Attorney General Barr told federal prosecutors to potentially charge violent protesters with attempting to overthrow the government.
In a conference call with U.S. attorneys across the country last week, Mr. Barr warned that sometimes violent demonstrations across the U.S. could worsen as the November presidential election approaches. He encouraged the prosecutors to seek a number federal charges, including under a rarely used sedition law, even when state charges could apply, the people said.
In the call last week, Mr. Barr urged prosecutors to seek federal charges whenever possible, two of the people said. He listed a number of additional statutes they could potentially use, including one addressing conspiracies or plots to overthrow the government. Legal experts say the rarely used statute could be difficult to prove in court and potentially run up against First Amendment protections.
To bring a sedition case, prosecutors would have to prove there was a conspiracy to attack government agents or officials that posed an imminent danger, legal experts said. Rhetoric alone wouldn’t suffice.
Violent protesters should be prosecuted for their violence, not for trying to overthrow the government. The legal standard for sedition will be difficult if not impossible to reach, but Barr’s guidance wasn’t really about punishing violence.
Barr wants protesters charged with overthrowing the government, because it will give Trump something to campaign on, and boost his claims of law and order, and that the country is under threat from protesters.
How would federal prosecutors prove sedition in court? Protesting the government is a First Amendment right. Prosecutors would need to be able to prove that the protesters are conspiring with the goal of overthrowing the government.
Barr’s behavior is corrupt and undermining the integrity of the DOJ. Hopefully, the nation’s prosecutors are smart enough not to be turned into campaign workers for Donald Trump.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association