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FBI Chief Wray Accuses Capitol Hill Attackers of Domestic Terrorism

FBI Chief Wray Accuses Capitol Hill Attackers of Domestic Terrorism
FBI Directory Christopher Wray testifies Tuesday. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Tuesday, 02 March 2021 11:33 AM

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday accused rioters who carried out the 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 — occurred while then-President Trump gave a speech nearby, urging his supporters to protest the election.

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 Jan. 20.

Trump supporters have repeatedly claimed rioters were fake Trump supporters who belong to the left-leaning antifa movement, short for anti-fascist.<

But Wray told lawmakers 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.

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.

"Everyone involved must take responsibility for their actions that day, including our former president," the panel's Ranking Republican Charles Grassley said.

"Now, in the wake of Jan. 6, we must seriously examine the threats of domestic extremism."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin said the government has not done enough to protect against threats from far-right extremists and white supremacists, and accused the Trump administration for playing down those threats.

He added that the Trump administration "never set up a task force to combat the numerous incidents" from the far-right, and instead focused on Black Lives Matter activists.

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 Tuesday the intelligence was shared with other law enforcement agencies three different ways, but acknowledged he 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."

© 2021 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

FBI Director Christopher Wray on accused rioters who carried out the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol of domestic terrorism and vowed to hold them accountable.
wray, fbi, testify, domestic terrorism
Tuesday, 02 March 2021 11:33 AM
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