Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has accused the Trump administration of using the Justice Department as a “political weapon,” following a report that the DOJ may charge her for allowing protesters to take over part of the city in June.
Addressing a story published in the New York Times on Wednesday – which claimed Attorney General Bill Barr had asked prosecutors to consider criminal charges for the Democratic mayor – Durkan said the “chilling” report only proved the administration had politicized the Department of Justice, deeming Barr’s request an “act of tyranny.”
“This report is chilling and the latest abuse of power from the Trump administration,” Durkan said in a tweet. “This is not a story about me. It’s about how this President and his Attorney General are willing to subvert the law and use the DOJ for political purposes.”
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.
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.https://t.co/vPJJwuB5az
While the Times report relied on nameless sources – who it said refused to go on record “because they feared retribution” – the story also noted that Barr had recommended prosecutors consider sedition charges for those caught committing violent crimes amid ongoing protests around the country.
In Durkan’s case, the sources said Barr suggested criminal charges in relation to an “autonomous zone” established by protesters in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood in June – what came to be known as the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest,” or CHOP.
The protester encampment became a lightning rod for controversy, seeing five different shootings in the space of a month. Durkan came under heated criticism for allowing the zone to exist for four weeks, at one point even sending city workers to construct concrete barricades for the ad hoc commune. While the city ultimately shut down the zone in early July, the mayor has been assailed by critics for suggesting the CHOP take-over would usher in a “summer of love.”
Created after Seattle police were forced to abandon their East Precinct during chaotic demonstrations, the protester enclave has resulted in a number of lawsuits against the city. In June, more than a dozen local business owners sued Seattle, arguing authorities failed to maintain basic public safety, allowing “violence, vandalism, excessive noise, public drug use, and other crimes” to flourish in the zone.
The Trump administration has repeatedly condemned what it has called “anarchist jurisdictions,” even threatening to pull federal funding from city governments taking a softer approach toward the ongoing unrest. However, prosecuting the opposition party’s mayor of a major city like Seattle would mark a significant escalation in the federal response to the protests, which were kicked off in dozens of American cities by the police killing of George Floyd in May.
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