The US Department of Justice (DoJ) is currently working to bring sedition and conspiracy charges against some of the rioters who stormed the Capitol last week, Michael Sherwin, the acting US attorney for Washington, DC, said in a Tuesday news conference.
"Just yesterday, our office organized a strike force of very senior national security prosecutors and public corruption prosecutors," Sherwin told reporters, The Hill reported. "Their only marching orders from me are to build seditious and conspiracy charges related to the most heinous acts that occurred in the Capitol."
Sherwin’s latest comments come after he revealed Tuesday that prosecutors have already filed more than 70 charges following the riot, while the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has spearheaded investigations into more than 170 people. Those charged with sedition could face up to 20 years in prison, while conspiracy charges can carry prison sentences of up to five years.
Many of the rioters arrested and charged over the last few days are facing various charges, ranging from trespassing to carrying weapons to assaulting police officers.
"With this strike force that was established to focus strictly on sedition charges, we're looking at and treating this just like a significant international counterterrorism or counterintelligence operation," Sherwin explained.
"We're looking at everything: money, travel records, looking at disposition, movement and communication records, so no resource related to the FBI, or the US Attorney's Office will be unchecked in terms of trying to determine exactly if there was a command and control, how it operated and how they executed these activities,” he added.
In addition, the FBI is currently investigating who planted pipe bombs on the day of the Capitol riots. The bombs were found near the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee headquarters in DC.
The FBI on Wednesday released photos and a reward of up to $50,000 for information that would lead to the arrest of a suspect linked to the pipe bombs, Fox 25 reported.
On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that one day before the rioters stormed the Capitol, an FBI office in Virginia issued an internal warning that extremists were planning to travel to DC to commit violence. The Post's report contradicts claims by the FBI that the bureau had no intelligence that pro-Trump protesters were planning to commit acts of violence.
“As of 5 January 2021, FBI Norfolk received information indicating calls for violence in response to ‘unlawful lockdowns’ to begin on 6 January 2021 in Washington, DC,” reads the document obtained by the Post. “An online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating ‘Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled. Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.”
During the Tuesday news conference, Steven D'Antuono, the head of the FBI's Washington field office, defended the bureau's actions before the riot.
"As offensive as a statement can be, the FBI cannot open an investigation without a threat of violence or alleged criminal activity," D'Antuono explained, The Hill reported. "However, when that language does turn to a call of violence or criminal activity, the FBI is able to undertake investigative action. And in this case, we had no indication, information was linked to any specific person, but that this is a matter of an online discussion."
"This information was immediately disseminated through a written product, and briefed to our command post operations to all levels of law enforcement," he added.