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 described Mr. Barr’s comments on the condition of anonymity for fear of 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. Late Wednesday, a department spokesman said that Mr. Barr did not direct the civil rights division to explore this idea.
The health department’s top communications official is taking a medical leave, three days after urging President Trump’s supporters to prepare for an armed insurrection and accusing government scientists of “sedition,” the agency announced Wednesday.
Michael Caputo, assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, leveled the accusations and promoted other conspiracy theories in a Facebook Live event on Sunday.HHS said in a statement released early afternoon that Caputo would be on leave for the next 60 days to “focus on his health and the well-being of his family.” That means he will be gone until after the Nov. 3 election.
The agency also said that Paul Alexander, a top aide to Caputo, would be leaving the agency permanently. Alexander came under scrutiny in recent weeks for his efforts to exert control over the messages coming from scientists and top health officials, including the content of weekly science reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to make them conform to the president’s assertions that the virus is under control.