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Attorney General Barr creates task force to investigate anti-government extremists

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 6/27/2020 Kristine Phillips, USA TODAY
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WASHINGTON – Attorney General William Barr has created a task force to investigate anti-government extremists that officials said were responsible for instigating violence and disrupting peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd.

Barr, in a memo Friday, said there is evidence that extremists belonging to the far-right "boogaloo" movement and those who identify as antifa, a loosely organized anti-fascist group, are responsible for some of the violence that marred protests across the country. Barr also said some of the extremists may have had some support from foreign entities, although he did not offer evidence.

"Although these extremists profess a variety of ideologies, they are united in their opposition to the core constitutional values of a democratic society governed by law," Barr said.

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Barr said the task force will obtain information about extremist groups, their networks and movements. "The ultimate goal of the task force will not be to enable prosecution of extremists who engage in violence, but to understand these groups well enough that we can stop such violence before it occurs and ultimately eliminate it as a threat to public safety and the rule of law."

The Justice Department has charged a number of people in connection with violence that happened at protests. Earlier this month, federal authorities in Nevada charged three men associated with the "boogaloo" movement with conspiracy to cause destruction during demonstrations in Las Vegas.

Officials have offered no information linking suspects to antifa.

In an interview with NPR, Barr said investigators don't arrest people for being a member of the far-left movement.

"We charge them for throwing a Molotov cocktail, or we charge them for possession of a gun, or possession of gasoline and things to make bombs with," Barr said. "Those are the kinds of charges that are filed. Even less sensational charges, such as battery. But we are building, we are obtaining information and intelligence about the operations of these people."

Barr tapped Craig Carpenito and Erin Nealy Cox, the chief federal prosecutors in New Jersey and in Texas' northern district, respectively, to lead the task force. 

Last week, Barr announced that Carpenito will serve as acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan following the resignation of Geoffrey Berman. But Berman refused to resign, creating an extraordinary clash over control of one of the Justice Department's most prestigious offices. The standoff ended after Trump fired Berman. Barr then backtracked from his temporary appointment of Carpenito and allowed Berman's deputy to take his place until a successor is confirmed by the Senate. 

Antonio Panzeri wearing a suit and tie: Attorney General William Barr is sworn in before giving his opening statement before the House Judiciary Committee hearing about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and his handling of the investigation. © Jack Gruber, USAT Attorney General William Barr is sworn in before giving his opening statement before the House Judiciary Committee hearing about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and his handling of the investigation.

Contributing: Kevin Johnson

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Attorney General Barr creates task force to investigate anti-government extremists

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