Barr says signs of 'foreign actors' exacerbating violence in George Floyd protests

The attorney general identified 3 major groups involved in the protests — peaceful demonstrators, those exploiting the protests to loot, and "extremist agitators" including Antifa and other groups from across the political spectrum.

Last Updated:
June 4, 2020 - 2:54pm

Attorney General William Barr said Thursday that intelligence officials have evidence of foreign meddling in the George Floyd protests.

"We're seeing foreign actors playing all sides to exacerbate the violence" during the protests, Barr said.

He also identified three major groups involved in the protests – peaceful demonstrators, those exploiting the protests to loot, and "extremist agitators" including Antifa and other groups from across the political spectrum.

Countries meddling in one another's affairs has a long history. But such practices came under intense scrutiny during the 2016 elections, in which Russian actors were found to have meddled in races, and the Trump campaign was investigated for possibly colluding with them. The meddling in the recent protests raises fresh concerns about whether – or to what extent – foreign actors will meddle in the 2020 races. 

In the public address Thursday about Floyd's death and the subsequent protests, the attorney general said President Trump has granted him full authority to investigate how the 46-year-old Floyd died during a May 25 arrest during which a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on Floyd's neck until he lost consciousness. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. 

"The president has directed me to spare no effort," he said. "We will work hard to bring good out of bad."

Barr condemned the lawbreaking and the violent rioters that have taken to the streets in cities across America for the past nine nights. 

"When the rule of law breaks down, the promise of America does also," he said.

Barr had previously spoken about the wave of militants inciting chaos among the protests around the country. On Saturday, he said "It is a federal crime to cross state lines or to use interstate facilities to incite or participate in violent rioting, and we will enforce those laws."

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