Barr creates task force focused on 'anti-government extremists'

Attorney General William BarrBill BarrBarr says Black Lives Matter 'distorting the debate' Barr: Don't defund police, invest in them Nadler: Barr dealings with Berman came 'awfully close to bribery' MORE on Friday directed the Justice Department to form a task force dedicated to combating “anti-government extremists,” according to a memo obtained by The Washington Post, raising the stakes in the government’s response to nationwide protests. 

Barr argued in the memo that anti-government agitators had infiltrated peaceful demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism and “engaged in indefensible acts of violence designed to undermine public order.”

“Among other lawless conduct, these extremists have violently attacked police officers and other government officials, destroyed public and private property, and threatened innocent people,” Barr wrote. “Although these extremists profess a variety of ideologies, they are united in their opposition to the core constitutional values of a democratic society governed by law. ... Some pretend to profess a message of freedom and progress, but they are in fact forces of anarchy, destruction and coercion.” 

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In the memo, Barr identified members of the right-wing "Boogaloo" movement and the anti-fascist movement known as antifa as the top targets of the task force. 

Craig Carpenito, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, and Erin Nealy Cox, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, will head the task force, which will also include representatives from the FBI and other prosecutors’ offices. 

The task force’s mission will be to develop information about “extremist individuals, networks, and movements,” share data with local authorities and provide training to local prosecutors on how to wage cases against anti-government extremists. 

“The ultimate goal of the task force will be not only to enable prosecutions of extremists who engage in violence, but to understand these groups well enough that we can stop such violence before it occurs and ultimately eliminate it as a threat to public safety and the rule of law,” Barr wrote.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill regarding the memo.

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Barr said in an interview with NPR on Thursday that the Department of Justice has launched “approximately 300 investigations” nationwide, including into some people associated with antifa.

Barr has sought to take a tough posture on anti-government groups since some early protests over George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis turned violent. 

“There are some groups that don't have a particular ideology, other than anarchy. There are some groups that want to bring about a civil war — the Boogaloo group has been on the margin of this as well,” he said earlier this month, adding that the Justice Department would find “constructive solutions.”