WASHINGTON - U.S. federal agents have arrested more than 430 people in connection with the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, a senior Justice Department official told lawmakers Thursday, adding that the number of arrests continues to grow.
The figure, announced by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brad Wiegmann, represents more than half of an estimated 800 supporters of former President Donald Trump who breached the Capitol to try to prevent Congress from declaring Joe Biden the winner of the November presidential election.
The attack, which left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer, and more than 100 other officers injured, triggered one of the largest criminal investigations in U.S. history. Justice Department officials have said the investigation could lead to charges against as many as 500 people.
“As the investigation continues, and as sufficient additional evidence is gathered and other criminal perpetrators are identified, we will continue to charge additional defendants with offenses relating to the events of January 6th,” Wiegmann testified before a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on commerce and justice.
The arrestees include hundreds of Trump supporters with no known ties to extremist organizations but also several dozen members of far-right groups, as well as current and former law enforcement and military personnel.
Jill Sanborn, the FBI’s counterterrorism chief, told the subcommittee that the number of law enforcement and military personnel under investigation for domestic violent extremism was “relatively small.”
“It is primarily on individuals that are formers, not currents,” Sanborn said.
According to a tally by the George Washington University Program on Extremism, 43 former and three current members of the military and nine former and four current members of law enforcement have been charged in connection with the Capitol riot.
While the pace of arrests stemming from the attack has slowed considerably in recent weeks, the FBI continues to make arrests nearly every day.
This week, FBI agents arrested three men — Reed Christensen of Oregon, Jonathan Munafo of New York and Landon Copeland of Utah — suspected of assaulting Capitol Police officers guarding the Capitol from the violent rioters.
Christensen and Munafo, who were seen in a video punching the officers, face six criminal counts, including assaulting a law enforcement officer and engaging in violence in a Capitol building. Copeland was seen throwing a bike rack at several police officers, according to a criminal complaint. He was charged with assaulting a police officer and three other counts.
Priorities for Garland
Attorney General Merrick Garland has said investigating the Capitol rioters and fighting domestic terrorism are his top priorities.
Wiegmann told lawmakers that the January 6 attack was not “an isolated event,” warning that some domestic violent extremists “may have been emboldened by the attack,” as the FBI recently assessed.
The FBI expects domestic violent extremists, such as violent white supremacists and anti-government militiamen, to “pose the greatest domestic terrorism threats in 2021 and likely into 2022,” Sanborn testified. Between 2015 and 2020, racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists were responsible for the most deadly domestic terrorism attacks, she added.
In response to the growing threat, she said, the FBI increased its domestic terrorism personnel by 260% last year when cases of domestic terrorism doubled.
That does not mean the threat of international terrorism has diminished, Sanborn emphasized. In fact, for the first time in two decades, she said, “the threats from domestic terrorism, Salafi jihadism and state-sponsored terrorism are all elevated simultaneously.”