Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (D) accused President Donald Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr of “tyranny” late Wednesday suggesting the pair had warped the Justice Department into a “political weapon” used on those who speak out against the Trump administration.
The comments follow a New York Times report on Wednesday that revealed Attorney General Bill Barr asked the Justice Department’s civil rights division to explore bringing criminal charges against Durkan for allowing residents to establish a police-free protest zone earlier this summer.
According to the report, Barr also told federal prosecutors to consider sedition charges for rioters and those committing violent crimes at protests in recent months.
“Today’s report is chilling and the latest abuse of power from the Trump administration,” Durkan said in a statement issued late Wednesday, adding: “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.”
A department spokesman late Wednesday denied the Times report that Barr had given a directive to raise charges against Durkan, who is also a former U.S. attorney for Western Washington.
But Durkan said the report demonstrates how “this President and his Attorney General are willing to subvert the law and use the Department of Justice for political purposes.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Barr said that attorneys general, senior DOJ officials, and U.S. Attorneys “are indeed political.”
“But they are political in a good and necessary sense,” Barr contended at an event honoring Constitution Day at Hillsdale College.
The remarks come as the attorney general faces ongoing criticism for repeatedly shielding the President from detractors, parading and defending Trump’s campaign strategy for “law and order” and actively entertaining unfounded doubts and false theories about the integrity of the November presidential election. Barr has increasingly emerged as a co-conspirator in Trump’s relentless effort to chip away at the legitimacy of the electoral process during a pandemic.
The attorney general has also stomped on civil liberties — giving the order for the removal of demonstrators during the now-infamous presidential photo-op that led to the tear-gassing of peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square.
Defending demonstrations in her city, Durkan said she found it “particularly egregious” that the Justice Department was trying to weaponize civil rights laws “to investigate, intimidate, or deter those that are fighting for civil rights in our country.”
The mayor accused the Trump administration of failing financially-strapped Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic, and said he is threatening to “withhold funding from Seattle and other American cities because of their commitment to racial justice.”