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Consider prosecutors

Barr Told Prosecutors to Consider Sedition Charges for Protest Violence – The New York Times

Attorney General William P. Barr was also said to have asked prosecutors to explore whether to bring charges against the mayor of Seattle for allowing a police-free protest zone.

Credit…Brandon Bell for The New York Times

Katie Benner

WASHINGTON — Attorney General William P. Barr told federal prosecutors in a call last week that they should consider charging rioters and others who had committed violent crimes at protests in recent months with sedition, according to two people familiar with the call.

The highly unusual suggestion to charge people with insurrection against lawful authority alarmed some on the call, which included U.S. attorneys around the country, said the people, who spoke on the condition they not be named describing Mr. Barr’s comments because they feared retribution.

The attorney general has also asked prosecutors in the Justice Department’s civil rights division to explore whether they could bring criminal charges against Mayor Jenny Durkan of Seattle for allowing some residents to establish a police-free protest zone near the city’s downtown for weeks this summer, according to two people briefed on those discussions.

The directives are in keeping with Mr. Barr’s approach to prosecute crimes as aggressively as possible in cities where protests have given way to violence. But in suggesting possible prosecution of Ms. Durkan, a Democrat, Mr. Barr also took aim at an elected official whom President Trump has repeatedly attacked.

Justice Department representatives did not respond to requests for comment. The Wall Street Journal first reported Mr. Barr’s remarks about sedition.

During a speech on Wednesday night, Mr. Barr noted that the Supreme Court had determined that the executive branch had “virtually unchecked discretion” in deciding whether to prosecute cases. He did not mention Ms. Durkan or the sedition statute.

“The power to execute and enforce the law is an executive function altogether,” Mr. Barr said in remarks at an event in suburban Washington celebrating the Constitution. “That means discretion is invested in the executive to determine when to exercise the prosecutorial power.”

The disclosures came as Mr. Barr directly inserted himself into the presidential race in recent days to warn that the United States would be on the brink of destruction if Mr. Trump lost. He told a Chicago Tribune columnist that the nation could find itself “irrevocably committed to the socialist path” if Mr. Trump lost and that the country faced “a clear fork in the road.”

Mr. Barr’s actions have thrust the Justice Department into the political fray at a time when Democrats and former law enforcement officials have expressed fears that he is politicizing the department, particularly by intervening in legal matters in ways that benefit Mr. Trump or his circle of friends and advisers.

The protest zone in Seattle became a flash point in the national debate over issues of race and policing this summer. Officers had abandoned the police station there for weeks before retaking it in late July amid escalating violence, including deadly shootings. Ms. Durkan said at the time that she had been forced to act because of the lawlessness.

Days later, federal Homeland Security officials sent tactical agents to the city. Ms. Durkan protested that their arrival would potentially exacerbate tensions between residents and local officials.

Mr. Trump has called the people who lived in the zone “domestic terrorists” and warned that Ms. Durkan and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington needed to regain control of the area. “If you don’t do it, I will,” the president wrote on Twitter. “This is not a game.”

The attorney general’s question about whether Ms. Durkan, the former U.S. attorney in Seattle, had violated any federal statutes by allowing the protest zone was highly unusual, former law enforcement officials said.

“The attorney general seems personally, deeply offended by the autonomous zone and wants someone to pay for it,” said Chuck Rosenberg, the former U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia. “If the people of Seattle are personally offended, they have political recourse. There is no reason to try to stretch a criminal statute to cover the conduct.”

His supporters say Mr. Barr’s approach is necessary to preserve order at a moment that threatens to spiral into violence and to tamp down unrest in cities where the local authorities will not.

More than 93 percent of the protests in the United States this summer were peaceful, according to a report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, which monitors political upheaval worldwide. The report looked at 7,750 protests from May 26 through Aug. 22 in 2,400 locations across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

But far-right and far-left groups, as well as looters and rioters, have seized on the protests to commit acts of violence, including deadly shootings — serious crimes that some federal prosecutors said could not be dismissed out of hand as anomalous, particularly as the threat from extremist groups grows.

Two men associated with Boogaloo, a far-right movement that supports the coming of a second civil war, were arrested on terrorism-related charges last week. Prosecutors said they used the protests as cover to try to sell weapons to the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which the United States and other countries consider a terrorist group, and to use the money to support the Boogaloo movement.

Mr. Barr told federal prosecutors on the call that they needed to crack down on rioting, looting, assaults on law enforcement officers and other violence committed during the protests that have continued across the country since George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, was killed by the police in May.

Mr. Barr mentioned sedition as part of a list of possible federal statutes that prosecutors could use to bring charges, including assaulting a federal officer, rioting, use of explosives and racketeering, according to the people familiar with the call. Justice Department officials included sedition on a list of such charges in a follow-up email.

After Mr. Barr spoke, Richard P. Donoghue, a top aide to the deputy attorney general, interjected to note that some of the U.S. attorneys on the call worked in districts where violence during protests was less common, and that the federal prosecutors may not need to use tools as aggressive as sedition charges.

Mentioning that he had visited Portland, Ore., Mr. Donoghue also assured the prosecutors that the Justice Department would support all efforts to crack down on violence.

“If Barr was saying that if you have a sedition case, then bring it, that is fine,” Mr. Rosenberg said. “But if he is urging people to stretch to bring one, that is deeply dangerous.”

The most extreme form of the federal sedition law, which is rarely invoked, criminalizes conspiracies to overthrow the government of the United States — an extraordinary situation that does not seem to fit the circumstances of the riots and unrest in places like Portland, Ore., and elsewhere in response to police killings of Black men.

The wording of the federal sedition statute goes beyond actual revolutions. It says the crime can also occur anytime two or more people have conspired to use force to oppose federal authority, hinder the government’s ability to enforce any federal law or unlawfully seize any federal property — elements that might conceivably fit a plot to, say, break into and set fire to a federal courthouse.

Congress has treated seditious conspiracy as an unusually serious crime: While ordinary federal offenses carry a maximum sentence of five years, a conviction on a charge of seditious conspiracy can carry up to 20 years in prison.

Charlie Savage contributed reporting.

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prosecutors Russian

Russian prosecutors say no need for criminal investigation in Navalny affair – Reuters

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian prosecutors said on Thursday they saw no need for a criminal investigation into the sudden illness of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who his supporters suspect was poisoned, and they had found no sign that any crime had been committed.

FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny delivers a speech during a rally to demand the release of jailed protesters, who were detained during opposition demonstrations for fair elections, in Moscow, Russia September 29, 2019. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov/File Photo

The Interior Ministry said it had started a preliminary investigation into the case, but this was routine.

Navalny, 44, was airlifted to Germany on Saturday after collapsing during a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk to Moscow. He is now in a medically-induced coma in a Berlin hospital.

The hospital said its initial medical examination pointed to poisoning, though Russian doctors who had treated Navalny in a Siberian hospital have contradicted that diagnosis.

On Thursday, the Russian Prosecutor General’s office said there was no indication a crime had been committed against him.

It saw no basis to open a criminal investigation, the office said in a statement.

German authorities have agreed to cooperate with Russia on the case, the Prosecutor General’s office said, asking Germany to share information about his treatment and promising to give some back in exchange.

The Siberian branch of the Interior Ministry’s transportation unit said it was carrying out a preliminary investigation after Navalny’s flight made an emergency landing in the city of Omsk.

It had inspected the hotel room where Navalny had been staying in Tomsk and the routes he had taken in the city, as well as analysing video surveillance footage from the area, it said. The ministry did not find any drugs or other potent substances.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated the government’s position that there was no need for a formal investigation but that preliminary checks were always carried out in such situations

RELATIONS WITH WEST

Navalny’S supporters believe he was poisoned by his foes. He has been a thorn in the Kremlin’s side for more than a decade, exposing what he says is high-level graft and mobilising crowds of young protesters.

He has been repeatedly detained for organising public meetings and rallies and sued over his investigations into corruption. He was barred from running in a presidential election in 2018.

The Kremlin said this week it wanted the circumstances surrounding Navalny’s condition to come to light and that it hoped the incident would not hurt its relations with the West.

Germany, France and other countries have called on Russia to investigate. European Union ministers are set to discuss Navalny’s condition this week.

Russia is already under wide Western sanctions after its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine six years ago, and another stand-off with European nations or the United States may hurt its economics further.

Reporting by Anastasia Teterevleva, Maria Kiselyova and Anton Zverev; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Sujata Rao and Angus MacSwan

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charge prosecutors

Prosecutors charge 3 alleged R. Kelly accomplices of threatening, intimidating accusers – Fox News

Three men accused of intimidating and threatening women — who have accused embattled musician R. Kelly of abuse — have been charged by federal prosecutors.

The Grammy-award winning musician has pleaded not guilty to dozens of state and federal sexual misconduct charges in Illinois, Minnesota and New York.

The charges include sexual assault and leading a racketeering scheme aimed at supplying Kelly with girls. Kelly also is accused of having unprotected sex with a minor in 2015 without disclosing he had herpes.

R. KELLY FACES SEXUAL ABUSE ALLEGATIONS INVOLVING A NEW ACCUSER IN UPDATED FEDERAL INDICTMENT IN CHICAGO

A longtime friend of the indicted singer offered to pay a victim $500,000 to keep her from cooperating in Kelly’s prosecution, authorities said, while a manager and adviser of Kelly threatened to release sexually explicit photographs of a woman who sued Kelly.

A Kelly defense attorney said he had “no involvement whatsoever” in any attempt to silence witnesses.

“He hasn’t attempted to intimidate anyone, or encouraged anyone else to do so,” attorney Steve Greenberg said on Twitter.

Prosecutors described a third man accused of intimidating witnesses as being related to a former Kelly publicist. They said Michael Williams, 37, of Valdosta, Ga., traveled to Florida in June and set fire to an SUV parked outside a residence where one of Kelly’s victims was staying.

Williams also allegedly conducted Internet searches for “the detonation properties of fertilizer and diesel fuel, witness intimidation and witness tampering and countries that do not have extradition with the United States,” authorities said in a news release.

“The men charged today allegedly have shown that there is no line they will not cross to help Kelly avoid the consequences of his alleged crimes — even if it means re-victimizing his accusers,” Peter Fitzhugh, special agent in charge of the Homeland Security Investigations in New York, said in a statement.

FILE - In this Sept. 17, 2src19, file photo, R. Kelly appears during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago.

FILE – In this Sept. 17, 2019, file photo, R. Kelly appears during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago.
(Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool, File)

Also charged were two Illinois men with ties to Kelly. His longtime friend, Richard Arline Jr., 31, is accused of offering to pay off a woman he believed had “too much” incriminating information against Kelly.

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Authorities said they set up a wiretap and recorded a call in which Arline claimed he had spoken with Kelly behind bars during a three-way call.

Donnell Russell, 45, of Chicago, is charged with harassing a Kelly victim and her mother after the unidentified woman filed a lawsuit against Kelly. Authorities said Russell, a manager and adviser to Kelly, sent a letter to the woman’s lawyer with cropped nude photographs of her and later sent her a text warning her: “Pull the plug or you will be exposed.”

R&B singer R. Kelly, center, arrives at the Leighton Criminal Court building for an arraignment on sex-related felonies in Chicago. Federal prosecutors announced charges Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2src2src, against three men accused of threatening and intimidating women who have accused Kelly of abuse, including one man suspected of setting fire to a vehicle in Florida.

R&B singer R. Kelly, center, arrives at the Leighton Criminal Court building for an arraignment on sex-related felonies in Chicago. Federal prosecutors announced charges Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, against three men accused of threatening and intimidating women who have accused Kelly of abuse, including one man suspected of setting fire to a vehicle in Florida.
(AP Photo/Amr Alfiky, File)

Kelly, who saw a renewed interest in his alleged crimes thanks to a documentary series titled “Surviving R. Kelly,” recently had a request to be released from the Chicago Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he is serving time, due to the COVID-19 pandemic denied by a judge. Part of the reason for the denial, according to U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly, had to do with the fact that Kelly might intimidate witnesses.

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“The defendant is currently in custody because of the risks that he will flee or attempt to obstruct, threaten or intimidate prospective witnesses,” Donnelly wrote in April. “The defendant has not explained how those risks have changed.”

Attempts to find attorneys for Williams, Russell, and Arline by Fox News were unsuccessful.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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prosecutors Trump

NY prosecutors say Trump investigation extends beyond hush money payments – CNN

(CNN)Manhattan prosecutors on Monday asked a federal judge to dismiss President Donald Trump’s lawsuit challenging a subpoena for his financial records, emphasizing that their investigation extends beyond hush-money payments and pointing to public reports of “extensive and protracted criminal conduct” at the Trump Organization.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s lawyers have previously said the probe is expansive, and on Monday they pointed out that when the subpoena was issued, “there were public allegations of possible criminal activity at Plaintiff’s New York County-based Trump Organization dating back over a decade.”
Last week, lawyers for Trump filed an amended complaint seeking to block the state grand jury subpoena to Trump’s long-time accountant Mazars USA for eight years of personal and business records by arguing the subpoena was “wildly overbroad” and issued in bad faith.
Trump’s latest legal challenge comes after the US Supreme Court ruled last month that the President does not have broad immunity from a state grand jury subpoena.
At the White House, Trump called Vance’s probe “a continuation of the witch hunt.”
“It’s Democrat stuff,” Trump said during Monday’s press briefing. “They failed with Mueller. They failed with everything.”
In their court papers earlier Monday, lawyers for Vance wrote of Trump’s amended complaint: “This ‘new’ filing contains nothing new whatsoever, and Plaintiff has utterly failed to make a ‘stronger showing of bad faith than he previously made to this Court.”
The district attorney’s office added that Trump’s lawyers are relying on a false assumption that the investigation is limited to hush-money payments made to two women during the 2016 presidential campaign who alleged affairs with Trump. Trump has denied the affairs.
“Plaintiff’s argument that the Mazars Subpoena is overbroad fails for the additional reason that it rests on the false premise that the grand jury’s investigation is limited to so-called ‘hush-money’ payments made by Michael Cohen on behalf of Plaintiff in 2016,” the district attorney’s office said.
CNN has previously reported that Vance is investigating other transactions that go beyond the hush-money payments.
On Monday, they told the court that given public reports “of possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization, there was nothing facially improper (or even particularly unusual) about the Mazars Subpoena, which issued in connection with a complex financial investigation, requesting eight years of records from an accounting firm.”
In 2019, Vance’s office described the scope of its investigation in court filings, but redacted several paragraphs over three pages. That filing openly described the hush money investigation because it was already public. US District Judge Victor Marrero privately viewed the unredacted information and found the subpoena was not overly broad.
Last year, ProPublica revealed discrepancies about the information the Trump Organization told tax authorities and lenders about its business. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio asked Vance’s office to look into the allegations.
Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, told Congress in 2018 that he believed Trump artificially inflated the value of some of his assets in dealings with insurers and banks. Cohen offered only three internal financial documents as his proof, but no other documents to bolster his claims.
The district attorney’s office interviewed Cohen as part of its Trump investigation at least three times last year, CNN has previously reported. People familiar with the inquiry say Cohen was asked about the range of allegations he has made against the President.
This story has been updated with comment from President Trump.

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