Attorney General William Barr encouraged federal prosecutors to consider charging some protesters with plotting to overthrow the government.
The attorney general warned U.S. attorneys last week on a conference call that demonstrations could grow more violent ahead of the November election, according to sources familiar with the discussion, and he urged prosecutors to seek federal charges against protesters even when state charges may apply, reported the Wall Street Journal.
Barr listed various statutes that might apply, including the rarely used law against sedition, which legal experts say would require prosecutors to prove a conspiracy to attack government agents or officials that posed an imminent danger.
Rhetoric alone wouldn't be enough to prove that charge, and such speech could be protected under the First Amendment.
Law enforcement officials also discussed using a statute allowing prosecutors to charge individuals who impede or obstruct officers responding to unrest, which legal experts say is rarely applied and could also be protected.