Washington, Jan 12 (efe-epa).- The US Department of Justice on Tuesday announced that it already has formally charged more than 70 people with assorted crimes surrounding the invasion of the Capitol building last week, but it expects to raise that figure to “several hundred” in the “unprecedented” attack by a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump.
The DOJ is pursuing “significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy,” said Michael Sherwin, the acting US attorney for the District of Columbia, at a press conference regarding the chaotic and violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 in which five people died, including a Capitol police officer, and significant damage was caused to the building and to lawmakers’ offices there.
Sherwin also said that the Justice Department has assigned specific prosecutors to handle cases in which reporters were assaulted, with an Associated Press photographer being among those shoved to the ground and attacked by the rioters as he tried to take photos during the mayhem.
The official went on to say that more then 170 investigations against individuals who have been identified as potential perpetrators of “crimes” inside and outside the Capitol, adding that the size of the investigation will require much work and effort and will not be concluded quickly.
He said this is “only the beginning” of law enforcement authorities’ work on the matter, noting that the process begins with the filing of the simplest charges and later through depositions and by developing other information authorities will seek to arrest people in different parts of the country.
The charges of sedition, he said, could carry prison sentences of up to 20 years.
President Trump held a rally in Washington on Jan. 6 at which he repeated his unfounded charges that Democrats were trying to “steal” the election and that massive electoral fraud had denied him reelection, whipping up the crowd to march on Congress, where lawmakers were proceeding with certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s win in the Nov. 3 presidential vote.
Meanwhile, the assistant director of the FBI, Steven D’Antuono, said at the same press conference that the violence of the assault “will not be tolerated” by the FBI, and officials of the agency will “leave no stone unturned” in their investigation, noting that more than 160 cases had been opened but this is only “the tip of the iceberg.”
D’Antuono said that the FBI had received more than 100,000 pieces of digital information about the chaos at the Capitol and urged anyone who participated in the assault to contact authorities.
He also announced a reward of $50,000 for anyone offering information enabling authorities to identify those responsible for the attack.
When asked about a potential plan to take lawmakers hostage, the official did not rule out or confirm that although he said that authorities are looking at all angles of the situation.
The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that an internal FBI report warned one day before the Capitol assault that a group of extremists was preparing to launch a “war” in Washington and carry out violence against Congress.
The report contradicts D’Antuono’s remarks on Friday to journalists that the agency has “no indication” that there was anything of that kind planned for Jan. 6 beyond protests by Trump’s followers.