Report: AG Barr ‘exploring’ criminal charges for Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan over CHOP
As U.S. Attorney General William Barr continues to ramp up pressure to prosecute protesters suspected of violence, a new report claims he might be looking into criminal charges against Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.
According to a report from The New York Times, Barr has asked U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors with the civil rights division to “explore” if criminal charges against Durkan are possible for her role in allowing the formation of the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) in June.
While the Times gleaned that information from “two people briefed at those discussions,” a department spokesperson issued a denial Wednesday night, claiming that Barr “did not direct the civil rights division to explore this idea.”
Brian Moran, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, also denied the Times’ report, saying that “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).”
Durkan addressed the Times’ report Wednesday night, stating that she’s less concerned about any potential criminal charges against herself and more focused on “how this President and his Attorney General are willing to subvert the law and use the DOJ for political purposes.”
“This report is chilling and the latest abuse of power from the Trump administration. This is not a story about me,” Durkan said on Twitter. “The DOJ cannot become a political weapon operated at the behest of the President to target those who have spoken out against his actions. That is an act of tyranny, not of democracy.”
“I will continue to fight for what I believe is right, and I will not be distracted by these threats from meeting the challenges facing our great city: a pandemic, an economic crisis, a climate crisis, and a civil rights reckoning,” she added.
Barr has pressed U.S. attorneys to bring federal charges against protesters suspected of violence whenever possible, keeping a grip on cases even if a defendant could be tried instead in state court. Additionally, he’s also reportedly advised federal prosecutors to look into sedition charges in these cases as well.
The Trump administration’s crackdown has already led to more than 300 arrests on federal crimes in the protests since the death of George Floyd.
Seattle saw that play out in August, after a 19-year-old suspected of attempting to set fire to the East Precinct saw his case moved into federal court, after initially being scheduled for an appearance in a King County court, before federal authorities stepped in to assume control.
Michael Balsamo, Alanna Durkin Richer, and Colleen Long with the Associated Press contributed to this report