More than 170 cases opened in federal probe of U.S. Capitol attack
FBI official calls initial cases ‘just the tip of the iceberg’
Protesters enter the Senate Chamber on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Congress held a joint session that day to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. Pro-Trump extremists entered the U.S. Capitol building after mass demonstrations in the nation’s capital. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — Almost a week after a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, top officials at the FBI and Department of Justice held their first press conference on Tuesday to announce that they are directing prosecutors to issue a slew of sedition and conspiracy charges against pro-Trump rioters.
More than 170 cases have been opened relating to the Jan. 6 insurrection, said Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. He and Steven D’Antuono of the FBI Washington field office said they expect more to follow and are still sifting through more than 100,000 pieces of digital evidence.
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Sherwin said some of the crimes prosecutors are charging include anything from trespassing to stealing government property to homicide and aggravated battery. Many of the rioters broke into members’ offices, stealing laptops, mail and a lectern, among other things.
They added that they are also still investigating those responsible for planting pipe bombs outside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee, whose headquarters are near the Capitol.
“That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” D’Antuono said.
FBI Director Christopher Wray and Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen were not present at the briefing.
Reporters pressed officials, asking them if the U.S. Capitol Police were informed by the FBI that a violent attack was being coordinated on the Capitol. The Washington Post reported that an FBI office in Virginia warned Capitol Police that extremists were planning on traveling to D.C. to commit violent acts and bring “war” to the Capitol on the day lawmakers were scheduled to certify Electoral College votes declaring Joe Biden the winner of the presidential election.
D’Antuono said that a great deal of information was shared with the Capitol Police as well as D.C. law enforcement, but he did not specify whether or not the FBI warned Capitol Police officers of a possible riot.
Lawmakers have also raised concerns about the failures and underpreparedness of Capitol Hill police officers.
More than 50 law enforcement officers were taken to the hospital for injuries and one died due to injuries from the mob. Another Capitol Hill police officer, who was on duty that day, died by suicide Saturday.
“We are also troubled by reports about warnings received by law enforcement authorities and the actions taken to share those warnings and respond to them prior to the attack,” members of Congress said in a joint statement after the briefing. “This is a moment when our entire national security and law enforcement apparatus must be working in complete lockstep.”
Those lawmakers include House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Oversight and Reform Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Homeland Security Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Armed Services Chair Adam Smith (D-Wash.), and Oversight Committee member Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.).
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked for Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund to resign as well as the House Sergeant-at-Arms, Paul Irving. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also asked for the resignation of Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger.
D’Antuono and Sherwin said they expect more cases to be opened and more charges filed against those who took part in the pro-Trump extremist mob.
“This is not going to be solved overnight,” D’Antuono said. “This is going to be a long-term investigation.”
He added that the FBI is still investigating the reasons for the mob storming the Capitol, as well as the intentions of the individual or individuals who rigged the pipe bombs. The bombs were set to go off with timers, but for some reason they did not explode, he said. The FBI was able to detonate the bombs safely, he added.
Asked if some rioters planned to take lawmakers hostage — since some of them were photographed with zip ties and military gear — or harm them, D’Antuono said the FBI was still investigating.
“We are looking at all angles,” D’Antuono said, “to ascertain the true purpose of some of these individuals in the Capitol that day.”
In the days after Wednesday’s insurrection, Democrats have moved to impeach the president, who held a rally near the Washington Monument that day and encouraged his supporters to march to the Capitol and voiced disinformation about how the presidential election was stolen from him.
The House plans to vote to impeach the president as soon as Wednesday, and if successful, Trump will be the first president to be impeached twice in the House.
The president was also banned from several social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook for encouraging violence.
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