Many in the GOP have urged Trump to utilize the Justice Department to crack down on the angry mobs that have targeted dozens of statues and monuments in cities across the nation during recent weeks.
Now, The Hill reported on Friday that President Trump has ordered Attorney General Bill Barr to prioritize prosecuting and jailing of “protesters” that have vandalized federal monuments since the death of George Floyd in May.
Trump is cracking down
Though President Trump has not moved to disperse the large protests gathering in cities nationwide for weeks, once activists began targeting historical monuments, Trump moved swiftly to crack down on the vandalism.
What started as efforts to remove monuments to confederate generals morphed quickly into targeting any monument to American history –including statues of renowned abolitionists such as Union General Ulysses S. Grant and Hans Christian Heg, who gave his life to end slavery during the American civil war.
Activists have even tried to topple the emancipation memorial, which memorializes Abraham Lincoln ending slavery in America.
Trump signed an executive order on Friday that authorized the DOJ “to prosecute to the fullest extent permitted under Federal law, and as appropriate” any person that “destroys, damages, vandalizes or desecrates a monument, memorial or statue or who damages, defaces or destroys religious property.”
Though the Veterans’ Memorial Preservation Act passed in 2003 already authorizes the prosecution of memorial and statue vandals, Trump’s executive order also enacts the policy of withholding federal funds from state and local governments that allow rioters to desecrate public monuments.
It’s time to act
Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he “just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues – and combatting recent Criminal Violence. Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country!”
Trump clarified during a press conference that the order directs Barr to prioritize investigations and prosecution of memorial vandals and to work with local law enforcement agencies to “‘appropriately’ provide information and assistance in connection with investigations or prosecutions related to monuments, memorials or status,” according to the Hill.
The order also authorizes the federal government to send military, homeland security, and federal law enforcement officers anywhere that the secretaries of Interior or Homeland Security or the Administrator of General Services request in order to protect historical monuments.
Trump has been calling for “law and order” since the protests broke out in the wake of Minneapolis man George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, but has left enforcement up to state and local governments — with mixed results.
However, Barr has also revealed that the Justice Department is not standing idly by. According to a memo obtained by the Washington Post, Barr has formed a task force that has been directed to monitor and crack down on “anti-government extremists.”