisdictions, as we are doing where other cities are facing similar troubles, we talk directly to the people involved in that, and we try and help them build those bridges. We also try and find constructive ways of dealing with the specific problems that we find. When we find unconstitutional policing, we propose remedies. When we propose remedies, we offer guidance and help in getting police departments to those points.
JR: Going back to Beyoncé, because it’s related, I don’t know if you’ve seen her video, but—
LL: Yeah, I’ve not seen it.
JR: —at some point, there’s a scene in which a sign says “Stop Shooting Us.” Rudolph Giuliani said it was an attack on the police. He called it outrageous. Do you think it is?
LL: Well, I haven’t seen the video. But as I said, I think art sometimes—
JR: But it’s probably the—
LL: —does discuss—
JR: —that’s a concern in the community, that police are shooting members of the community.
LL: And I think people express their feelings about it through art, including music, and what I’m trying to do is bring people directly in the community together, face-to-face to discuss those issues. This morning I had police and young people in the same audience talking about why there was a disconnect at that level. Why do young people distrust the police? In large part is of the cases that you’ve mentioned – the situations that you talked about – as well as what they see in the media about other situations. And I had young people stand up and say, “You know, I don’t trust the police, but there’s a police officer who works at my school that I know, and that I do trust, and that I know he’s there to protect me.” So we can see how those connections can be made so that when that young person is in trouble, when she has a problem, she knows that she can, in fact, turn to that officer for help.
JR: We’ve been talking publicly about the tension between the African-American community and police departments, but when it comes to Latinos and to immigrant communities, we’ve seen the same, Attorney General.
LL: I think it’s the same dynamic.
JR: Exactly. Last February, we had a Mexican immigrant being killed by the Pasco Police Department in Washington, D.C; the same thing happened in Santa Ana, California; the same thing in Great Land, Texas. So what happens when the police department is not ready to deal with immigrants and when there’s an issue of language?
JR: They speak primarily Spanish, that’s not the case with the police department. How do you deal with that?
LL: You know, I think those are one of the – those situations highlight the need for change that’s focused on the specific issues there. We do see a number of situations of concern where there are language barriers between law enforcement and the communities that we all serve, whether it’s Hispanic or any other community. And there we also talk to those departments about diversifying their force, by increasing their language skills. It’s very similar in every community that feels disaffected, and that feels that law enforcement is not there to protect them.
JR: Mostly minorities, right?
LL: Mostly minorities, yes, mostly minorities in this country, and depending upon where a particular group is from, they may also have come from a country where government in general was not the source of protection for people and that will exacerbate the problem.
JR: So, here’s my question, you are sending a very strong message: there should be more cooperation between police departments and the community. However, all the examples, either from the African-American community and the Latino community, they are showing otherwise, that there’s tension, that African-Americans are being killed by the police, that Latinos and immigrants are being killed by the police. So, who’s right?
LL: Well, I think that all these things exist along the same spectrum and the message that I’m sending is not only should there be more cooperation, there has to be more communication.
JR: How can you trust the police when they kill you? When they kill your neighbors?
LL: You know, I think we have to look at those examples where communities have come back from those situations. When I was in East Haven, Connecticut, the Hispanic community there had a difficult relationship with the police – and that’s frankly an understatement – because the Department of Justice had to come in and bring a lawsuit against that police department for its discriminatory treatment of the Hispanic community. And when I went back and visited them just last year, because both of those parties decided to sit down, and they had to improve, in part because of our lawsuit, but in part because they realized that this was a community that belonged to all of them and that in fact, the Hispanic community deserved the best police department there was. So, with significant changes within the police department, including leadership that was committed to serving that community, and also with the Hispanic community saying, “We will speak up when we see a problem, we will bring this problem to your attention, and we will also work with you and try and have a better relationship.” I sat with community leaders who said, “You know, five years ago, six years ago, I was afraid of the police. Now they come into my store, I talk to them about the community, we work together, we keep the community safe together.” So we have to highlight those situations where it has been done and find out what are the common threads that exist in those situations. It always starts with a community saying we deserve better and we are demanding better. And this all has to be met with a law enforcement force that says, “We hear you, we listen to you, and we are willing to make those steps and make those changes to be responsive to you.”
JR: Now, we if recognize that there’s tension sometimes between the community and police departments. When you introduce the issue of immigration—
JR: —it becomes much more complicated. So, many communities, Latino communities, are complaining that the police department is cooperating with immigration agents. You know, after the raids and after more than two million people being deported during the last seven years, how can Latinos and immigrants trust the police if they feel that the police, eventually, are going to give information to immigration agents and they might be deported?
LL: Yes, and I think that this is also a situation that contributes to many communities being further victimized by people who feel that they are not going to report the problem, they’re not going to turn them in. And so it’s a great concern to law enforcement. It’s a great concern to me.
JR: So what should they – what should we do?
LL: You know, I think that this is an area in which we have to have greater dialog and discussion also. You know we had – at the Roundtable that I had this morning – this issue came up. A Miami-Dade police officer said, “Look, you know, we’re there to help. We’re there to find out what happened to someone and how can we bring the perpetrator to justice. We’re not the immigration police, that’s a separate agency.”
JR: Many departments are cooperating with immigration.
LL: Well, I think, I think the message has to get out there as well, and I think that there have to be those discussions about how to manage that situation, but I agree with you, it’s one of the most difficult issues facing us as we try and manage the immigration issue in this country. How do we remain welcome – welcoming and open? How do we protect people who’ve come here looking for a better life while dealing with what is frankly a broken immigration system.
JR: It’s not very good to me if you think it is okay for police departments to cooperate with immigration services.
LL: You know, I think every police department is handling that in the ways – in different ways – and I think it’s an area that we have to keep looking at and we have to keep talking about also. My concern as Attorney General is the protection of every community in this country, including immigrant communities, particularly when I see them being victimized further by people who view them as vulnerable.
JR: Can I ask you a few questions about El Chapo Guzmán?
JR: You dealt with him, right? When you were in New York?
JR: Specifically with him, with his case.
LL: With his case, yes.
JR: We’ve been talking – El Chapo’s attorney told us, told Univision – that his client is willing to say that he is guilty in exchange for certain conditions here in the United States. So my question is: is the Department of Justice negotiating with El Chapo right now?
LL: Well, we’re not negotiating with El Chapo right now because we can’t. El Chapo is currently in Mexican custody. We have submitted our extradition request to the Mexican Government and the Mexican Government is acting on those requests.
JR: So there’s no negotiating—
LL: So at this point—
JR: —negotiation right now?
LL: At this point he has to conclude those extradition proceedings in Mexico. We’re hopeful that he will be brought to the United States and then his attorney can bring whatever information he wants to, to the appropriate authorities here.
JR: If he comes here, how long would the extradition process take?
LL: It’s hard to say. You know, the Mexican process is different from ours. We’re hopeful it won’t take more than a few months, but I’m just not able to predict.
JR: So a few months, maybe.
LL: We’re hopeful but we can’t predict.
JR: If he comes here, where would he go? In which prison would he be?
LL: You know, it’s hard – we don’t know right now because what we’re trying to do is decide which place in the U.S. is the best place to start his criminal case here so that– so that if we do receive the extradition order, we’re ready to proceed though—
JR: Based on what? How do you decide that?
LL: Well, a number of offices had cases against El Chapo. You know, we’ve submitted—
JR: Chicago? Miami? New York?
LL: We submitted requests from two but there are more. There are more offices than that that have built very strong cases against El Chapo and so we have to decide what is the best place, what’s the strongest case, should we combine the cases. All those things will be discussed and we’ll make a decision, frankly, by the time he’s here.
JR: Actor Sean Penn wrote in Rolling Stone Magazine that he felt that when he visited El Chapo that he was being followed by the DEA. Is Sean Penn under investigation right now?
LL: You know, I don’t have any comment on Mr. Penn, or his role in this.
JR: But is he being investigated?
LL: Well, again, I don’t – I don’t have any comment on Mr. Penn, or his role in this.
JR: Does that mean that maybe?
LL: It means I don’t have anything to say about Mr. Penn.
JR: All right. Okay. I feel resigned. I get it.
LL: That’s quite all right.
JR: Is actress Kate del Castillo under investigation in the United States for possibly violating the Kingpin Act?
LL: You know, I don’t have any comment on Ms. Castillo or anybody else on this – on this matter.
JR: I’ll try a different way. Is the U.S. investigating if she was in touch with El Chapo before she became a U.S. citizen?
LL: You know, again, I don’t have any comment on any specific people or issues relating to El Chapo except the efforts that we are undertaking to be ready to receive him when the extradition order comes through.
JR: All right, last question again. If El Chapo is responsible for sending possibly billions of dollars in drugs from Mexico to the United States and building these tunnels between Mexico and the United States, how come we never hear of bankers or businessmen or government officials who are involved with him?
LL: In terms of his—
JR: Exactly. There has to be some corruption here in the United States for him to be able to do business in this country.
LL: Well, certainly I think that, you know, I’m not able to comment on all of those questions, but I do think that at least with respect to his most recent activities, I believe the Mexican Government has been – begun an investigation to the corruption that allowed him to escape. I don’t have any greater insight into their role or their investigations, but I know it’s a subject of great importance to them. Certainly with respect to his operations in the U.S., we will be focused on his narcotics operation as well as any other money laundering that we would have evidence of as well.
JR: Does it make sense that we have these huge drug lords in Mexico and we don’t see huge drug lords here in the United States? How do you explain that?
LL: You know, I’m not able to explain the mind of the drug lord, although I was a narcotics prosecutor for a number of years and it’s a very, very familiar pattern. In many instances, drug lords know that law enforcement here is very active and able to detect the movement of large sums of money and were they to be in the U.S., keeping money here, they would be great targets for law enforcement. There sometimes can be a view that they may be in a place from which they will not be extradited or from which they can control the process in some way. You mentioned corruption. Again, we don’t know about specific instances, but certainly that has to play into it in many instances. And so what we see often are individuals who reside in the U.S. and their home countries, but they have large networks of drug-trafficking in the U.S. We go after those. We also go after international drug traffickers. We have a very strong record of extradition from Mexico and from Venezuela of significant drug traffickers, as well as from Colombia. So the long arm of U.S. law enforcement is strong, it is active, it does not rest, and we build our cases and we do reach overseas and pull those individuals in, even though they may think that they’re safe by being beyond our borders.
JR: Were you surprised that some of the – at least a couple of weapons from the Fast and Furious operation ended up in El Chapo’s home in Los Mochis, in Mexico?
LL: I think that the problem of illegal arms, both illegal arms smuggling and the use of firearms in the drug trade, is an endemic problem, it is a systemic problem, it is responsible for so much of the violence that is connected with the drug trade, as we have known for years that the Mexican border was a place from which weapons flowed easily. And so I think we are likely to see large caches of weapons from all sources as we go further into those investigations.
JR: General Attorney, thanks so much. And then can we walk too?
JR: All right.
JR: And no Chapo questions.
LL: That’s okay.
JR: Thank you very much. So we’ll walk through here. I grew up in Mexico City.
JR: And obviously soccer was very important.
JR: So I thought that no one ever was going to fight FIFA, no? And then here you come.
JR: And then you change everything.
JR: How do you find out that something was wrong with international soccer?
LL: You know, this – our investigation into FIFA began back in 2010, and there were some other underlying cases that led us to look at the flow of money into the individuals who were associated with international soccer, and the more we looked, the more disturbing it was that this great sport, the most popular sport in the world—
JR: I know.
LL: —the sport through which we teach our children fair play and sportsmanship and character had been corrupted by individuals who took this great sport and turned it into nothing more than a personal piggybank for themselves, particularly individuals who were charged with working on the FIFA’s foundation of work.
LL: You know, a large part of the money that they receive, it runs the organization, but it’s also supposed to go back out to countries that can’t afford the structure and the infrastructure needed for children’s soccer, to build fields, to build the stadiums, so that everyone can enjoy this game and play this great game. And instead, it was going into their pockets. The fact that one of the individuals made much of the fact that he worked for free—
LL: —at the same time taking bribes, I found to be inconsistent with the integrity of the game.
JR: Absolutely. One final question, you’ve been Attorney General for ten months.
LL: Ten months, yes.
JR: What have you learned so far?
LL: That there are tremendous challenges facing us, but that there are people of good will everywhere, and sometimes in places where you assume that there are not, and that they are committed to making America great and strong and to protecting people. All the problems that we look at, be they the police community relations, be they violent crime, be they human-trafficking, as hard as they are, I have met people who were so dedicated and so committed to helping victims, to protecting young people, to ending corruption, that it is an honor to be serving them.
JR: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
LL: Thank you.