FBI Received Intelligence About Potential for Violence Before US Capitol Breach

FBI Received Intelligence About Potential for Violence Before US Capitol Breach
Steven D'Antuono, head of the FBI Washington field office, speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington on Jan. 12, 2021. (Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg/Pool)
Janita Kan

The FBI received intelligence about the potential for violence and shared it with law enforcement agencies ahead of the breach at the U.S. Capitol, a top official from the bureau said on Tuesday.

Steven D'Antuono, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Washington field office, told reporters that the agency had “received a lot of intelligence” leading up to the Jan. 6 protest and had shared the information with law enforcement partners through its shared systems.

“We immediately shared that information and action was taken as demonstrated by the arrest of Enrique Tarrio by the Metropolitan Police Department the night before the rally,” D'Antuono said, referring to the arrest of the head of the Proud Boys.

“Other individuals were identified in other parts of the country and their travel subsequently disrupted.”

D'Antuono said among the information the bureau receives, it has to determine the credibility and viability of the content.

“We have to separate the aspirational from the intentional and determine which of the individuals saying despicable things on the internet, just practicing keyboard bravado, or they actually have the intent to do harm in the ladder,” he said.

The FBI has been scouring through over 100,000 pieces of digital media and other intelligence leads following the Jan. 6 riots as federal authorities seek out individuals who illegally stormed the Capitol as lawmakers were counting electoral votes.

He said that agents and law enforcement partners across the country are working together to arrest anyone who was involved in criminal activity on Jan. 6 and urged individuals to come forward about their participation.

“Even if you’ve left, D.C. agents from our local field offices will be knocking on your door if we find out that you are part of the criminal activity at the Capitol. But before we do this, this is your opportunity to come forward,” he said.

The Justice Department (DOJ) said that it has so far opened 170 cases related to the events on Jan. 6, warning that the number of cases would “geometrically increase.”

Protesters storm the Capitol Building in Washington on Jan. 6, 2020. (Ahmed Gaber/Reuters)
Protesters storm the Capitol Building in Washington on Jan. 6, 2020. (Ahmed Gaber/Reuters)

Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney for Washington, said as of Tuesday, over 70 individuals have been charged in connection with the rioting and warned that many more cases will follow.

He said individuals are being charged with various offenses ranging from simple trespass, theft of mail, theft of digital devices, assault on local and federal officers to more serious offenses such as theft of potential national security information or national defense information and felony murder.

“The gamut of cases and criminal conduct we’re looking at is really mind-blowing,” he said. “And that has really put an enormous amount of work on the plate of the FBI and field offices throughout the entire United States.”

He added that federal prosecutors will be working to build “seditious and conspiracy charges” against some rioters who breached the U.S. Capitol last week.

“Yesterday, our office organized a strike force of very senior national security prosecutors and public corruption prosecutors. Their only marching orders from me are to build seditious and conspiracy charges related to the most heinous acts that occurred in the Capitol,” Sherwin said in a press conference. “And these are significant charges that have felonies with a prison term of up to 20 years.”

In addressing public misconceptions, Sherwin said that in order to press charges against certain individuals as quickly as possible, a large proportion of cases were opened on initial misdemeanor charges such as trespass. But he said that prosecutors have the ability to then indict these individuals on more serious offenses after their arrest.

“After these criminal charges are filed via criminal complaints, that allows law enforcement across the United States to arrest people from Dallas to Arkansas, to Nashville, to Cleveland to Jacksonville. That’s what’s happened over the past several days,” Sherwin said. “After those charges are filed, then we have the ability to then indict these individuals on more significant charges. And that’s exactly what has happened.”

A group of rioters and some protesters waving American and Trump flags illegally stormed the Capitol building. The mayhem on the grounds left at least five people dead—three due to medical reasons—and dozens of police officers injured.

Other acts of violence were also perpetrated in the vicinity of the Capitol, including leaving several pipe bombs at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee. Molotov cocktails were also found in a vehicle on the Capitol grounds, local police confirmed.