The FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies are planning a push to make arrests and bring charges against those who led the insurrection at the US Capitol on Wednesday, federal law enforcement officials said.
Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said in a statement Thursday that “some participants in yesterday’s violence will be charged today, and we will continue to methodically assess evidence, charge crimes and make arrests in the coming days and weeks to ensure that those responsible are held accountable under the law.”
Dozens of charges are expected in Washington, DC’s local and federal courts, including as many as 15 federal cases against people who are believed to be involved in the more serious alleged crimes, the officials said Thursday.
FBI digital experts spent the night ingesting surveillance video from the Capitol buildings and the area around the complex and are using software to match images and faces with social media posts showing some of the mayhem. In some cases, people involved in storming the Capitol made social media postings ahead of the rally making clear what their plans were, which federal prosecutors can use to help bring charges.
US Capitol Police said in a statement Thursday that 13 people had been arrested on suspicion of unlawful entry of the Capitol.
“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that those responsible for this attack on our Government and the rule of law face the full consequences of their actions under the law,” Rosen said.
Rosen and other federal officials are coordinating the response but are also facing questions about why law enforcement appeared unprepared for the onslaught that in many ways had already been telegraphed by President Donald Trump and his supporters on social media.
Wednesday’s riots at the Capitol have sparked palpable anger among lawmakers and a host of questions about how the building was so overrun. Lawmakers are vowing to investigate the response and calling for firings, perplexed at the lack of preparedness among law enforcement given that it had been known for weeks that Trump was promoting a rally that he said was aimed at preventing the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s win.
The House Appropriations and Administration committees, which both have oversight of the Capitol Police, say they intend to investigate the riots, and multiple congressional aides said “heads should roll” at the Capitol over the security failures.
“This was an unspeakable tragedy and travesty and an enormous security failure,” Rep. Jason Crow, a Colorado Democrat, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Wednesday. “Massive security failure. I think an awful lot of people should lose their jobs over this, over what has happened.”
More than 18 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and the National Guard assisted in the response Wednesday, Capitol Police said, and more than 50 Capitol and Metropolitan police officers were injured.
US Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said in a statement Thursday that Capitol Police was reviewing the incident and planning that went into it, but largely defended the response. Sund said that Capitol Police and other law enforcement officers were “actively attacked” with metal pipes and other weapons, and that the rioters were “determined to enter into the Capitol Building by causing great damage.”
“The USCP had a robust plan established to address anticipated First Amendment activities. But make no mistake — these mass riots were not First Amendment activities; they were criminal riotous behavior,” Sund said. “The actions of the USCP officers were heroic given the situation they faced.”
The rioters breached the Capitol building and the Senate chamber, ransacked the offices of House Speaker Nancy and other Capitol offices, and a laptop was stolen from the office of Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley. One woman was shot by a US Capitol Police officer and later died.
In a video posted to his Twitter page, Merkley said rioters who ransacked his office “smashed the door virtually off its hinges.” The door was unlocked, the Oregon Democrat said.
Merkley said rioters “tore things off the walls,” including art from a renowned artist, showed a Trump 2020 flag that was left behind and stole a laptop that sitting on a table. He also showed a cigarette butt that was stamped out.
“This office is trashed. You can see the debris is all over the floor,” Merkley said.
Response from DC police
Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department has made 80 arrests related to unrest this week in downtown Washington, including 68 arrests last night following an insurrection at the US Capitol, according to a mayor’s spokeswoman. Most of the arrests were made for curfew violations after DC Mayor Muriel Bowser imposed a 6 p.m. curfew in the city. Other charges included weapons charges and unlawful entry.
DC Attorney General Karl Racine on Thursday said that federal law enforcement officials let down DC in handling the rioters Wednesday but notes that it is not in his jurisdiction to prosecute the majority of offenses committed.
“D.C. Law enforcement officers, frankly, they did their jobs. And they went out and afterward, they helped the capitol police restored order and arrested folks pursuant to the curfew order that Mayor Bowser invoked. Our federal partners let us down,” Racine said in an interview Thursday morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
Part of the response Thursday includes repairing and building new harder-to-breach fencing around the Capitol west-facing grounds to protect the area to be used for Inauguration ceremonies in two weeks. Trump supporters could be seen swarming over the stage where President-elect Joe Biden will take the oath of office.
On Wednesday, CNN reported that a law enforcement source confirmed to CNN that pipe bombs were found at the headquarters for the Democratic National Committee, Republican National Committee and grounds of the United States Capitol. The source said all the devices were safely detonated by the police. A source told CNN there could be charges related to that as well.
This story has been updated with additional developments.