Capitol Rioters Face Sedition Charges as DOJ Ramps Up Probe
(Bloomberg) -- U.S. prosecutors are ramping up the investigation into last week’s riot at the Capitol, with more than 170 suspects under scrutiny and law enforcement officials planning charges of sedition and conspiracy.
Law enforcement officials are treating the riot “like an international counter-terrorism investigation,” Acting U.S. Attorney in Washington Michael Sherwin said at a press conference Tuesday. “We’re looking at everything -- money, travel records. No resource will be unchecked.”
The Justice Department has established a task force of senior national security officials to pursue the sedition and conspiracy cases, which carry sentences as long as 20 years, Sherwin said. Other prosecutors are focused on charging rioters who assaulted police officers and members of the media.
The probe is one of the most expansive criminal investigations in the history of the Justice Department, with a wide assortment of agencies helping to build cases, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Marshals. All 56 FBI field offices are involved.
So far, prosecutors have charged more than 70 people, with crimes ranging from trespassing to assault. None have been charged with seditious conspiracy, which is defined under federal law as an effort by two or more people to overthrow the government or hinder it using force. But more serious charges -- and many more cases -- are coming, Sherwin told reporters.
“The scope and scale of this investigation in these cases are really unprecedented,” Sherwin said. “We are going to have, I believe, hundreds of criminal cases.”
The Justice Department is continuing to investigate the death of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick as a felony murder case. Prosecutors are also looking to determine who planted bombs near the headquarters of the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee on the day of the siege.
Investigators are trying to determine whether the bombs, which had explosive igniters and timers, were a “diversionary tactic” by the rioters, Sherwin said.
Also at the press conference, Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI‘s Washington field office, defended the agency’s preparation for the riot, following reports that it was warned of possible violence in the days leading up to the siege.
FBI agents in Norfolk, Virginia, issued an internal warning the day before the riot that extremists were preparing for violence and “war” at the Capitol, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. The FBI report said that people shared a map of the Capitol’s tunnels, and potential conspirators discussed meeting in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and South Carolina before going to Washington, the Post reported.
On Tuesday, D’Antuono said the FBI acted on early warnings and stopped certain individuals from traveling to D.C. for the rally. Since last week, the bureau has embarked on a sweeping investigation: After asking the public for information, the FBI received more than 100,000 pieces of digital media, D’Antuono said.
“We are scouring every one for investigative and intelligence leads,” he said.
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