Evidence that federal investigators have collected during their criminal probe into the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol could result in sedition charges, the federal prosecutor who is leading the investigation said in a recent interview.
Michael Sherwin, former acting U.S. attorney in Washington, told CBS News’ “60 Minutes” that the evidence obtained by federal investigators so far would likely allow the federal government to prove cases of sedition against some individuals.
Under federal law, sedition includes a conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government, or to oppose the authority by force, or prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States. These charges carry a penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment.
“I personally believe the evidence is trending toward that, and probably meets those elements,” Sherwin said. “I believe the facts do support those charges. And I think that, as we go forward, more facts will support that.”
Sherwin said in January that he had ordered a strike force of very senior national security prosecutors and public corruption prosecutors to “build seditious and conspiracy charges related to the most heinous acts that occurred in the Capitol.”
So far, none of the more than 400 cases the Justice Department opened in relation to the Jan. 6 breach have charged sedition. But a small portion of the defendants has been charged with conspiracy, including individuals affiliated with militia groups such as the Oath Keepers.
Sherwin said of those 400 defendants, more than 80 percent of the individuals were charged with trespassing on the U.S. Capitol, while about 100 individuals have been charged with assaulting federal and local police officers.
He said he witnessed the breach as it was unfolding. He had dressed in running clothes and joined the crowd at then-President Donald Trump’s rally that day to “gauge the temperature of the crowd.”
“It was like a carnival environment. People were selling shirts, popcorn, cotton candy, I saw hot dogs. As the morning progressed, I noticed though there were some people that weren’t the typical, carnival-type people. I noticed there were some people in tactical gear. They were tacked up with Kevlar vests. They had the military helmets on. Those individuals, I noticed, left the speeches early,” he said.
Sherwin followed those individuals and began noticing they were “getting more riled up.”
“Where it was initially pro-Trump, it digressed to anti-government, anti-Congress, anti-institutional. And then I eventually saw people climbing the scaffolding. The scaffolding was being set up for the inauguration. When I saw people climbing up the scaffolding, hanging from it, hanging flags, I was like, ‘This is going bad fast,'” he said.
He said federal investigators are probing every aspect of the breach, including whether Trump had a role in the incident.
Sherwin has been overseeing the Capitol riot investigation from the start as the acting U.S. attorney in Washington. He stepped down from the role on March 19 following a transition of the investigation to the new Acting U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips and has returned to Miami.