Jan 12, 2021 - Politics & Policy

FBI seeking felony cases "tied to sedition" in far-reaching probe of Capitol siege

A large crowd of Trump supporters stand next to stairs leading to the U.S. Capitol
A pro-Trump mob at the Capitol building on Jan. 6. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

The FBI has opened files into over 170 people and made charges in over 70 cases as it investigates the fatal siege on the Capitol, acting U.S. attorney Michael Sherwin told reporters on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The myriad of investigations facing the agency include felony cases "tied to sedition and conspiracy," assault on local and federal officers, theft of mail, potential theft of national security information, felony murder, and at least one civil rights excessive force investigation, Sherwin said.

The big picture: The briefing — one of the first by federal officials since the attack on the Capitol — comes after a prolonged information gap fueled fears among some members of Congress about the role of the Capitol Police on the day of the siege.

  • Sherwin called the range of crimes "mindblowing" and stressed that cases would not be solved within weeks or months.
  • The Democratic committee chairs released a statement after the briefing that said they would "demand full accountability not only to hold those perpetrators responsible, but to send a strong signal that future seditious activity will not be tolerated."

What they're saying: The head of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Steven D’Antuono, told reporters that the agency "immediately shared" intelligence gathered prior to the Jan. 6 attack "that a number of individuals were planning to travel to the D.C. area with intentions to cause violence."

Yes, but: An internal memo by an FBI office in Virginia, obtained by the Washington Post, appeared to contradict D’Antuono's prior insistence via a statement on Friday that there was "no indication" of any planned attacks on the Capitol on Jan. 6.

  • The memo quotes calls for violence from an online thread: "‘Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled. Get violent. ... We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.”
  • D'Antuono said the agency worked to determine whether people were "practicing keyboard bravado, or they actually have the intent to do harm" as it gathered intelligence prior to Jan. 6.
  • "In this case, we had no indication the information was linked to any specific person, but this was a matter of an online discussion," he said, adding that the information was "immediately" briefed to command post operations. D'Antuono did not directly address the memo obtained by the Post.

Details: Pipe bombs were found outside the RNC and DNC offices near Capitol grounds on the day of the siege, Sherwin said, adding: "They were real devices. They had explosive igniters, they had timers." Officials are not sure why the bombs did not go off.

  • Prosecutors have formed several task forces to investigate attacks against the media, assault and battery on police officers, and to "build seditious and conspiracy charges related to the most heinous acts," Sherwin said.
  •  The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and its law enforcement partners noted reports of violence against members of the media while they were engaged in covering events unfolding at the Capitol.

What to watch: Capitol Police told House Democrats on Monday they are preparing for at least three more potentially violent protests in Washington, D.C. — with one involving a plot to assassinate lawmakers.

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