WASHINGTON, D.C. — After a mob of supporters of outgoing President Trump broke into the U.S. Capitol Building last Wednesday, the FBI has launched a nationwide investigation into the incident.
FBI officials have said they are considering a litany of charges, including conspiracy and sedition, and are relying on a partnership with various law enforcement agencies to bring rioters to justice.
On Tuesday, FBI Washington Field Office Assistant Director in Charge Steven D’Antuono said that the bureau would consider adding rioters to the No-Fly list. D’Antuono was previously special agent in charge of Detroit FBI Field Office, and spoke at The Arab American News offices last February about community matters.
“As for the No-Fly List, we look at all tools and techniques that we possibly can use within the FBI and that’s something we are actively looking at,” D’Antuono said in response to a question from CNN’s Evan Pérez.
The top secret list is maintained by the bureau and administered by the Transportation Security Administration and in recent years has been used to restrict the travel of people from Middle East and Muslim nations. In the past, the federal government has provided no clear links to supposed terrorists networks for many of those Arab Americans and Muslims, a few of whom have recently won a landmark case in the Supreme Court showing coercion and a lack of due process in that placement.
But in the case of the D.C. rioters, there is little doubt of the actions undertaken by the pro-Trump mob, which led to five deaths, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer.
“In six days we have opened over 160 case files, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” D’Antuono said. “The significance of this investigation is not lost on us. This is a 24/7, full-bore, extensive operation into what happened that day.”
The Department of Justice has filed charges in 70 of those cases so far and has called the extent of the potential charges “mind-blowing.”
“We’re looking at everything from simple trespass, to theft of mail, to theft of digital devices inside the Capitol, to assault on local officers, federal officers both outside and inside the Capitol, to the theft of potential national security information or national defense information, to felony murder and even civil rights excessive force investigations,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin, who joined D’Antuono at the press conference.
Congressional leaders have also called for the placement on the list for those rioters caught on numerous videos and photos circulated widely of clearly breaking several laws when they broke through barriers, damaged and stole government property and physically attacked officers, leading to one of their deaths.
“We cannot allow these same insurrectionists to get on a plane and cause more violence, and more damage,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference.
Though D.C.’s area airports and hotels are tightening security in anticipation of further unrest at the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration, no rioter or far-right actor has been officially put on the federal No-Fly List as of yet.
Videos circulated on Twitter of some passengers denied flights have been shown to be airlines stopping customers who refuse to wear masks on flights.
We’re looking at everything from simple trespass, to theft of mail, to theft of digital devices inside the Capitol, to assault on local officers, federal officers both outside and inside the Capitol, to the theft of potential national security information or national defense information, to felony murder and even civil rights excessive force investigations —U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin
Pro-Trump violence anticipated
The FBI acknowledged that it in fact had prior knowledge of violent plans by far-right groups for the Jan. 6 Electoral College count by the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C. The rioters were emboldened by Trump’s and allies’ unsubstantiated claims that the Nov. 2020 election was fraudulent and that President-elect Biden stole the election.
Trump said on Tuesday that his remarks to a rally beforehand were “totally appropriate” and denied culpability.
D’Antuono said the FBI did disrupt the travel plans of some of these violent actors around the country for Jan 6., including a Proud Boy leader, preventing them from joining the mob in D.C.
D’Antuono said the FBI is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person who planted two live pipe bombs near the Capitol grounds last Wednesday. The FBI is also asking the public to send information about those who took part in the melee by calling 1-800-CALLFBI or submitting photos and videos to FBI.gov/uscapitol.
States and federal officials are now bracing for Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, as an FBI bulletin indicates intelligence of armed protests being planned at the capitol buildings of all 50 state.
Michigan’s attorney general said on Tuesday that her state’s Capitol is still “not safe”, even after a commission voted this week to ban people from openly carrying guns inside the building because the decision does not apply to concealed weapons.
That means anyone-irrespective of criminal history, membership with an anti-government org, or stated intention to harm government employees-can still enter the Capitol fully locked and loaded with firearms or explosive devices hidden by clothing, backpacks, etc.
— Dana Nessel (@dananessel) January 12, 2021
“That means anyone-irrespective of criminal history, membership with an anti-government org or stated intention to harm government employees-can still enter the Capitol fully locked and loaded with firearms or explosive devices hidden by clothing, backpacks, etc,” Nessel tweeted.
“My job is not to provide state employees & residents or other visitors to our Capitol with a false sense of security, especially given the current state of affairs in Michigan and around the nation. I repeat-the Michigan Capitol is not safe.”