Federal prosecutors are looking at bringing “significant” cases involving possible sedition and conspiracy charges in last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol. (Jan. 12)
The statements by FBI and Justice Department officials were intended as both a defense of federal law enforcement preparations before the deadly riot and a warning to participants that they are still subject to arrest and felony charges even if they have left Washington.
Misdemeanor counts against some of the dozens arrested so far may still be upgraded to sedition charges that are punishable by up to 20 years in prison and that carry the grave accusation of inciting an effort to overthrow the government, said acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin in Washington.
"This is only the beginning," he said.
Even for those who have left Washington, "agents from our local field offices will be knocking on your door," said Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office in highlighting the nationwide effort to track down participants in the rioting.
The revelations contradict earlier pronouncements from law enforcement leaders about the potential for danger last week. Many, including the former Capitol police chief, said they were unaware of serious concerns and had prepared only for a free speech protest. Capitol police and others didn’t immediately respond to questions about the discrepancy.
The press conference came hours after the Washington Post reported on the existence of a January 5 report from the FBI’s field office in Norfolk, Virginia, that forecast, in detail, the chances for "war" in Washington the following day. The existence of such a stark warning appeared to contradict the FBI’s earlier assertions that it had no specific intelligence that violence could arise.
D’Antuono defended the handling of the information, saying it was shared in 40 minutes with other law enforcement agencies.
Even without intelligence from law enforcement, there had been ample warning about pro-Trump demonstrations in Washington. But U.S. Capitol Police did not bolster staffing and made no preparations for the possibility that the planned protests could escalate into massive, violent riots, according to several people briefed on the law enforcement response. Officials turned down help offered by the Pentagon three days before the riot.
When backup was finally requested, it took more than two hours for troops to mobilize near the Capitol. By then the mob had raged inside for more than four hours.
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