What may have been seen by some of its participants as a lighthearted romp in the nation’s capital supporting Donald Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen from him, despite all evidence to the contrary, has turned deadly serious for some of the people who then went on to invade Congress causing death and destruction.
The U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, the top federal prosecutor in Washington DC, Michael Sherwin announced in a press conference today that more than 70 people involved in the violent insurrection had already been charged with criminal offenses, a number that is expected to grow into the hundreds as investigators continue to pour over footage from the rioting and identify other perpetrators.
Sherwin declared that the entirety of the grounds of the Capitol Building was now “essentially, a crime scene” and warned that the law enforcement investigations into the last Wednesday’s events could stretch for months.
While some of the charges being brought against participants in the violence could be as minor as mere trespassing, prosecutors are determining whether some of the rioters can be charged with much more serious crimes such as sedition, conspiracy, and even felony murder.
“We’re looking at significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy,” Shewrwin said in announcing the formation of a team of national security and public corruption prosecutors assembled to lodge sedition charges against the militants who had committed “the most heinous acts” during the congressional invasion last week.
“As we sit here now literally days after this event happened, we have already opened more than 170 subject files, meaning these individuals have been identified as potential persons that committed crimes on the Capitol grounds inside and outside,” the DC prosecutor said.
In addition to seditious conspiracy — defined as an attempt by two or more people to overthrow the government or to use force to interfere in its operations — investigators are also investigating the brutal attacks against police officers, the theft of confidential information from the congressional offices, and the hateful targeting of working journalists who were covering the rally.
So far, reports of five deaths linked to the insurrection have surfaced including at least one Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick, who died from injuries he incurred during the battle for control of the Capitol grounds.
Joining the U.S. attorney at the press conference was Steven D’Antuono, the head of the F.B.I.’s Washington Field Office, who told journalists that the Bureau’s Virginia office had issued a warning of potential violence at the rally to senior government officials and other law enforcement agencies in the days leading up to it.
D’Antuono cited the arrest of Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio as part of the F.B.I.’s attempts to head off the trouble before the event and said that the Bureau is now working feverishly on the investigations.
He vowed that the government would identify and track down anyone who had committed a crime during last week’s insurrection, even if they had already fled the scene of the crime in Washington.
“Agents from our local field offices will be knocking on your door,” D’Antuono promised.
An internal F.B.I. document obtained by The Washington Post revealed that:
“A day before rioters stormed Congress, an FBI office in Virginia issued an explicit internal warning that extremists were preparing to travel to Washington to commit violence and “war,” contradicting a senior adminstration official’s declaration the bureau had no advance intelligence of plans for violence at the rally.
“A situational information report approved for release the day before the U.S. Capitol riot painted a dire portrait of dangerous plans, including individuals sharing a map of the complex’s tunnels, and possible rally points for would-be conspirators to meet up in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and South Carolina and head in groups to Washington,” The Washington Post reported.
Despite the tough talk, many political analysts saw the failure of the top leadership of the Justice Department and the F.B.I. — or at least those who haven’t already resigned — to participate in the press conference as a sign that the DOJ event was essentially an exercise in butt-covering as the new Biden administration prepares to take charge.
Whatever the motivation for the briefing, however, it’s good to know that those responsible for the revolutionary violence will be prosecuted for the serious crimes that they are alleged to have committed.
You can watch footage from the Department of Justice Press conference today in the video attached below.
Original reporting by Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs at The New York Times.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.