Law enforcement officials on Tuesday said "people are going to be shocked" by the scope of crimes committed during last week's violent siege of Capitol Hill, and said they are looking into possible sedition and conspiracy charges against some of those involved in the riot.
On Tuesday, Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin and FBI Washington Field Office Assistant Director in Charge Steven D'Antuono told reporters their respective offices are “looking at all angles” of the Jan. 6 riot, a monumental task given the amount of people who participated in the violence.
Already, the FBI has received 100,000 pieces of digital media after putting out a public call for assistance, Sherwin said Tuesday. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has identified at least 170 individuals who they suspect committed a crime on capitol grounds, and have brought charges in nearly 70 of these cases. Those numbers are expected to increase astronomically in the coming weeks.
“The FBI has a long memory and a broad reach. Not only here, but also across the country through our 56 field offices,” D’Antuono warned. “Even if you've left D.C., agents from our local field offices will be knocking on your door if we find out you were a part of the criminal activity [on Capitol Hill].”
Many of the charges so far have been misdemeanors, but officials said those were intended as placeholder counts and that more serious charges – including sedition – are possible, if not highly likely.
"We're looking at significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy – just yesterday our office organized a strike force of very senior national security prosecutors and public corruption prosecutors,” Sherwin told reporters on Tuesday. “Their only marching orders from me are to build seditious and conspiracy charges related to the most heinous acts that occurred in the Capitol. And these are significant charges that have felonies with prison terms of up to 20 years."
In addition to the sedition and conspiracy strike force, Sherwin said his office is also specifically investigating threats made against members of the media during Wednesday’s riot, saying: “...Some of those rioters specifically targeted members of the media and assaulted them.”
Due to the massive undertaking, Sherwin said, Americans should not expect answers in the short-term, saying: “This is not going to be solved overnight or in weeks or months.”
Officials added they are still investigating whether a single person or group was responsible for organizing last week’s attack.
The FBI said it notified other law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Capitol Police, the day before the riot at the Capitol about an online message about a “war” and storming the U.S. Capitol. The warning was issued through the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and the U.S. Capitol Police have members on the task force.
The messages, D’Antuono said Tuesday, were “not [...] attributable to a specific person” at the time of the warning.
The Washington Post, which reported the content of the bulletin early Tuesday, said it described that people had been sharing maps of the Capitol’s tunnels and discussed rallying points to meet up to travel to Washington. The newspaper reported that the document detailed posts calling for violence, including that “Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled.”
Even without intelligence from law enforcement, there had been ample warning about pro-Trump demonstrations in Washington. But U.S. Capitol Police did not bolster staffing and made no preparations for the possibility that the planned protests could escalate into massive, violent riots, according to several people briefed on law enforcement’s response.
Federal law enforcement agencies will also prioritize identifying the people who placed explosives outside of the RNC and DNC headquarters in Washington, saying they are still unsure why the two devices — both of which had “explosive igniters and timers,” officials said Tuesday — failed to detonate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.