Prosecutors could bring serious charges against those who stormed the Capitol Wednesday while lawmakers worked to certify Joe Biden’s 2020 Electoral College victory, an acting U.S. attorney announced Thursday.
“We’re not going to keep anything out of our arsenal for potential charges,” Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael R. Sherwin said at a news conference. “We will bring the most maximum charges we can based upon the conduct.”
Those could include rioting, sedition and insurrection. “All of those charges are on the table,” he said.
As of Thursday afternoon, he said his office planned to send 15 federal cases before a magistrate judge by the end of the day and more were expected. Another 40 cases have been charged in D.C.’s Superior Court.
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But he said that in order to keep the process moving, prosecutors started with the “easiest provable charges” – firearm offenses, theft and illegally entering the Capitol.
He said demonstrators stole many items from various congressional offices.
“There are national security concerns — electronic materials and documents were stolen,” Sherwin said. “Those could have potential national security equities. We don’t know the extent of that yet.”
He also confirmed that two suspected explosive devices uncovered during the mayhem were real. And one man is accused of having 11 Molotov cocktails and a semiautomatic rifle.
Sherwin said hundreds of federal investigators were involved, including members of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the FBI and US Marshals Service.
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He also criticized the Capitol Police who he said made punishing the rioters “more difficult” by not detaining them as they left the building.
“Why they weren’t zip-tied as they left the building, I don’t know.” Sherwin said.
In a statement, the D.C. Police Union, which represents the city’s Metropolitan Police Department, not its counterparts on Capitol Hill, said its officers responded after Capitol Police called for backup.
“When we arrived, it was obvious that our fellow officers of the U.S. Capitol Police were trying valiantly to stop the onslaught of rioters,” the union said. “While it is unclear at this preliminary stage exactly how the building was breached so quickly, it appears likely that U.S. Capitol Police leadership was ill-prepared for this attack, both in manpower and in resources.”
Protesters stormed the Capitol Wednesday afternoon following a pro-Trump rally in which the chief executive and other speakers continued to dispute the results of the 2020 presidential election.
When asked about the possibility of President Trump facing charges for allegedly inciting the mob, Sherwin talked around the question without ruling it out.
“We’re looking at all actors here, and anyone that had a role, and the evidence fits the elements of a crime,” he said. “They’re going to be charged.”
Justice Department officials later walked the comments back and said investigators were looking at “all actors,” not the president specifically.
During the breach, at least four people died, including Ashli Babbitt, a Trump-supporting Air Force veteran from California, who police said was shot by an officer in the Capitol.
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The joint session of Congress had to be adjourned early and postponed as guards evacuated Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers. Photos show representatives wearing gas masks as they exited the House floor and authorities barricading doors and drawing weapons to protect others inside as protesters clashed with police in the halls or banged on the doors.
Fox News’ Jake Gibson contributed to this report.