U.S. Attorney General William Barr asked federal prosecutors to explore whether or not they could levy charges against Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan for “allowing a police-free protest zone” in June, according to explosive reporting by The New York Times.
According to The Times, Barr also told prosecutors that they should consider sedition charges for people who had committed violent crime at protests or participated in riots.
The discussion came after President Donald Trump issued a memo telling federal agencies to identify money sent to the “lawless cities” of Seattle; Portland, Oregon; Washington, D.C. and New York City and redirect it — if possible — to “jurisdictions that protect communities.”
In a statement, Durkan referred to the report as “chilling” and “the latest abuse of power from the Trump administration.”
“[The Constitution] is the bedrock of our country and why the Department of Justice cannot become a political weapon operated at the behest of the President to target those who have spoken out against this administration’s actions,” Durkan said. “That is an act of tyranny, not of democracy.”
Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York who was fired by the Trump administration, chimed in on Twitter, telling his former colleague that he was “available pro bono.”
Barr replaced former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in February 2019. Sessions, one of the earliest Trump supporters in the 2016 election, had lost the faith of the president after he recused himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the election. He became a frequent target of the president on social media and was eventually ousted. Sessions failed to win back his old Senate seat in Alabama in July.
Since assuming the office, critics have decried a pattern of actions by Barr’s DOJ that they say is politicizing the department.
Before the conversation about sedition, the DOJ intervened in a defamation case against Trump, and Barr told Chicago-area journalists that the country would be “irrevocably committed to the socialist path” unless Trump won his reelection bid.
Durkan is also facing heat from the left for her management of the protests against police brutality that began in earnest on May 30.
The recall seeks to hold Durkan accountable for the actions of police and the use of chemical agents against protesters when they took to the streets in the middle of a respiratory disease pandemic. Other charges were dismissed by a judge.
Durkan appealed the decision, and the case is pending before the Washington State Supreme Court.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC.
Read more in the Sept. 23-29, 2020 issue.