Thursday June 17th, 2021 1:06PM

FBI says it warned about prospect of violence ahead of riot

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI warned law enforcement agencies ahead of last week's breach of the U.S. Capitol about the potential for extremist-driven violence, U.S. officials said, contradicting earlier statements that they were caught off guard by the assault by supporters of President Donald Trump.

Nearly a week after the riot, officials said they were combing through mountains of evidence and vowed to aggressively seek out those who perpetrated the brazen attack on the U.S. Capitol. Though most of the charges brought so far have been misdemeanors, acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin said Tuesday the Justice Department was considering bringing sedition charges against some of the rioters, effectively accusing them of attempting to overthrow or defeat the government.

“This is only the beginning,” Sherwin said. “We’re going to focus on the most significant charges as a deterrent because, regardless of it was just a trespass in the Capitol or if someone planted a pipe bomb, you will be charged and you will be found.”

The Justice Department has created a specialized strike force to examine the possibility of sedition charges, which could carry up to 20 years in prison. Officials said they were utilizing some of the same techniques in the riot probe as they use in international counterterrorism investigations, examining the money flow and movement of defendants leading up to the breach. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, called for the rioters to be added to a no-fly list, a tool most commonly associated with terrorisms investigations.

The statements by FBI and Justice Department officials on Tuesday were intended as both a defense of federal law enforcement preparations before the deadly riot and as a warning to participants. But they also raised new questions about the coordination across agencies for the Jan. 6 riot, which was sparked by Trump's calls for his supporters to fight Congress' vote confirming President-elect Joe Biden's victory.

In the immediate aftermath of the riot, some law enforcement officials, including the Capitol police chief, said they were unaware of serious concerns leading up to Jan. 6 and had prepared only for a free-speech protest.

But on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported on the existence of a Jan. 5 report from the FBI’s field office in Norfolk, Virginia, that forecast, in detail, the chances that extremists could commit “war” in Washington the following day. Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, said that once he received the Jan. 5 warning, the information was quickly shared with other law enforcement agencies through the joint terrorism task force.

D'Antuono was among the officials who suggested law enforcement had simply been caught off guard, saying on Friday: “There was no indication that there was anything other than First Amendment protected activity.”

He did not explain the discrepancy in his statements, though he suggested Tuesday that the Norfolk warning was based on nonspecific information in terms of individual leads to investigate, characterizing it as a “thread on a message board" that was not attributable to any specific person.

In a statement Tuesday night, the FBI said the report's author had warned that the “FBI might be encroaching on free speech rights" in pursuing further action, and that the document itself did not necessarily associate the comments with a national security threat or crime. It highlighted D'Antuono's remarks at the news conference suggesting that without knowing the identity of the people whose words were cited in the report, there was not much that could be done with the information.

U.S. Capitol Police and other official didn't immediately respond to questions about their own initial assessments of the threat.

A U.S. defense official familiar with the discussions said Tuesday that Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy was not notified about the FBI warning.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said that it is unclear whether any defense or military officials heard about the notification from the FBI, but that statements in recent days from all the leaders indicate they weren’t aware that violence of that level was expected at the Capitol.

Defense and National Guard officials, including McCarthy, have said in interviews over the past several days they were told by D.C. that they believed the protests would be similar to the ones on Nov. 14 and Dec. 12. And they said that federal law enforcement authorities said that there was activity on Twitter, but that they weren’t expecting the level of violence they ultimately saw last Wednesday.

Even without intelligence from law enforcement, there had been ample warning about pro-Trump demonstrations in Washington. But 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 the law enforcement response. Officials turned down help offered by the Pentagon three days before the riot.

When backup was finally requested, it took more than two hours for troops to mobilize near the Capitol. By then the mob had raged inside for more than four hours.

Once the mob began to move on the Capitol, a police lieutenant issued an order not to use deadly force, which explains why officers outside the building did not draw their weapons as the crowd closed in. Officers are sometimes ordered to keep their weapons holstered to avoid escalating a situation if superiors believe doing so could lead to a stampede or a shootout.

In this instance, it also left officers with little ability to resist the mob. In one video from the scene, an officer puts up his fists to try to push back a crowd pinning him and his colleagues against a door. The crowd jeers, “You are not American!” and one man tries to prod him with the tip of an American flag.

The rampage through the halls of Congress sent lawmakers of both parties and Trump’s own vice president into hiding, as crowds called for Mike Pence’s lynching for his role overseeing the vote count. The scene also undermined the hallmark of the republic — the peaceful transition of power. At least five people died, including one Capitol Police officer.

In a video statement released by the Justice Department, acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said federal officials would have “no tolerance for any attempts to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.”


Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News
© Copyright 2021
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
FBI says it warned about prospect of violence ahead of riot
U.S. officials say the FBI warned law enforcement agencies ahead of last week’s breach of the U.S. Capitol about the potential for extremist-driven violence
7:17PM ( 15 minutes ago )
Fury at the shaken Capitol over the attack, security, virus
Last week, a furious mob overran the Capitol
7:16PM ( 16 minutes ago )
As pandemic worsens, most US states resist restrictions
As the U.S. finds itself in the most lethal phase of the coronavirus outbreak yet, governors and local officials in hard-hit parts of the country are showing little willingness to impose any new restrictions on businesses to stop the spread
7:14PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
US prosecutors weighing sedition charges in Capitol riot
Prosecutors are weighing sedition charges against at least some of the Trump loyalists who stormed the U.S. Capitol last week
6:21PM ( 1 hour ago )
US shifts to speed COVID shots as cases and deaths rise
Barely a month into a mass vaccination campaign to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration has abruptly shifted gears to speed the delivery of shots to more people
5:49PM ( 1 hour ago )
Justices say women must obtain abortion pill in person
The Supreme Court has ordered that women must visit a doctor’s office, hospital or clinic in person to obtain an abortion pill during the COVID-19 pandemic, though similar rules for other drugs have been suspended during the public health emergency
5:48PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Trump takes no responsibility for riot, visits Texas
President Donald Trump is taking no responsibility for his part in fomenting a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week, despite his comments encouraging supporters to march on the Capitol and praise for them while they were still carrying out the assault
4:15PM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: FBI says it warned law enforcement about threats
The FBI says 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
3:54PM ( 3 hours ago )
Officer with knee to George Floyd's neck to be tried alone
A former Minneapolis police officer who held his knee to George Floyd's neck for minutes will be tried separately from three other former officers accused in his death
3:35PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online National News
Voice of America reporter reassigned for Pompeo questions
A reporter for the Voice of America was yanked from her beat after trying to question Secretary of State Mike Pompeo following a speech he delivered at the agency
6:31PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: GOP Rep. Kinzinger says he'll vote to impeach
Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger has become the third Republican member of Congress to call for President Donald Trump’s impeachment
6:29PM ( 1 hour ago )
CNN has best ratings day ever for Capitol attack
CNN had its most-watched day in the network's 40-year history with last week's riot at the U.S. Capitol
6:29PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Teacher killing trial makes detour to Georgia Supreme Court
Georgia’s highest court is weighing a pretrial appeal from a man charged with the 2005 slaying of a high school teacher whose disappearance remained a mystery for more than a decade
3:16PM ( 4 hours ago )
Grieving congressman leads effort to remove Trump after riot
As the House moves to impeach President Donald Trump a second time, Rep. Jamie Raskin will again be one of the voices leading that effort
3:03PM ( 4 hours ago )
The Latest: NY Gov. Cuomo expands shots to age 65 and over
Gov. Andrew Cuomo expanded the vaccine eligibility requirements in New York to include anyone over the age of 65
3:00PM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Fury at the shaken Capitol over the attack, security, virus
Last week, a furious mob overran the Capitol
7:16PM ( 16 minutes ago )
As pandemic worsens, most US states resist restrictions
As the U.S. finds itself in the most lethal phase of the coronavirus outbreak yet, governors and local officials in hard-hit parts of the country are showing little willingness to impose any new restrictions on businesses to stop the spread
7:14PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Sage grouse review done, but scant time for Trump's changes
The Trump administration has completed a review of plans to ease protections for a struggling bird species in seven states in the U.S. West, but there’s little time to put them into action before President-elect Joe Biden takes office
7:01PM ( 31 minutes ago )
House races to oust Trump; he blames accusers for US 'anger'
With impeachment ahead, the House is trying to push the vice president and Cabinet to act even more quickly to remove President Donald Trump from office
6:56PM ( 36 minutes ago )
Boeing deliveries drop despite 737 Max's return to flight
Boeing has reported final 2020 numbers for airplane orders and deliveries, and they are down from 2019 even though the 737 Max is flying again
6:53PM ( 39 minutes ago )