FBI and US Department of Justice officials held a press conference Tuesday afternoon with the apparent goal of assuring Americans that, despite the fact that many top law-enforcement officials have been out of sight since last Wednesday’s riot at the US Capitol, both agencies are taking the pro-Trump mob’s attempted insurrection very seriously.
The FBI has received more than 100,000 “pieces of digital media” in response to a call for tips, said Steven M. D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the bureau’s Washington field office. It has opened more than 170 case files and is scrubbing video and interviewing witnesses, he and Michael Sherwin, the acting United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, told reporters.
Sherwin said that for all the social media sensation of characters like “the zip-tie guys,” that the portrait emerging of what happened points to “significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy” and that he expects charges that could lead to felony convictions with prison terms of up to 20 years for participants in the riot. DC police and Capitol police were in open, hand-to-hand combat with people inside the Capitol, he said. “I think people are going to be shocked with some of the egregious contact that happened within the Capitol,” he said.
Reporters on the call asked about a Washington Post article Tuesday that said the FBI’s Norfolk, Virginia, field office warned in a report that “extremists were preparing to travel to Washington to commit violence and ‘war.’” That information was shared “within 40 minutes” with law-enforcement consortia that include the Capitol Police, D’Antuono said. He also noted that there were no individuals’ names associated with the thread on a message board that the Norfolk office reported. Earlier in the call, he said that the arrest of Enrique Tarrio in DC was an example of the DC police acting on information the FBI had developed that “a number of individuals were planning to travel to the DC area with intention to cause violence.” Law enforcement had “disrupted” the travel plans of others identified by the FBI, he said.
Sherwin said authorities had charged some individuals with misdemeanors, charges he expected could escalate as the investigation, which he described as “unprecedented” in its scale, continued. Charges range from simple trespass, mail theft, and theft of digital devices to assault on local and federal officers inside and outside the Capitol as well as the theft of national security information or national defense information to felony murder. “The gamut of cases and criminal conduct we’re looking at is really mind-blowing,” he said.