Attorney General William Barr told the nation’s federal prosecutors to be aggressive when charging violent demonstrators with crimes, including potentially prosecuting them for plotting to overthrow the U.S. government, people familiar with the conversation said.
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.
The call underscores the priority Mr. Barr has given to prosecuting crimes connected to months of protests against racial injustice that have at times become violent and led to major property damage, as President Trump has made a broader crackdown on violence accompanying the demonstrations a key campaign issue. U.S. attorneys have broad discretion in what charges they bring.