As Democratic lawmakers continue to call for investigations into the Capitol riot after Republicans blocked a bipartisan effort to probe the attack, FBI director Christopher Wray confirmed the agency is treating the assault as “an act of domestic terrorism” and more “serious” charges are likely on the way.
The agency is investigating the attack through its Joint Terrorism Task Force, and “I would expect to see more charges, and some of them may be more serious charges”, Mr Wray told the House Judiciary Committee on 10 June.
Committee chair Jerry Nadler echoed calls from Democrats stressing the urgency to probe the events leading up to and surrounding an attack on a joint session of Congress as lawmakers convened to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election on 6 January.
Democrats, frustrated after Senate Republicans blocked a bipartisan effort to investigate the attack on its own members, have demanded the FBI and other federal agencies get to the bottom of significant intelligence failures or communication misfires that may have kneecapped law enforcement’s response to the riot.
In his opening remarks, Mr Nadler said: “We need to understand what the bureau knew in the run-up to the attack, when it knew it, and what prevented it from disrupting the work of the terrorists who planned it.”
“Obviously, anytime there is an attack, especially one as significant as this one, you can be darn sure that we are going to be looking hard at how we can do better, how we can do more, how we can do things differently in terms of collecting, analyzing and disseminating intelligence,” Mr Wray said.
Democratic lawmakers also asked whether the FBI is investigating the role of Donald Trump, whose false narrative of a “stolen” election fuelled the mob that threatened lawmakers and sought to overturn millions of ballots.
Mr Wray could not confirm or deny whether the bureau is investigating specific people.
In his opening statement, Mr Nadler said that the riot “was planned in the open on popular social media platforms” and that “right-wing militia groups trained for it”.
“Maps of the Capitol grounds circulated online long before the crowds arrived in Washington,” Mr Nadler said. “And, of course, President Trump and his allies had been whipping his supporters into a frenzy for weeks.”
Mr Nadler also pressed the bureau for a full review of the “white supremacist membership” within the FBI, after Mr Wray has repeatedly identified white supremacist violence as an elevated threat to national security.
“The FBI must do the hard work of keeping itself honest,” Mr Nader said. “Ample evidence shows that the crowd that stormed the Capitol was full of off-duty police and military personnel.”
Mr Wray also confirmed that of the more than 400 people arrested in connection with the riot, “there have been current and especially former members of military and law enforcement” among them.
“Almost none of the individuals charged and found to be involved with the attack on the Capitol were individuals previously under investigation for domestic terrorism,” Mr Wray added.
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