Nearly 500 supporters of former President Donald Trump have now been charged in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and the number of arrests is increasing, FBI Director Christopher Wray said Thursday while rejecting the charges from Democratic lawmakers that the FBI is not coming to the attack.
At the same time, Wray declined to say whether the FBI was investigating Trump and his associates for allegedly inciting the rioters to storm the Capitol in an attempt to disrupt Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the November presidential election.
Earlier this year, Trump was charged for the second time. In this case, he is accused of inciting the uprising because he delivered a fiery speech to supporters, urging them to march to the Capitol and ‘fight like hell’ to stop Biden’s election.
Although the Senate acquitted Trump on Feb. 13, Democrats have long asked the Department of Justice to investigate Trump’s actions for possible criminal offenses.
In his first appearance before the House Judiciary Committee since the attack, Wray condemned the January 6 riot as an act of domestic terrorism, but refuses to call it an ‘uprising’, as many Democrats have done. Wray made similar comments during a March appearance before the Senate judiciary.
More arrests Thursday
Nearly 800 Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, killing five people, including a U.S. police officer in the Capitol, and sustaining multiple injuries.
Wray said the number of arrests linked to the riot would be “certain”.
Late that day, the Department of Justice indeed announced that six men in California – four of whom identify themselves as members of the right-wing Militia of the three percent – have been arrested on charges related to the Capitol violation.
The men were charged with federal offenses, including conspiracy to obstruct an official process and illegal access to a restricted building or land. One was also charged with possession of a dangerous weapon.
Wray said “almost none” of those previously arrested had been previously investigated by the FBI. He rejects suggestions that the FBI could not succeed in traveling to Washington.
The majority of the rioters arrested so far are facing trespassing and other minor charges.
But more than three dozen members of two far-right groups – the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys – are charged with conspiracy and other crimes. Wray said the FBI was amid more serious charges.
“It’s an ongoing investigation,” Wray said. “There are many more, and I would expect more charges and more serious charges.”
Missed threat, or underestimated?
Democrat Jerrold Nadler, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, sued the FBI for failing to anticipate the bloody and hour-long attack on the Capitol. He said “the attack was planned in the public eye”, with Trump supporters openly sharing maps of the Capitol tunnels online and appealing to the Capitol.
“It’s hard to know if the FBI headquarters simply missed the evidence, or if the office saw the intelligence, underestimated the threat and simply did not act,” Nadler said.
On the agenda was a January 5 intelligence report by the Norfolk, Virginia office of the FBI, warning that pro-Trump extremists were preparing to travel to Washington and engage in violence.
Wray said the report is based on raw, unverified information, but that the bureau found it sufficient to be shared quickly with U.S. Capitol police and other law enforcement agencies.
“The most important thing I would say is that we did not reject the Norfolk Situation Information Report,” Wray said. “On the contrary, often when we get online chatter or raw information, we take the time to execute it, and see if it is real or not.”
U.S. Senate Committees Emphasize Intelligence, Security Failures in Capitol Attack
Assault on January 6 interrupted the certification of the results of the presidential election
Wray’s testimony came days after a two-part Senate report on the Capitol attack found that a breakdown of intelligence had contributed to the violent offense. Despite the fact that more than a dozen reports of violent extremism were issued during 2020, the FBI or the Department of Homeland Security, according to the Senate report, issued a threat assessment warning about potential violence directed by the Capitol on January 6th.
Because of its dual nature, the report did not address the root causes of the riot, which blamed Democrats most heavily on Trump’s rhetoric about a stolen election after his election loss.
Wray said he was “not aware” of an investigation that specifically examines the role that Trump’s rhetoric played in the run-up to the Capitol violence and how Trump and other officials reacted during the riot.
Pressed by Democratic Representative Steve Cohen on whether the FBI investigated the former president’s activities on the day of the riot, Wray said: ‘I do not think it would be appropriate to discuss whether we … specifically examine individuals. ”