DOJ disputes report that AG Barr considered charges against Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan over CHOP

Mayor Jenny Durkan made national headlines this week after a report revealed U.S. Attorney General William Barr considered criminal charges against her over her handling of the Capitol Hill Protest Zone, or CHOP.

According to The New York Times, Barr blamed Durkan for allowing the police-free protest zone in Capitol Hill to happen - and then to continue for two weeks until it was shut down due to a rash of late-night violence in the four-six block area that left two people dead. 

Barr reportedly suggested the Justice Department’s civil rights division look into possible sedition charges against Durkan.

The occupied protest took over several blocks in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in June following national unrest over the death of George Floyd and police brutality. The mayor also told officers to abandon Seattle PD's East Precinct during part of the occupied protest.

It’s also reported that Barr wanted prosecutors to consider charging violent rioters. 

DOJ also was apparently considering criminal charges against Portland city leaders for protests and riots in their city. 

A justice spokesperson says federal investigators were looking at whether actions by local leaders helped spur violence in Portland over the summer. When asked if charges could still be brought, the spokesperson declined to answer.

Durkan called the report “chilling” in a series of tweets and said it’s “the latest abuse of power” from President Trump’s administration.

“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," she said. 

U.S. Attorney Brian Moran, representing the Western District of Washington, said he has not heard anything about DOJ considering charges against Durkan. Here's his full statement: 

“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.  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).  As U.S.  Attorney I would be aware of such an investigation. 

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.”