DOJ Never Mentioned Charging Seattle Mayor Over Protest Zone: U.S. Attorney

September 18, 2020 Updated: September 18, 2020

The district attorney for the Western District of Washington said no one at the Justice Department (DOJ) said that Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan should be the subject of a criminal investigation or face charges in connection with the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP).

U.S. Attorney Brian Moran made the remarks in a Sept. 16 statement, following media reports, including one by The New York Times, claiming that Attorney General William Barr asked prosecutors in the DOJ’s civil right division to look into the possibility of charging Durkan with crimes for allowing some Seattle residents to establish a protest zone in the city this summer.

Moran said that he has had a number of discussions with DOJ leadership throughout what he described as a “lengthy period of civil unrest” in Seattle, which included requests for information regarding cases filed in his district pertaining to federal crimes, and about violent activity and “federal interests implicated by the Capitol Hill Organized Protest.” He added 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 protest zone.

“As U.S. Attorney I would be aware of such an investigation,” he added.

DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec earlier told the Associated Press and Fox News that the department had explored whether it could pursue criminal and civil charges against Portland officials for their handling of the violent rioting that erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s death. The DOJ did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ questions regarding potential legal action.

Citing anonymous sources, The New York Times reported on Sept. 16 that Barr, in a call with prosecutors last week, told them that charges of sedition should be considered against rioters and others who committed violent crimes amid protests. In its report, the outlet claimed Barr also asked prosecutors to explore charges against Durkan, although the paper also cited a DOJ spokesperson who denied the claim.

In his statement, Moran said his district has been working with state and local law enforcement to prosecute a range of federal crimes, including arson and weapons violations.

“Those cases are traditionally an area of focus for federal law enforcement. The goal of my office is to strongly deter criminal acts that have no place alongside, and only endanger, those who choose to engage in constitutionally protected speech,” he said.

Seattle protest
People stand on burned vehicles following demonstrations protesting in Seattle, Washington on May 30, 2020. (Photo by Jason Remond/AFP via Getty Images)

Durkan reacted to the New York Times report on Twitter, which she shared in a post, saying, “This report is chilling and the latest abuse of power from the Trump administration. This is not a story about me. It’s about the how this President and his Attorney General are willing to subvert the law and use the DOJ for political purposes.”

She added, “As a former U.S. Attorney, I took an oath of office to protect the Constitution. 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.”

Trump has criticized Durkan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, both Democrats, over the protest zone.

“Radical Left Governor @JayInslee and the Mayor of Seattle are being taunted and played at a level that our great Country has never seen before. Take back your city NOW,” Trump wrote in a tweet in June. “If you don’t do it, I will. This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stooped IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST!”

The protest zone was cleared by police on July 1.

Seattle has for months been rocked by rioting and other forms of violence amid what local officials have described as largely peaceful protests.

The most recent outbreak of protest-related violence took place on Sept. 15, after an anti-police rally turned into property damage against businesses, according to the Seattle Police Department. Eleven people were arrested, with police recovering bear mace, a knife, and a collapsible baton from the rioters.

Earlier, during Labor Day clashes with police, 22 people were arrested on charges including arson, assault, obstructing, and failure to disperse, with Seattle police saying they had confiscated some unused Molotov cocktails. Rioters threw rocks, bottles, and explosives during the incident, police said.

So far, the Trump administration’s tough-on-crime approach in the wake of protest-related violence has led to over 300 arrests on federal crimes.

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