Justice Department warns it’s coming for those involved in Capitol violence

Officials say charges could be brought ranging from trespassing to felony murder

  • By Brian Naylor/NPR

(Washington) — Last week’s storming of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob has already resulted in charges against 70 people, according to the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, who said he expects the number “will grow into the hundreds.”

In the first public briefing by the Justice Department and the FBI since Wednesday’s riot, acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin and Steven D’Antuono, director of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, outlined what Sherwin called a long-term investigation.

“Everyone is in for the long haul,” Sherwin said.

He said his office has already opened 170 subject files of people who potentially committed crimes in the Capitol or on Capitol grounds.

He said the crimes include “everything from trespass, to theft of mail, to theft of digital devices inside the Capitol, to assault on local officers, federal officers both outside and inside the Capitol, to the theft of potential national security information or national defense information, to felony murder, even civil rights, excessive force investigations.”

Shattered glass from last week's attack on Congress by a pro-Trump mob is seen in the doors leading to the Capitol Rotunda, in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo

Shattered glass from last week’s attack on Congress by a pro-Trump mob is seen in the doors leading to the Capitol Rotunda, in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021.

Sherwin added, “The gamut of cases and criminal conduct we’re looking at is really mind-blowing.”

He said that what he called a “strike force” has been formed to build sedition and conspiracy cases against some suspects.

“We’re looking at significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy,” related to the most heinous acts that occurred at the Capitol, Sherman said. Such charges, he said, have prison terms ranging up to 20 years in prison.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill were briefed Tuesday on the security situation by representatives from the Secret Service, the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security.

At a briefing Monday, acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman told House Democrats of three separate threats against the Capitol, according to a Democratic aide.

In addition, the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office sent a situational awareness report on Jan. 5 to the FBI Washington Field Office warning of online calls for violence in Washington on Jan. 6, an FBI official familiar with the report told NPR’s Ryan Lucas.

The report was based on an online thread discussing calls for violence, but it was not actionable or operational information that had been corroborated, the official said on condition of anonymity.

The Washington Field Office shared the information with its law enforcement partners in the D.C. region.

Traditionally, that would include the U.S. Capitol Police.

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