D.C. Council member Marion Barry called on federal prosecutors to wrap up their investigation into Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s 2010 mayoral campaign, saying the probe is “holding the city hostage.”
At a taping of the Q & A Café with Carol Joynt, Barry told the lunch crowd at the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown that federal prosecutors have a history of dragging out investigations “to put the squeeze on the people” but often fall short of indictments.
“What I am saying, the [U.S.] Attorney General, the U.S. Attorney, should not hold this city hostage by dragging this out and letting people speculate,” said Barry.
Barry noted that when he was mayor, federal officials spent more than a year investigating whether he personally benefited from a $50,000 renovation on his house before determining he did not do anything illegal. Barry told the crowd the investigation should have taken “about two weeks” because he gave the FBI “all the receipts” that he said proved he paid for the work out of his own pocket.
“That is their tactics; that is how they operate,” Barry said of federal investigators. “I have seen the tactics, and I think they are wrong.”
Barry's statements were part of a wide-ranging interview in which Joynt grilled Barry on race, his own arrest for smoking crack in 1990, his views toward Asians, and his political future, as he stands poised for election to a third term on the council.
Barry said he is in the process of writing a 22-chapter book about his life, but only “one, maybe two” chapters will be about his past arrest or drug addiction. The rest of the book, he said, will focus on the years from his upbringing through the civil rights era and his effort to improve the lives of Washingtonians.
At times, the interview grew combative as Barry repeated his often-used explanation that he was entrapped when he was caught smoking crack in the Vista Hotel.
“The FBI spent $10 or $15 million dollars trying to entrap me,” Barry said. “There are hundreds of millions Americans who have addiction problems, but since 1990 I have been clean. That is remarkable.” (In 2005, while under court monitoring after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor tax violation, Barry tested positive for marijuana and cocaine.)
The interview also focused considerably on race, with Joynt pushing Barry to explain his views toward white residents and politicians.
Barry declined to answer a question about whether he ever envisions himself being able to campaign for a white candidate for mayor, but said he believes the city would consider a well-qualified white candidate.
“Is D.C. ready for a white mayor?” asked Joynt, editor at large of The Washingtonian.
“Some people are, some people are not,” Barry replied, to laughs.
“Which people are you?” Joynt replied.
“I’m ready for democracy,” Barry told the crowd of business and social leaders..
When the discussion turned to Barry’s controversial comments earlier this year about Asian-owned business in Ward 8 being “dirty,” the former mayor reiterated he thinks the media took his remarks out of context but doubled down on what he views as the lackluster quality of some of businesses.
“These stores were dirty and restaurants were nasty, and they need to give back to the community,” Barry said.
As for his own future, Barry noted he’s running unopposed in the Nov. 6 general election. He wouldn’t speculate if he plans to seek the seat when his four-year term is over.
But Barry said he’s “grooming” a number of Ward 8 residents -- including his son, Christopher -- to possibly replace him.
At one point in the interview, Joynt said some District residents might still assume that Barry is still mayor.
“I like that,” Barry responded. “Let them keep thinking that. Mayor for life.”
The Q&A Cafe airs in the District on Channel 16 on Friday nights. Barry’s interview will likely air this Friday or on Oct. 5.