A top official from the Justice Department said that they are pursuing “significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy” in the attack last week on the U.S. Capitol.
Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, said that they also have assigned specific prosecutors to handle cases in which members of the media were assaulted. An Associated Press photographer was among those who was shoved to the ground and assaulted as he tried to take pictures during the riot.
“Regardless of if it was just a trespass at the Capitol or if someone planted a pipe bomb. You will be charged and you will be found,” he said.
Sherwin’s press conference, along with Steven D’Antuano, the assistant director of the FBI, was the first of federal justice officials in the wake of the attack.
CNN, MSNBC and Fox News carried the press conference live, bypassing President Donald Trump’s speech taking place at the same time in Texas.
Sherwin said that the FBI has opened 170 case files and federal officials had filed charges in 70 cases. But he described a wide-ranging investigation akin to an international terrorism probe, calling it a “significant counterterrorism or counterintelligence investigation,” with the Capitol as the crime scene. D’Antuano said that they were examining some 100,000 pieces of digital media.
“People are going to be shocked at some of the egregious conduct that happened within the Capitol,” Sherwin said.
What remained unclear, however, was the extent to which Capitol Police took into account the possibility of violence. Officers were overrun by hundreds of demonstrators as they broke through police barriers and into the Capitol. NBC News reported that the FBI passed warnings to the Capitol Police beforehand, and Sherwin confirmed that information was shared but he did not provide details. The Washington Post reported that the FBI office in Virginia issued an internal warning that extremists were preparing to travel to D.C. and declare “war.”
There are now concerns about the possibility of future attacks in the days leading up to Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. D’Antuano said that one of the challenges is determining who is practicing “keyboard bravado” and actual threats of violence in online postings. He also noted that action was taken in advance of the Jan. 6 riot, as Proud Boy leader “Enrique” Tarrio was arrested after he arrived in D.C. for the protests.
Five people died in the attack on the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters, sending lawmakers in the House and the Senate into a secure area.
Also on Tuesday, new rules were put in place to require anyone entering the House chamber to go through metal detector screening. The security measures will even apply to members, who have until now had unrestricted access to the floor. Members also will face fines if they do not wear a mask in the chamber.
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