During a phone call last week with federal prosecutors, Attorney General William Barr said they should consider charging anyone who committed a violent crime during recent protests with sedition, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times on Wednesday.
This was a very unusual suggestion, as the federal sedition law is rarely invoked, and his proposal startled some people on the call, the Times reports. Federal prosecutors have so far charged more than 200 people with violent crimes related to the protests, with most accused of arson or assaulting federal officers.
Research by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project shows that more than 93 percent of the anti-racism and anti-police brutality protests over the summer were peaceful, the Times reports. FBI officials have said most people who committed violent acts during the demonstrations took advantage of the situation, using the protests as an opportunity to get aggressive, and police departments reported far-right and far-left fringe groups were involved. Barr, meanwhile, has insisted most of the violence was caused by left-wing agitators.
Two people briefed on the matter told the Times Barr has also asked members of the Justice Department's civil rights division to look into whether any criminal charges can be filed against Jenny Durkan, the Democratic mayor of Seattle, for allowing citizens to set up a police-free protest zone near downtown. Durkan and President Trump repeatedly clashed on the best way to handle the situation.