WASHINGTON - U.S. prosecutors said on Tuesday that they have identified more than 170 people for potential criminal charges in connection with the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol last week and expect the number to run into the hundreds in the coming weeks as a massive nationwide manhunt for the pro-Trump rioters continues.
Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, told reporters more than 70 people have been charged so far in the District of Columbia, with prosecutors pursuing charges against at least 100 others.
“That number, I suspect, is going to grow into the hundreds,” Sherwin said during a briefing on the sprawling federal investigation into the riots that left five dead, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer.
Meanwhile, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said that supporters of President Donald Trump who attacked the U.S. Capitol should be banned from flying. He called those in the mob insurrectionists who pose a threat to national security and should be added to a no-fly list.
"We cannot allow these same insurrectionists to get on a plane and cause more violence and more damage," Schumer said at a news conference. The New York Democrat is about the become majority leader of the Senate once his party takes control.
The FBI said it is “actively” considering the no-fly list idea.
The federal probe of the January 6 deadly breach of the U.S. Capitol by Trump zealots is rapidly gaining in intensity.
Sherwin said he has set up a strike force of senior national security and public corruption prosecutors to pursue more serious sedition and conspiracy charges against some rioters. Those charges carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
The range of criminal conduct in one location – from simple trespass to theft of mail to assault on a law enforcement officer – is unprecedented, Sherwin said. In many cases, FBI agents have relied on lesser charges to make arrests. With the charges filed, Sherwin said, prosecutors can now indict the defendants on more serious counts.
A federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., on Monday heard several hours of evidence presented by prosecutors in multiple felony cases involving possession of a destructive device and possession of a semi-automatic assault weapon, Sherwin said.
Steven D'Antuono, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington office, told reporters that the bureau has received more than 100,000 photographic and video tips from members of the public in the wake of the riots.
The riot broke out after thousands of Trump supporters upset by false claims that Trump’s reelection had been stolen marched from near the White House to the Capitol. Hundreds broke into the areas connecting the Senate and House chambers of Congress, ransacking offices and scuffling with law enforcement officers. The violence left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer and a pro-Trump supporter who was fatally shot by police.
The episode, the first large-scale violent attack on the U.S. Capitol in more than 200 years, has led to a Democratic effort to impeach Trump on charges of inciting the violence and raised serious questions about law enforcement agencies’ inability to prevent it.
It also prompted the nation’s top military leaders to issue a statement Tuesday to all U.S. service members calling the riot “a direct assault on the U.S. Congress, the Capitol building, and our Constitutional process.”
“We witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law. The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection,” the memo signed by the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The military leaders also highlighted that Joe Biden was duly elected as the next president and will be sworn into office on January 20.
The investigation into who participated in the Capitol assault has indicated the involvement of some military veterans. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, herself a veteran, asked the Defense Department on Monday to cooperate with U.S. Capitol Police and the FBI to determine whether current and retired members of the armed forces were part of a “seditious conspiracy” against the government.