FBI chief Chris Wray accuses Capitol attackers of domestic terrorism

by Reuters
Tuesday, 2 March 2021 16:32 GMT

(Add Wray's testimony of warning of violence on Jan. 6)

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON, March 2 (Reuters) - FBI Director Chris Wray on Tuesday accused supporters of Donald Trump who carried out a deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol of domestic terrorism and vowed to hold them accountable.

"I was appalled that you, our country's elected leaders, were victimized right here in these very halls," Wray testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"That siege was criminal behavior, pure and simple. It's behavior that we, the FBI, view as domestic terrorism."

It was Wray's first testimony in Congress since the attack, a failed bid to block Congress from certifying Joe Biden's November election victory. It was carried out by supporters of then-President Trump who, in a speech near the White House, exhorted them to march to the Capitol in protest.

The Justice Department has charged more than 300 people on criminal counts ranging from conspiracy to attacking police and obstructing Congress. The rioting led to five deaths.

At least 18 people associated with the far-right Proud Boys have been charged and nine people tied to the anti-government militia known as the Oath Keepers are facing charges they conspired as far back as November to storm the Capitol to prevent Biden from becoming president.

Biden took office on Jan. 20.

Supporters of former President Trump have repeatedly made unsubstantiated claims the rioters were actually fake Trump supporters who belong to the left-leaning antifa movement, short for anti-fascist.

But Wray told lawmakers on Tuesday this narrative was false, adding: "We have not to date seen any evidence of any anarchist violence extremists or people subscribing to antifa in connection with the 6th."

"That doesn't mean we're not looking and we'll continue to look, but at the moment, we have not seen that."

The FBI has yet to arrest any suspects in the death of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, or for pipe bombs that were discovered outside the headquarters of both the Republican and Democratic national committees.

The FBI has obtained a video that shows a suspect spraying bear spray on police officers, including Sicknick, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation.

The suspect has yet to be identified by name, and it is still unclear if the bear spray contributed to Sicknick's death.

Wray said he cannot disclose a cause of death, and the investigation into his death continues.

In a newly unsealed search warrant, investigators say rioters carried weapons inside the Capitol including tire irons, sledge hammers, tasers, bear spray and, in at least one case, a handgun with an extended magazine.

Federal investigators including the FBI have come under scrutiny since Jan. 6 over why more was not done to protect the Capitol ahead of the attack.

On Jan. 5, the FBI's Norfolk, Virginia, office distributed a raw, unverified intelligence report which warned that violent extremists intended to disrupt Congress.

Wray told lawmakers on Tuesday the intelligence was shared with other law enforcement agencies three different ways, but acknowledged he personally did not see the report until a few days later.

As to why other top law enforcement officials did not see it, Wray said: "I don't have a good answer to that." (Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Scott Malone, Grant McCool and Howard Goller)

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