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Barr told federal prosecutors to aggressively charge protesters with crimes: report
Attorney General William Barr reportedly told federal prosecutors recently to be aggressive when charging protesters with crimes, saying demonstrations marked by violence could increase closer to the November election.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Barr instructed U.S. attorneys during a conference call last week to seek several federal charges when prosecuting people accused of committing crimes related to such demonstrations. He urged federal charges even when state charges could apply, sources told the newspaper.
The attorney general reportedly also encouraged federal prosecutors charge protesters with sedition. Legal experts told the Journal that those charges would require the government to prove a conspiracy to attack government agents or officials that posed an imminent danger.
The newspaper reported that officials have also examined using a statute that would allow charges to be brought against a person who impedes or obstructs a police officer responding to unrest.
The attorney general raised a warning on the call that violent protests will likely continue as the presidential election approaches.
The Justice Department did not immediately return a request for comment.
The reported remarks signal Barr's emphasis on prosecuting crimes related to the protests this summer against police brutality and racial injustice that have at times devolved into violence and looting.
Across the country, more than 200 people have been charged with federal violent crimes associated with the demonstrations. Most of the charges are related to arson, assaulting federal officers or gun crimes, according to the Journal.
FBI Director Christopher Wray earlier this year condemned violence and property destruction amid the protests as well as those seeking to take advantage of the unrest "to pursue violent, extremist agendas." Authorities have voiced concerns about armed groups from the left and the right joining demonstrations.