The director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation told a Senate panel Tuesday that the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol building aimed at preventing the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory over Donald Trump was domestic terrorism.
“That siege was criminal behavior, plain and simple. It’s behavior that we, the FBI, view as domestic terrorism. It’s got no place in our democracy and tolerating it would make a mockery of our nation’s rule of law,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in his opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Wray said the insurrection was “not an isolated event” and that the nation’s top law enforcement agency “elevated racially and ethnically motivated violent extremism to our highest threat priority on the same level as ISIS (Islamic State) and home-grown violent extremists” in 2019.
He added the FBI does not focus on ideology when investigating domestic terrorism.
Wray’s testimony comes amid concern that the FBI was not adequately prepared for the riot, despite warnings days before the attack. Lawmakers are pressing Wray on how the FBI is dealing with the national security threat from white nationalists and domestic violent extremists and whether the agency is adequately equipped to address the problem.
President Donald Trump urged thousands of supporters who had come to Washington on Jan. 6 for a “Save America March” to walk from the Ellipse just south of the White House to the U.S. Capitol building as lawmakers were in the process of formally certifying Biden’s Nov. 3 presidential victory.
“You will have an illegitimate president. That is what you will have, and we can’t let that happen,” Trump said. Trump added: “We fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
Hundreds of Trump supporters walked to the Capitol building and broke their way inside resulting in violence that killed five people.
Wray has remained largely out of the public eye since the violent mob stormed the Capitol. His testimony before Congress Tuesday marks the first time he has made a public appearance since the attack.