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The Justice Department has denied a report that Barr instructed federal prosecutors to look into whether Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan could be charged for allowing a Capitol Hill Organized Protest, aka ‘CHOP’ zone.
According to sources who spoke with The New York Times, Barr consulted with prosecutors in the Justice Department’s civil rights division to see whether the mayor, a former U.S. attorney herself who has clashed frequently with the Trump administration over her handling of the Capitol Hill Organized Protest Zone, had violated any federal laws by refusing, for weeks, to dismantle it.
The Justice Department denied that Barr made any such request, the Times reported. Also, Brian Moran, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington, released a statement following the report that Barr asked prosecutors to consider charging Durkan.
“Throughout this lengthy period of civil unrest, I have had multiple conversations with Department of Justice leadership. They have asked for information about protest activity devolving into violence, about federal interests implicated by the Capitol Hill Organized Protest, and about the cases filed in this District regarding federal crimes,” Moran said.
“At no time has anyone at the Department communicated to me that Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is, was, or should be the subject of a criminal investigation or should be charged with any federal crime related to the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP). As U.S. Attorney I would be aware of such an investigation,” he added.
In addition, sources told the paper that the attorney general, in a conference call, instructed federal prosecutors to consider whether violent rioters and looters could be charged with sedition, described in 18 U.S. Code, in part, as opposing “by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof.”
The paper alleged that Barr’s suggestion “alarmed some people on the call, which included U.S. attorneys around the country.”
After about three weeks, Durkan finally ordered police and city crews to dismantle the CHOP Zone after a number of people had been shot there. She nevertheless praised the “incredibly peaceful demonstrations” thereafter, first dismissing concerns about the zone as a “summer of love” protest.
Two people who were shot inside the zone were killed. The father of one of them, Horace Anderson, filed a $3 billion lawsuit late last month over the death of his 19-year-old son, Horace Lorenzo.
As for Barr, his alleged interest in sedition charges appears to be in line with comments President Donald Trump made last week when told of plans to launch major, potentially violent, protests if he wins in November.
“We’ll put them down very quickly if they do that. We have the right to do that. We have the power to do that, if we want,” the president said in an interview with Fox News’ Judge Janine Pirro.
“Look, it’s called insurrection,” he added. “We just send in, and we do it very easy. I mean, it’s very easy. I’d rather not do that because there’s no reason for it, but if we had to, we’d do that and put it down within minutes.”
Also, the president has said on the campaign trail that he has instructed his administration to clamp down on the violence while also publicly calling for the Justice Department to bring as many cases as possible against rioters and looters and to pursue lengthy prison sentences as part of his “law and order” approach to the ongoing unrest.
In June, Barr formed a task force to target anti-government extremist elements including members of Antifa, which he has described as having “engaged in indefensible acts of violence designed to undermine public order.”
A number of domestic terrorism experts have routinely said that Antifa is a decentralized group with no organization. But Barr — and a recently uncovered email memo from a Department of Homeland Security intelligence official — says otherwise.”
“No question, Antifa is a movement,” Barr told NBC News earlier this month. “They have websites. They are organized.…Anyone who has spent a moment at these things and heard their chants and what they’re calling for can see right away that they are, they say they are, revolutionaries, that this is a revolution.”
A July email leaked to CBS News investigative reporter Catherine Herridge written by former Acting Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis Brian Murphy said the continuous Antifa-led violence in Portland, Ore., was not “opportunistic” but instead was “organized.”
“We can’t say any longer that this violent situation is opportunistic. Additionally, we have overwhelmingly (sic) intelligence regarding the ideologies driving individuals toward violence and why the violence has continued,” he wrote.
“A core set of Threat actors are organized, show up night after night, share common TTPs (Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures) and drawing on like-minded individuals to their cause,” Murphy noted, describing much of the chaos as “Violent Antifa Anarchists Inspired,” or VAAI.
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