Seattle Mayor Brands Reports Barr Encouraged Sedition Charges 'Chilling'

Responding to reports that Attorney General William Barr told prosecutors to consider sedition charges against those involved in rioting or violence linked to recent protests, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan described it as "chilling" and "the latest abuse of power from the Trump administration."

The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times report that Barr made the suggestion in a call with federal prosecutors last week, referencing people familiar with the conversation as sources.

The New York Times report also included suggestions the Justice Department's civil rights division could look at bringing criminal charges against Durkan in regards to allowing a police-free protest zone, previously known as CHAZ and then CHOP, to be set up in Seattle amid protests.

Responding to the New York Times report, Durkan said: "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.

"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."

Durkan said she "would not be distracted" by the reported threat against her and said: "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."

The New York Times reported that a department spokesman said Barr did not direct the civil rights division to explore the prospect of charges against Durkan.

Newsweek has contacted Durkan and the Justice Department for further comment.

Trump and Barr have taken a hardline stance on those involved in acts of violence surrounding civil unrest across the nation.

The president previously ordered the Justice Department to look at areas he branded "anarchist jurisdictions," which might then lose federal funding, while he has long said issues in the U.S. are mainly in Democrat-run states or cities.

Barr has also recently faced criticism over comments in regards to his control over the Justice Department, with Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) telling him to "stop acting like a tinpot dictator" after recent remarks.

The president has made law and order a focal point of his campaign rhetoric, insisting Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and fellow Democrats would not take a strong position on the matter.

This is despite Biden having condemned violence which has occurred across the nation and questioned whether people feel safe under Trump's leadership.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan speaks at a press conference after Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best announced her resignation at Seattle City Hall on August 11, 2020 in Seattle, Washington, D.C. She has criticized reports Attorney General Bill Barr has suggested charges of sedition be leveled against some involved in rioting or violence at protests. Karen Ducey/Getty Images