WASHINGTON – Federal law enforcement officials on Tuesday promised to accelerate a nationwide manhunt of hundreds of people who committed serious crimes during the Capitol attack last week, despite new evidence emerging that the FBI, police and the White House were warned of possible violence that day.
Michael R. Sherwin, the acting US attorney in Washington, described the investigation into the attack on the Capitol as “unsurpassed” and said it has already led to more than 170 cases with 100,000 digital tips. He promised that prosecutors could bring charges of seditious conspiracy, murder and other serious crimes in the coming weeks.
“The Capitol grounds outside and inside are essentially a crime scene,” Sherwin said during a news conference in Washington, adding that “we have literally thousands of potential witnesses across the country.”
His remarks came as evidence that the dire events at the Capitol – where lawmakers and others hid from an angry, billowing mob, and five people died in the uprising and nearby commotion – top government officials had reason to be deeply concerned to be the possibility of violence. The indications included a pair of F.B.I. Reports warning of war and blowing up a building in a statehouse in the Midwest, as well as a meeting at the White House where President Trump and senior military officials discussed the use of the National Guard.
In one case, F.B.I. Officials admitted that agents in Virginia had warned of the threat of violent attacks against lawmakers in the Capitol the day before. The alert, which was officially shared with police and others in Washington, DC, included reports of violent language, mentioned people sharing a map of tunnels, and quoted from an online thread in which attendees said participants in the protests should be “ready for war,” according to the Washington Post, the first reported at the F.B.I. Document.
In a separate report, the F.B.I. a bulletin in Minneapolis late last month about rallies of the so-called boogaloo movement due to take place across the country on January 17th. Members of the movement, an extremist ideology seeking to bring about a second civil war to overthrow the government, discussed the demolition of a building in the capital of that state and a willingness to die for their cause Yahoo newswho received a copy of the report.
The existence of the two reports raised questions as to whether Mr Trump, who urged his supporters to rally in Washington on Jan. 6, or other White House officials were aware of the threat of violence in the days before the president gave his Supporters urged a rally to go to the Capitol and “fight” against certification for the 2020 elections.
“We will never give up. We will never admit, “Trump told thousands of his supporters just before many of them broke barriers, attacked officers, and stormed through the halls of the House and Senate.
In the week leading up to the event, Mr Trump had first expressed his support for the deployment of National Guard troops for what he said to the aides expected of him: agitation by left-wing anti-fascist activists during the meeting. He didn’t ask the Department of Defense directly, said people familiar with his conversations.
On the Sunday before the attack, senior military officials including Christopher C. Miller, acting Secretary of Defense, and General Mark A. Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Robert C. O’Brien, briefed the president national security adviser and later met with Mr. Trump . The President “approved” the plan to deploy hundreds of unarmed National Guard troops, which the Department of Defense, the US Capitol Police and the office of Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser had approved.
Mr Trump essentially told the group to “do whatever you have to,” according to people familiar with the meeting.
In the days leading up to the riot, a police officer, while on a call with another government official, expressed concern that the main concerns of leftist agitators or supporters of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. might clash with supporters of Mr Trump. No possibility was mentioned that anyone could attempt to attack the Capitol, said one person familiar with the call.
The police officer said that the F.B.I. knew of 82 groups who wanted to protest because they were registered with the US Park Police, and that Ms. Bowser had requested a National Guard contingent of several hundred troops, but that they would be unarmed.
A White House official said the most obvious sign that law enforcement did not see a legitimate threat to the Capitol was the fact that Vice President Mike Pence went there to lead certification. When the F.B.I. or Justice Department officials thought there was a possibility of an attack on the building, the secret service would never have allowed it, the official noted.
But the F.B.I. Reports and the official briefings at the White House weren’t the only warning that some of Trump’s supporters intended to do more than protest in Washington.
The online commentary on the attack on the Capitol quickly appeared after Mr Trump tweeted on Dec. 19 urging his supporters to rally against the confirmation of the election results. “Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, be wild! ” he wrote.
According to SITE, a private group that monitors terrorist threats around the world, people were quick to use his tweet as an indication that the president wanted his followers to act violently. On one website, a person suggested that “Will Be Wild” is a hidden message that we need to be prepared for – like armed ones. “Another said,” That’s how I took it. “
It’s unclear whether Mr Trump was aware of the online conversation about his tweet, although Dan Scavino, his director of social media, is known for keeping the president informed of what his supporters have said online. In the weeks leading up to the attack, people openly discussed taking violent measures against the Capitol and the lawmakers assembled in it to confirm the election results, SITE said.
One user wrote: “If Congress, despite all the evidence of fraud and corruption, votes against the real will of the people, then start marching into the chambers.”
Much of the news online has directly threatened the welfare of members of Congress.
“The goal is Congress,” one wrote, adding that once Trump supporters take control of the Capitol, they should ensure that the people inside “go two ways: dead or certify Trump a rightful winner.”
On the morning of January 6, Mr. Trump and other speakers used charged language to whip up the crowd. Rudolph W. Giuliani, the President’s personal lawyer, calledTry by struggle“And Mr. Trump was from” Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump! “when he spoke.
“You will never retake our country with weakness,” he said after telling the crowd to go to the Capitol. “You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”
Steven M. D’Antuono, the head of the FBI’s Washington field office, defended the office at Tuesday’s news conference, saying the Virginia warning was quickly shared with other law enforcement agencies, stressing that the information came from a single thread on a message board and was not attributable to anyone. Another police officer said it was unconfirmed.
“We need to separate the aspiring from the intentional and determine which of the people who say despicable things on the Internet are just doing keyboard flying,” said D’Antuono.
Justice Department officials said raw information about online threats against the president’s political opponents was relatively common over the past four years, but rarely resulted in violence. Law enforcement officers would most likely have considered this context in their assessment of the report.
He said other intelligence agencies had caused authorities to cut off the travel of several people who wanted to attend the rally, including neo-Nazis. And he noted that Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys group, known for brawling in protests, was arrested shortly after arriving in Washington for the event.
While Washington investigators and prosecutors work to arrest those who attacked the Capitol, federal government leaders including the F.B.I. Director Christopher A. Wray and Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen have not held public briefings or television appearances to reassure the nation.
The terrifying scenes from the Capitol, as well as numerous threats, have shaken lawmakers, who received a safety briefing on Monday.
“It is clear that more needs to be done in the coming days to prevent, penetrate and prevent deadly and inflammatory attacks by violent extremists domestically,” House top Democrats said in a statement. “This was not a peaceful protest that got out of hand. This was an attempted coup to derail our constitutional process. “
Federal agencies worked on increasing security and coordination in the days leading up to the inauguration, also when the F.B.I. issued warnings of armed protests in all 50 state capitals in the coming days. The alert also contained information about an unidentified group urging others to join the “storming” state, local and federal courthouses in case Mr Trump is removed from office before inauguration.
Top F.B.I. Officials, including Mr Wray and his deputy David L. Bowdich, were due to inform local law enforcement agencies across the country of the investigation on Wednesday, according to law enforcement officials.
The Bureau of Prisons, which sent 100 officers to Washington last week, will have specially trained officers on standby in the days leading up to the inauguration, according to a bureau spokesman. Although it is unclear whether they need to be used, officers have been empowered to enforce federal criminal laws, including arrests. Senior Homeland Security officials also discussed deploying additional tactical agents to Washington this week, according to a senior department official.
And prosecutors accused a suburban Chicago man of making disruptive calls to members of Congress in the past and accused him of making veiled threats last month of committing violence against Mr Biden when he was inaugurated.
The federal government’s high security alert is in sharp contrast to its treatment of Mr Trump’s rally last week before the violence.
Justice Department officials had expected a scene similar to the street fighting that broke out during protests in Washington in mid-December when Trump supporters clashed with anti-Trump protesters in skirmishes that led to knife wounds and other attacks, according to two government officials.
The federal prosecutor continued to chase suspects out of the uprising; Among those arrested was the son of a Brooklyn judge who was seen on video and photos wearing fur skins and what appeared to be a bulletproof vest while holding a Capitol Police sign. District of Columbia prosecutors also revealed appalling new details in the case against Lonnie L. Coffman, an Alabama man who was accused last week of rioting 11 Molotov cocktails.
In a bail letter, prosecutors said 70-year-old Coffman was discovered after the riot with an arsenal, including an assault rifle, shotgun, two pistols, a crossbow, a stun gun and a bag of stealth canisters.
He also had handwritten notes on Representative André Carson, an Indiana Democrat whom he described as “one of two Muslims in the House of Representatives.” Prosecutors said Mr. Coffman also had contact information for Fox News host Sean Hannity, Conservative radio host Mark Levin, and Texas Republican Ted Cruz.
The coverage was contributed by Alan fire, Maggie Haberman, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt.