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The FBI and Justice Department are investigating an unprecedented number of cases and criminal conduct after last week’s deadly riot at the US Capitol, officials said Tuesday.
Investigators are focusing particularly on “significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy,” Michael Sherwin, the acting US attorney in Washington, DC, said at a news conference. He added that prosecutors are also looking into cases involving weapons and destructive devices, and cases that involved attacks on law enforcement and members of the media.
Steve D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the bureau’s Washington, DC, field office, also said the office has opened 160 case files and “that’s just the tip of the iceberg.” He added that agents have received over 100,000 “pieces of digital media” and are “scouring every one for investigative and digital leads.”
Sherwin said the “scope and scale” of the Capitol riot investigation is unprecedented in FBI and DOJ history.
“The Capitol grounds, outside and inside, are essentially a crime scene,” Sherwin said. He added that there were “thousands of potential witnesses” and “hundreds” of potential cases that could arise as a result.
“We’re looking at significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy” pic.twitter.com/LsbMWAgXK1
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) January 12, 2021
The US attorney’s office in DC has opened more than 170 subject files, Sherwin said, which means “these individuals have been identified as potential persons that committed crimes on the Capitol grounds, outside and inside.” More than 70 cases have been charged so far, and that number may “grow into the hundreds,” Sherwin said.
He also said the range of criminal conduct resulting from the riot was “unmatched” by anything else the FBI and DOJ have investigated, and that potential crimes that could be charged include trespassing, theft of mail, theft of digital devices inside the Capitol, assault on local and federal officers, theft of national security or national defense information, felony murder, and more.
“The gamut of cases and criminal conduct we’re looking at is really mindblowing,” he added.
CBS News’ Catherine Herridge later asked whether the FBI or DOJ had any information about pipe bombs that were found outside the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee and whether the devices were planted to draw law enforcement away from the Capitol or to maim lawmakers as they evacuated the building.
Sherwin said the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, as well as the Metropolitan Police Department were still investigating the matter.
“What was the purpose of the devices being planted? Was it a diversionary type of attack that was used by some of these rioters? Or did it have some other type of nefarious purpose? So that is what the ATF, FBI, MPD are looking at as we speak,” he said.
Last week’s deadly Capitol insurrection sent shockwaves through the nation and resulted in five deaths, including a US Capitol Police officer who died from brain injuries sustained after Trump supporters beat him with a fire extinguisher.