The Justice Department is bringing 55 criminal cases related to the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, according to a top prosecutor who told reporters “this is just the beginning” and promised “all actors” involved would be investigated.
Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin, the federal prosecutor in the nation’s capital, told reporters Thursday afternoon that 15 cases had been filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia while 40 cases have been brought before the D.C. Superior Court. He said charges include unlawful entry, assault, firearms possession, property theft, pilfering, and one arrest where a person had 11 Molotov cocktails “ready to go.” Sherwin also confirmed that the pipe bombs found near the RNC and DNC offices are believed to have been working explosives before they were rendered safe by the FBI.
Sherwin said that “all options are on the table” — potentially including further charges related to rioting, incitement, sedition, and insurrection. He promised that “if the evidence fits the elements of the crime,” then charges will be brought against the perpetrators. The prosecutor also referred to “national security” concerns related to some of the thefts on Capitol Hill.
In addition, Sherwin indicated the leaders and instigators of the mayhem might also face charges.
“We’re trying to deal with the closest alligators to the boat right now, and those are the people that breached the Capitol and created violence and mayhem. … But yes, we are looking at all actors here — not only the people who went into the building,” Sherwin said.
When asked about Trump’s possible role in fomenting the chaos, Sherwin replied, “We’re looking at all actors here, and anyone that had a role and the evidence fits the elements of a crime, they’re going to be charged.”
Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen signaled a coming federal crackdown earlier in the day.
“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. Our criminal prosecutors have been working throughout the night with special agents and investigators from the U.S. Capitol Police, FBI, ATF, Metropolitan Police Department and the public to gather the evidence, identify perpetrators, and charge federal crimes where warranted,” he said. “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.”
Trump exhorted a crowd estimated in the hundreds of thousands to march on Capitol Hill as Congress was set to conduct the task of counting each state’s certified electoral votes. While some streamed peacefully to the building, pandemonium erupted when scores sought to enter, pressing past barricades and clashing with police. Once inside, lawmakers and media hunkered down or fled while the hordes roamed through the building and ignored orders from police to leave.
With the chaos unfolding, Trump eventually urged the crowd to “go home in peace” in a series of tweets, but it took the efforts of local and federal authorities and a 6 p.m. curfew to restore order. Lawmakers resumed the deliberations at about 8 p.m. on Wednesday, and Congress certified Biden’s victory just before 4 a.m. on Thursday morning, after which Trump committed to an “orderly transition” of power in two weeks.
“Orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress is inexcusable,” former Attorney General William Barr said in a statement obtained by the Washington Examiner on Thursday. “The President’s conduct yesterday was a betrayal of his office and supporters.”
The four people killed during the chaos at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday were all from outside the Washington, D.C., area, according to Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee. The woman who was shot and killed by law enforcement, 35-year-old Ashli Babbitt from California, was an Air Force veteran and Trump supporter. She was killed while trying to climb over a barricade as a large crowd tried to break down a door in the Capitol. Police said three others had various medical emergencies and died during the chaos at the Capitol Building.
Police said 68 people were arrested on Wednesday, with 41 of the arrests on Capitol grounds. Police also said 56 officers were injured amid the unrest.
House sergeant-at-arms Paul Irving resigned his post, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would seek the removal of Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund while soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he wanted Senate sergeant-at-arms Michael Stenger to resign too.
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