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Barr and Trump. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

Attorney General Bill Barr said in a statement Sunday that the Justice Department will use its network of 56 regional FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces to identify the "criminal organizers and instigators" of violence during the George Floyd protests, including antifa and similar groups.

Why it matters: Barr, President Trump and other members of the administration have pinned the blame for riots and looting over the past few days of protests against police brutality on antifa, a loosely defined far-left movement that uses violence and direct-action protest tactics.

  • President Trump tweeted on Sunday that the United States will be designating antifa, which is short for "anti-fascist," as a terrorist organization. However, the law that allows the government to designate entities as terrorists only applies to foreign organizations.
  • In addition, antifa is a decentralized organization with no designated leadership, so it may be difficult for federal authorities to determine which agitators belong to the movement.
  • "Terrorism is an inherently political label, easily abused and misused," the ACLU tweeted. "Let’s be clear: There is no legal authority for designating a domestic group. Any such designation would raise significant due process and First Amendment concerns."

What he's saying:

"Federal law enforcement actions will be directed at apprehending and charging the violent radical agitators who have hijacked peaceful protest and are engaged in violations of federal law.
To identify criminal organizers and instigators, and to coordinate federal resources with our state and local partners, federal law enforcement is using our existing network of 56 regional FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF). 
The violence instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly.”
— Bill Barr

Go deeper

Updated Sep 3, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump issues memo to cut funding from "anarchist" Democratic cities

President Trump during a speech in Wilmington, N.C., on Wednesday. Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

President Trump issued a memorandum on Wednesday titled "Reviewing Funding to State and Local Government Recipients That Are Permitting Anarchy, Violence, and Destruction in American Cities."

Why it matters: The review threatens to withdraw federal funding for any "anarchist jurisdiction" it finds "disempowers or defunds police departments." The memo specifically mentions the Democratic-controlled cities of Portland, Seattle, New York, and Washington, D.C.

Portland shooting suspect killed by officers

The suspect, Michael Reinoehl, is seen during a protest in front of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler's house on Aug. 28. Photo: Beth Nakamura/The Oregonian via AP

Michael Forest Reinoehl, the man wanted for killing a right-wing activist during a pro-Trump rally in Portland last weekend, was shot dead as federal law enforcement attempted to take him into custody overnight, The Oregonian reports.

The state of play: A U.S. Marshals Service spokesperson said that Reinoehl produced a gun during the encounter, leading federal agents to fire back. Reinoehl had described himself in a social media posts as "100% ANTIFA" and suggested the tactics of counter-protesters amounted to "warfare," per the AP.

Updated 19 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Key information about the effective COVID-19 vaccines — Oxford and AstraZeneca's vaccine won't just go to rich countries.
  2. Health: U.S. coronavirus hospitalizations keep breaking recordsWhy we're numb to 250,000 deaths.
  3. World: England to impose stricter regional systemU.S. hotspots far outpacing Europe's — Portugal to ban domestic travel for national holidays.
  4. Economy: The biggest pandemic labor market drags.
  5. Sports: Coronavirus precautions leave college basketball schedule in flux.