Among the questions raised by federal prosecutors and investigators: Was there a plan to capture and hold members of Congress hostage, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose names have been mentioned in chants of anger by people who stormed a joint session of Congress in an attempt to stop President-elect Joe Biden’s certification of victory over President Donald Trump.
People dressed in military-style gear, some wearing zip ties, have been seen in videos and photos participating in the rampage of the Capitol, raising questions about whether to capture lawmakers – or even Vice President Mike Pence – was the target, according to a federal law enforcement official.
Acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin told NPR that “hundreds” of people could be charged, from destruction of property to murder, for participating in the insurgency. Sherwin said there would be challenges because hundreds of suspects were able to leave the scene.
“I don’t want this tyranny of labels saying it was sedition, it was a coup,” Sherwin said.
“It was a lot of noise, as it always has been,” said a federal law enforcement official who reviewed intelligence reports before the Trump rally.
More than 20 arrests on federal charges made since Wednesday have largely focused on some of the relatively easy-to-identify insurgents, many of whom have proudly posted on social media or even live-streamed their participation, enforcement officials said. the law.
The most difficult job now is trying to create potential cases of domestic terrorism against people who helped organize the attack, a federal law enforcement official said.
At a press conference on Friday, a federal prosecutor in Washington told reporters that investigators are in some cases using initial charges to attempt to arrest people, while continuing to investigate other possible charges.
This includes looking for possible foreign links with certain suspects; an arrested woman asked for a Russian translator during her hearing last week.
“The point here is to really identify the people and get them at least what we call a surrogate fee up front, and then we take a more detailed look at how those people got here, how much planning was involved and domestic or foreign actors, ”said Ken Kohl, the United States’ senior deputy prosecutor in Washington.
Amid this effort, there is an equally urgent need to prepare for more potential violence from groups planning to come to Washington before and during Biden’s inauguration.
The FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies are redoubling their efforts to try to identify people who may be planning the violence.
The fact that Wednesday’s crowd managed to overwhelm an unprepared Capitol Police force has likely emboldened others who might be keen to try something similar in Washington or in states across the country, officials said. This includes foreign terrorist groups that have always had the US Capitol as their primary target.