Jan 12, 2021

FBI & Justice Department Briefing Transcript On Capitol Riots January 12

FBI and Justice Department Press Conference on Capitol Riots
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsFBI & Justice Department Briefing Transcript On Capitol Riots January 12

The FBI and Justice Department held a January 12 news conference on the riots & attack at the Capitol building last week. The FBI said they have opened over 160 cases related to the riots. Read the full transcript of the press conference here.

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Speaker 1: (00:08)
Good afternoon and welcome to the DOJ press conference call. All participants will be in listen, only mode. Should you need assistance, please signal a conference specialist by pressing the star key followed by zero. After today’s presentation, there will be an opportunity to ask questions. To ask a question you may press star, then one on your touch tone phone. If you’re using a speakerphone, please pick up your handset before pressing the keys. To withdraw your question, please press star, then two. Please note, this event is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to Marc Raimondi. Please go ahead.

Marc Raimondi: (00:43)
All right. Thank you everybody for joining us today. Sorry, we’re a few minutes late. We’re going to get started in just about one minute. We’re going to have two speakers today who will make brief remarks, and then there’ll be followed by Q&A period. As the operator said, please queue up ahead of time so when we get to the Q&A period, we can go right into it. The speakers today will be first assistant director in charge of the Washington Field Office of the FBI, Steven D’Antuono. He’ll be followed by acting U.S. attorney for the district of Washington, Michael Sherwin. Be right back. Thank you.

Steven D’Antuono: (01:39)
Good afternoon. I’m Steven D’Antuono, assistant director in charge of the Washington Field Office of the FBI. I’m here to provide a quick update on the FBI’s activities since the violence and destruction at the Capitol last week. The FBI is quite familiar with large scale, complex and fast moving investigations, we are up to the challenge. As Director Wray says, “The FBI does not do easy.” To be clear, the brutality the American people watched with shock and disbelief on the sixth, will not be tolerated by the FBI. The men and women of the FBI will leave no stone unturned in this investigation. Since these events, the FBI has worked hand in hand with the United States attorney’s office and our law enforcement partners here in DC and across the country to arrest and charge multiple individuals who took part in the destruction.

Steven D’Antuono: (02:35)
In six days, we have opened over 160 case files, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The significance of this investigation is not lost on us. This is a 24 seven full bore extensive operation into what happened that day. We cannot do our job without the help of the American people. Since our call for tips, videos, and pictures, we have received more than 100,000 pieces of digital media, which is absolutely fantastic. And we are scouring every one for investigative and intelligence leads. We continue to ask for more, if you have information contact 1-800-CALL-FBI, or submit photos and videos to fbi.gov/uscapitol and that’s capitol with an o. I want to stress that the FBI has a long memory and a broad reach. Agents and our partners are on the streets investigating leads, not only here in the DC area, but also across the country through the FBI’s 56 field offices.

Steven D’Antuono: (03:45)
So like I’ve said before, even if you’ve left DC, agents from our local field offices, will be knocking on your door if we find out that you were part of the criminal activity at the Capitol. But before we do this, this is your opportunity to come forward, as several individuals who were involved in Wednesday’s riots have done, to volunteer about their participation. In the weeks leading up to this January six rally, the FBI worked internally with every FBI field office to ensure that we were looking for any intelligence that may have developed about potential violence during the rally on January six. We developed some intelligence that a number of individuals were planning to travel to the DC area with intentions to cause violence. We immediately shared that information and action was taken as demonstrated by the arrest of Enrique Tarrio by the metropolitan police department the night before the rally. Other individuals were identified in other parts of the country and the travel subsequently disrupted.

Steven D’Antuono: (04:52)
The FBI receives enormous amounts of information and intelligence. And our job is to determine the credibility and viability of it under the laws and policies that govern FBI investigations. We have to separate the aspirational from the intentional and determine which of the individuals saying despicable things on the internet are just practicing keyboard bravado, or they actually have the intent to do harm. In the latter, we work diligently to identify them and prevent them from doing so. As offensive as a statement can be, the FBI cannot open an investigation without a threat of violence or alleged criminal activity. However, when that language does turn to a call of violence or criminal activity, the FBI is able to undertake investigative action. And in this case, we had no indication information was linked to any specific person, but this is a matter of an online discussion.

Steven D’Antuono: (05:51)
This information was immediately disseminated through a written product and briefed through our command post operations to all levels of law enforcement. Part and parcel of our investigation into violent actors is the fact that we continue to gather intelligence that will aid in our ability to disrupt possible future violent activity, suffices to say, we are leveraging our relationships with federal, state and local law enforcement partners, using our tools at our disposal to find and bring everyone involved in last week’s criminal activity to justice. I’m now going to turn over to acting U.S. attorney Michael Sherwin.

Michael Sherwin: (06:30)
All right. Thank you, Steve. I think I mentioned this before a few days ago that just to begin, I think the scope and scale of this investigation in these cases are really unprecedented, not only in FBI history, but probably DOJ history in which essentially the Capitol grounds outside and inside are essentially a crime scene and a scale in which we have literally thousands of potential witnesses and a scenario in which we’re going to have I believe hundreds of criminal cases both filed with our local courts, our superior court and through the federal court system. So just to frame things, the enormity of this investigation is going to take a lot of work and a lot of effort, and this is not going to be solved overnight. It’s not going to be solved within the coming weeks. It’s not going to be solved within the coming months.

Michael Sherwin: (07:18)
This is going to be a long-term investigation and rest assured the Bureau, the Department of Justice, all the U.S. attorneys across the United States that are assisting these investigations everyone is in for the long haul. So that being said, let’s turn to the numbers that Steve referenced and the numbers are going to geometrically increase. So as we sit here now, literally days after this event happened, we have already opened more than 170 subject files, meaning these individuals have been identified as potential persons that committed crimes on the Capitol grounds inside and outside. So of those 170 cases that have already been opened. And I anticipate that’s going to grow to the hundreds in the next coming weeks. We’ve already charged over 70 cases. And again, that number I suspect is going to grow into the hundreds. So what are the types of cases we initially charged?

Michael Sherwin: (08:12)
And I think there’s some misconceptions and I want to clarify some of those misconceptions because given the enormity of the actors, we saw both inside and outside of the Capitol, the range of criminal conduct is really, I think, again, unmatched in any type of scenario that we’ve seen, the FBI or the DOJ. We’re looking at everything from simple trespass to theft of mail, to theft of digital devices with inside the Capitol to assault on local officers, federal officers, both outside and inside the Capitol, to the theft of potential national security information or national defense information to felony murder and even civil rights excessive force investigation. So just the gamut of cases and criminal conduct we’re looking at is really mind-blowing. And that has really put an enormous amount of work on the plate of the FBI and field office throughout the entire United States.

Michael Sherwin: (09:08)
So let’s look at those initial cases. And again, I want to clarify some misconceptions. When criminal conduct occurs, we try to obviously charge people as soon as possible. So looking just at the federal system, we’ll try to do that via criminal complaints. So when these actors left the Capitol, these individuals, these defendants, obviously the impetus, the marching orders by federal law enforcement was to find, fix and charge these individuals as fast as possible. So the prosecutors from the DC U.S. attorney’s office, we looked for the most simple charge we could file as quick as possible. So therefore the initial charges filed in many of these cases, a lot of them were misdemeanors. They were trespass cases. However, those cases were opened on those initial charges. We also had several firearms charges. We also had several felony charges that were open with assault and battery, illegal felonious possession of weapons.

Michael Sherwin: (10:03)
However, I want to clarify misconception. This is only the beginning. So after these criminal charges are filed via criminal complaints, that allows law enforcement across the United States to arrest people from Dallas to Arkansas, to Nashville, to Cleveland, to Jacksonville and that’s what’s happened over the past several days. It’s really quite incredible. Now, after those charges are filed, then we have the ability to then indict these individuals on more significant charges. And that’s exactly what has happened. For example, yesterday, again only days after this event happened, we had the grand jury and the District of Columbia up. It was booked throughout the entire day and for several hour upon hour prosecutors in our office presented significant felony cases related to civil disorder, related to the possession of destructive devices, related to the possession of semiautomatic weapons that are illegal to possess in the district.

Michael Sherwin: (11:00)
So again, I just want to clarify that the initial charges were filing, some of these misdemeanors, these are only the beginning, this is not the end. So what are we looking at downstream here? So in terms of what we’re looking at is the initial charges’ everyone’s familiar with. The zip tie guy, the Munchels and the [inaudible 00:11:21] that were arrested on the house floor with zip ties, rifling through the house floor. People are familiar with online, they see the Barnett’s and Johnson’s, who were literally rifling through Pelosi’s office and stealing items, stealing materials, mail, and sometimes even personal momentos. So those are the cases, the public’s familiar with. They’re familiar with those cases because of social media, but what the public isn’t familiar with is that the FBI working with the U.S. attorney’s offices across the country and the crux of those being in DC, we’re looking at significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy.

Michael Sherwin: (12:00)
Just yesterday, our office organized a strike force of very senior national security prosecutors and public corruption prosecutors, their only marching orders from me are to build, seditious and conspiracy charges related to the most heinous acts that occurred in the Capitol. These are significant charges that have felonies with prison terms of up to 20 years. In addition to that, we’re looking and taking a priority with cases in which weapons were involved and cases in which destructive devices were involved. As people know through news reports, there were pipe bombs found outside the Capitol. The ATF is working on that, Metro Police is working on that, FBI’s working on that to find that individual or individuals who planted those devices.

Michael Sherwin: (12:46)
So in addition to just those rope cases we’re looking at, we’re going to focus on the most significant charges as a deterrent because regardless of if it was just a trespass in the Capitol, or if someone planted a pipe bomb, you will be charged and you will be found. In addition to that, we’ve also focused on an emphasis on assault and battery on police officers, both federal officers and local MPD officers that were assaulted. And as the days go on, there’s going to be more social media and people will recognize that in some instances, NPD and Capitol police were in open-handed combat with some of these persons inside the Capitol where tear gas was used on the Capitol police and federal officers. And they were also used against some of these rioters.

Michael Sherwin: (13:33)
So the picture is going to build, I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about what happened within the Capitol, and it’s going to come into laser focus, I think over the next weeks and days. And I think people are going to be shocked with some of the agregious contact that happened within the Capitol. The third area emphasis that our office is also focusing on is we set up a strike force to focus on assault on the media. Some people aren’t familiar that some of those riders specifically targeted members of the media and assaulted them. So we have assigned specific prosecutors in our office to focus on those cases as well. I’m naming all these different strike forces to just emphasize, regardless of who the victim was, regardless of who the perpetrator was, we’re treating all of these cases equally. Thank you very much.

Speaker 1: (14:21)
We will now begin the question and answer session. To ask a question, you may press star, then one on your touch tone phone. If you’re using a speaker phone, please pick up your handset before pressing the keys. To withdraw your question, please press star, then two. The first question is from Pete Williams from NBC News. Please go ahead.

Pete Williams: (14:43)
So can you clarify for us what intelligence did the FBI gather before the assault on the Capitol about the potential for violence and how did it share it and did it share it to the Capitol police?

Steven D’Antuono: (15:00)
We received a lot of intelligence, like a semi statement, a lot of intelligence and information throughout all different means. Be it through social media or through [inaudible 00:15:10]. And then we have a sharing mechanism with JTTF. Across the country, we have joint terrorism task forces and in the city in DC, we have a very robust JTTF. And in that we have Capitol police, Park police, MPD, and all the other federal law enforcement partners. We shared intelligence through the JTTF model, and we also shared it through our command post structure. And then also through other means of they have access to our information readily available because they have access to our systems. So all that information was shared with our partners. And then we went from there.

Speaker 1: (15:51)
The next question is from Evan Perez from CNN. Please go ahead.

Evan Perez: (15:55)
I was wondering, if you could tell us, perhaps if you found any indication so far to indicate that there was some level of planning and coordination for these people to go into the Capitol and carry out this attack rather than just a spontaneous [inaudible 00:16:16] mob that got out of control. And then secondly, if you could, at least Senator Schumer has talked about the possibility that some people might be put on the no fly list. Of these 170 case subject files that you’ve already opened, can you tell us whether you’ve added any of those people to a no fly list as a result of what happened?

Steven D’Antuono: (16:34)
So we’re looking at all different avenues here. So my agents and analysts and all the other FBI personnel in my office and across the country are scrubbing video, we’re talking to witnesses, we’re talking to individuals that we arrest, and we’re gathering that intelligence, if you will, to understand what happened on the sixth, that day in the Capitol, outside the Capitol, we talked to all law enforcement partners, and it’s not just the FBI doing this. It’s all of our law enforcement partners as well, that are working in conjunction with acting U.S. attorneys, Mike Sherwin’s office and our local office here too as well. So we’re sharing that intelligence amongst each other. We’re putting it into the intelligence cycle that the FBI has to try to ascertain the true picture of what happened that day. As for the no fly list, we look at all tools and techniques that we possibly can use within the FBI. And that is something that we are actively looking at.

Speaker 1: (17:36)
The next question is from Catherine Herridge from CBS News. Please go ahead.

Catherine Herridge: (17:44)
Thank you for holding this event. The two pipe bombs that were found at the RNC and the DNC does this cross the threshold to domestic terrorism because they are political targets? And do you think this was designed to either pull first responders away from the scene as the Capitol was breached, or an effort to maim lawmakers as they evacuated?

Michael Sherwin: (18:09)
So I’ll try to address that question for you the best I can. So yes, those two pipe bombs that were found, were found both outside the RNC and the DNC offices near the Capitol grounds and look to begin, they were real devices. They had explosive igniters. They had timers. We don’t know obviously exactly why they did not go off, that’s being investigated, they were disabled by Capitol police with the assistance of the ATF. And that is obviously being vetted and investigated. What was the purpose of those devices being planted? Was it a diversionary type of a tactic used by some of these rioters? Or did it have some other type of nefarious purpose? So that is what the ATF, the FBI, MPD are looking at as we speak right now and looking for those persons that planted those devices.

Michael Sherwin: (19:02)
In terms of the conduct related to planning those pipe bombs, the mention of domestic terrorism, I’ve mentioned this before. I don’t like this tyranny of labels saying an act as domestic terrorism. We have plenty of federal resources at our disposal, plenty of federal charges to address all of this conduct from felony murder related to the possession and use of destructive devices to seditious conspiracy, under the federal code that has significant penalties. And as mentioned with this strike force that was established to focus strictly on sedition charges, we’re looking at and treating this just like a significant international counter-terrorism or counter-intelligence operation. We’re looking at everything money, travel records, looking at disposition, movement, communication records so no resource related to the FBI or the U.S. attorney’s office will be unchecked in terms of trying to determine exactly if there was a command and control, how it operated and how they executed these activities.

Speaker 1: (20:10)
The next question is from Pierre Thomas from ABC News. Please go ahead.

Pierre Thomas: (20:16)
Yes. Thank you. Are you looking at the possibility that some of these suspects were attempting or planning to take members of Congress hostage?

Steven D’Antuono: (20:28)
So I want to talk about Mike’s prior question first, just because I want to emphasize that we have a $50,000 reward out for the information and information and identification of the individual or individuals that left the pipe bomb. So I just want to make that perfectly clear and that we’re looking at all angles in that. Every rock is being unturned, because we have to bring that person to justice or people to justice. So can you repeat the question please?

Pierre Thomas: (21:04)
Are you looking at the possibility that some of these suspects who reached the Capitol, who had-

Steven D’Antuono: (21:09)
Yes.

Pierre Thomas: (21:09)
And other things, were looking at the possibility of taking members of Congress or others hostage?

Steven D’Antuono: (21:14)
So like I answered the last couple of questions before we are looking at all angles here, we’re interviewing everyone and interviewing witnesses and interviewing subjects as they get arrested around the country and within the district as well to ascertain the true purpose of some of these individuals in the Capitol that day.

Speaker 1: (21:37)
The next question is from Jake Gibson from Fox News. Please go ahead.

Jake Gibson: (21:44)
Thank you. First of all, I have two actually. Number one, Senator Cassidy has tweeted out a photo that he said was of an individual that authorities wanted to get in contact with, in connection, possibly with the killing of Capitol police officer, Sicknick. Number one, can you give us any type of update on that situation? Number two, I know you talked about intelligence leading up to the day before or leading up to the day of the riots, but there are some specific reports out that there was at least one report out of FBI in Norfolk that painted a pretty grim picture. Can you confirm that? And were authorities on the hill, really ready for what was coming at them?

Steven D’Antuono: (22:30)
So the investigation to Officer Sicknick’s passing is an ongoing investigation. We are looking at everything that we possibly can. It cuts us to a core that one of our law enforcement brethren passed away. So it’s an ongoing investigation as law [inaudible 00:22:50] and interviews that we’re still conducting is a whole host of video that’s out there, we’re reviewing all that information. As for the information that’s being presented out there right now about Norfolk, that was a thread on a message board that was being attributable to an individual person. Like I said, in my statement, we deal with specifics and facts. When my office Washington Field Office received that information, we briefed that within 40 minutes to our federal and state law enforcement partners, that we have [inaudible 00:23:30] JTTF system and was again shared with all our law enforcement partners through that process that we have. And that’s the action that we took on that. And that’s it.

Speaker 1: (23:47)
This concludes our question and answer session, as well as the conference. Thank you for attending today’s presentation. You may now disconnect.