The FBI has concluded that there is little evidence to suggest that the riot and breach of the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6 was part of an organized plot to overturn the results of the November election, according to a Friday report.
Reuters noted exclusively, based on information from four current and former law enforcement sources, that even though federal officials have charged some 570 people with the breach, “the FBI at this point believes the violence was not centrally coordinated by far-right groups or prominent supporters of then-President Donald Trump.”
The sources have either been briefed on the case or were directly involved in investigating the incident, Reuters added.
“Then you have five percent, maybe, of these militia groups that were more closely organized. But there was no grand scheme with Roger Stone and Alex Jones and all of these people to storm the Capitol and take hostages,” the official added.
That said, FBI agents did uncover evidence that some smaller groups of right-wing organizations like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers plotted to breach the Capitol, as was evident by photos taken during the riot showing some participants wearing gear like body armor and ballistic helmets and carrying breaching tools. However, investigators did not find any evidence that those same small groups had grander plans once they got inside the Capitol, the sources told Reuters.
Federal prosecutors have nonetheless filed conspiracy charges against 40 people, claiming that they did, at least, engage in pre-planning on some level before the assault.
“They alleged that one Proud Boy leader recruited members and urged them to stockpile bulletproof vests and other military-style equipment in the weeks before the attack and on Jan. 6 sent members forward with a plan to split into groups and make multiple entries to the Capitol,” Reuters reported. “But so far prosecutors have steered clear of more serious, politically-loaded charges that the sources said had been initially discussed by prosecutors, such as seditious conspiracy or racketeering.”
The assessment by the FBI that no major plots have been uncovered could have some impact on congressional investigations that are ongoing, especially one by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s select Jan. 6 Committee, which has already held its first hearing. Public support for the commission fell in the wake of that hearing.
While Democrats and GOP opponents of Donald Trump have blamed the riot on a speech the then-president gave earlier that day, in which he urged supporters to “peacefully” march to the Capitol to let their opposition to counting electoral votes from certain contested states be known, the FBI has also found no evidence that Trump or anyone associated with him had any part in organizing the breach, according to the law enforcement sources who spoke to Reuters.
According to the Justice Department, more than 170 people thus far have been charged with assaulting or impeding a police officer, which carries a much harsher penalty in D.C. — a maximum of 20 years in prison — than practically anywhere else in the country.
However, one of Reuter’s sources told the newswire that there hasn’t been much consideration, if any at all, by senior DoJ officials of filing “seditious conspiracy” charges, accusing defendants of attempting to overthrow the government. There had been discussion of such charges in the weeks immediately following the breach, said the sources.
“Conspiracy charges that have been filed allege that defendants discussed their plans in the weeks before the attack and worked together on the day itself. But prosecutors have not alleged that this activity was part of a broader plot,” Reuters added.
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