FBI investigators are sifting through over 100,000 pieces of digital evidence as part of their sweeping probe into the deadly US Capitol riot — and are eying whether the horde planned on taking lawmakers hostage, authorities said Tuesday.
Those staggering figures represent just the beginning of a sprawling investigation that’s expected to result in hundreds of alleged rioters facing criminal charges, FBI and DOJ officials vowed in a joint press briefing.
“I want to stress that the FBI has a long memory and a broad reach,” said Steven D’Antuono, assistant director of the FBI’s Washington field office. “Even if you’ve left DC, agents from our local field offices will be knocking on your door if we find out that you’re part of the criminal activity at the Capitol.”
D’Antuono said that already, less than a week after the Jan. 6 riot in which supporters of President Trump sought to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential election win, the bureau has constructed a massive case supported by mountains of evidence, much of it provided by the public.
“We have opened over 160 case files, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “This is a 24/7, full-bore investigation into what happened that day.
“We cannot do our job without the help of the American people,” D’Antuono continued. “Since our call for tips, videos and pictures, we have received more than 100,000 pieces of digital media — which is absolutely fantastic — and we are scouring every one for investigative and intelligence leads.”
Michael Sherwin, the acting US attorney for Washington, DC, echoed the sentiment that the bulk of the work lies ahead.
“We’ve already charged over 70 cases, and again that number I suspect is going to grow into the hundreds,” said Sherwin.
While most of the cases brought thus far have been for unlawfully entering the Capitol or its grounds, Sherwin laid out a dizzying array of potential charges in the cases to come.
“We’re looking at everything from simple trespass, to theft of mail, to theft of digital devices inside the Capitol, to assault on local officers [and] federal officers — both outside and inside the Capitol — to theft of potential national security information or national defense information, to felony murder, and even civil rights [and] excessive force investigations,” he said. “The gamut of cases and criminal conduct we’re looking at is really mind-blowing.”
Among the angles still being intensely probed are the intentions of rioters photographed carrying zip-ties inside the Capitol, and the purpose of improvised explosive devices found across Washington amid the riot.
“We look at all angles here,” said D’Antuono, when asked whether investigators believed that rioters carrying zip-ties intended to take members of Congress or their staffers hostage. “We’re interviewing everyone, interviewing witnesses and interviewing subjects as they get arrested around the country … to ascertain the true purpose of some of these individuals in the Capitol that day.”
Similarly, Sherwin said that the true purpose of the improvised pipe bombs left outside the headquarters of the Republican and Democratic national committees remains under investigation.
“That is all obviously being vetted and investigated,” he said. “What was the purpose of those devices being planted? Was it a diversionary type of a tactic used by some of these rioters? Or did it have some other type of nefarious purpose?”
The bombs were found to be real, but discovered and destroyed before they could detonate.
The FBI is offering a $50,000 reward for information on the perpetrator or perpetrators who set the bombs, D’Antuono said.
FBI, US attorney detail massive probe in deadly US Capitol riot The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ New York Post.