US Attorney Denies Report that Barr Considered Criminal Charges Against Seattle Mayor

September 17, 2020 Updated: September 17, 2020

U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran on Sept. 17 denied a New York Times report claiming, citing anonymous sources, that Attorney General William Barr asked federal prosecutors to consider criminal charges against Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan for allowing the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) police-free zone.

In a statement issued early Thursday, Moran, an attorney for the Western District of Washington, strongly denied the allegations, saying that he has had “multiple conversations” with Department of Justice (DOJ) officials.

“Throughout this lengthy period of civil unrest, I have had multiple conversations with Department of Justice leadership. They have asked for information about protest activity devolving into violence, about federal interests implicated by the Capitol Hill Organized Protest, and about the cases filed in this district regarding federal crimes,” the federal prosecutor said.

“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).”

His comments followed a Wednesday report from The New York Times that said Barr asked prosecutors in the DOJ’s civil rights division to explore criminal charges against the Seattle mayor. The report cited two people who said they were briefed on those discussions.

The Epoch Times has reached out to the DOJ for comment.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan speaks at a news conference about the COVID-19 outbreak in Seattle, Washington, on March 16, 2020. (Elaine Thompson, Pool/Getty Images)

Durkan responded to the report in a statement Wednesday, saying it is “chilling and the latest abuse of power from the Trump administration.”

“The Department of Justice cannot become a political weapon operated at the behest of the president to target those who have spoken out against this administration’s actions,” Durkan said. “That is an act of tyranny, not of democracy.”

“Ultimately, this is not a story about me. It is about the how this president and his attorney general are willing to subvert the law and use the Department of Justice for political purposes,” the mayor added. “It is particularly egregious to try to use the civil rights laws to investigate, intimidate, or deter those that are fighting for civil rights in our country.”

It comes just weeks after Durkan filed a petition asking Washington’s Supreme Court to halt a recall effort against her over her handling of June’s widespread protests.

Petitioners say Durkan endangered the city by repeatedly violating her duties under state law, including when she “wrongfully disallowed” property rights by permitting occupiers to take over a section of Seattle in June before finally ordering the occupation cleared after several deadly shootings.

Petitioners have also taken issue with the mayor’s handling of law enforcement, accusing her of “allowing police to leak false information,” failing to implement new policies when officers used crowd control measures during a public health emergency, and failing to enforce compliance with municipal codes when officers “deliberately attacked members of the press.”

A spokesperson for Durkan told The Epoch Times in a July email that the mayor “has consistently acted to protect the public health and safety of residents during the pandemic, economic devastation, and demonstrations for justice.”

Moran added: “My office continues to work collaboratively with state and local law enforcement, including the Seattle Police Department, to prosecute federal crimes such as arson, weapons violations and the use of destructive devices.

“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.”