FBI Director Chris Wray testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday that the bureau, to date, has not found any evidence showing Antifa members or “fake Trump supporters” participated in the Capitol riot.
Clarifying that the FBI does not evaluate perpetrators based on a left or right political spectrum, Wray testified that it’s clear a large and growing number of those arrested so far in connection to Jan. 6 could be categorized as militia violent extremists or racially motivated extremists, naming both the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys groups.
In response to a question from Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Wray clarified that FBI’s ongoing investigations have not found Antifa involvement.
“We have not to date seen any evidence of anarchist violent extremists or people subscribing to Antifa,” Wray said. “That doesn’t mean we’re not looking and we will continue to look.”
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., asked Wray to clarify rumors circulating online that “fake Trump supporters” might have infiltrated crowds that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 in an effort to disparage the former president.
“Do you have any evidence that the Capitol attack was organized by ‘fake Trump protesters?'” Durbin asked. To that, Wray responded, “We have not seen evidence of that at this stage.”
Wray also declined to disclose or confirm the cause of death for Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick.
Addressing a widely reported “Norfolk memo” disseminated by the FBI on Jan. 5, Wray provided insight, claiming it was quickly disseminated with law enforcement partners within an hour in three different ways: first in an email to the joint terrorism task force that includes members of both U.S. Capitol Police and Metro Police; second, verbally, it was walked through again at a command post meeting; and third, the information was posted on a law enforcement portal made available to law enforcement across the country.
“As to why the info didn’t flow to all the people, I don’t have an answer for that,” he said.
Wray testified that he did not personally see the report until after Jan. 6, but the way the FBI reported it was done in the normal fashion. He said the memo included raw intelligence with unvetted and uncorroborated information found online but the threats were specific enough to cause concern.
The Justice Department has so far charged more than 300 individuals in connection to the event, and Wray will also likely face questions regarding the ongoing FBI investigations related to the riot, as well as how the bureau is confronting national security threats from domestic violent extremists.
Chairman Durbin and other Democratic committee members, raised concerns in a letter to Wray ahead of the hearing over whether the FBI is “allocating law enforcement and intelligence resources in a manner that reflects the scale of the threat posed by violent White supremacists.”
The senators cited “bipartisan” intelligence reports indicating that although attacks over the past few years involved domestic violent extremists “across the political spectrum,” FBI and Homeland Security assessed that violent White supremacists represent the “most significant domestic terrorism threat.”
“I think domestic terrorism, religious and racial-based hate groups have become a major threat in America,” Durbin told reporters on Capitol Hill on Monday. “I want to know if our intelligence operations have taken this into consideration in establishing their priorities.”
Several members of the right-wing militia Oath Keepers, as well as the Proud Boys, have been indicted in connection to the Jan. 6 attack, the letter said. The chairman also told reporters Monday that he has questions for Wray regarding intelligence leading up to the insurrection, NPR reported.
“What did he know? When did he know it? And who did he tell?” Durbin said. “Those are questions which have been raised in other hearings, but he is the man of the hour.”
The FBI Norfolk Field Office sent a memo to U.S. Capitol Police on Jan. 5 suggesting that a coordinated attack was planned on Jan. 6 and that Congress was the target. The memo was first made public by The Washington Post on Jan. 12, but former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund testified last week that he did not learn about it until weeks later — as recently as the day before he addressed Congress. Capitol police also produced its own intelligence memo indicating a similar coordinated attack on Congress as early as Jan. 3.
Wray is also expected to be pressed on how the FBI is investigating future threats after U.S. Capitol Police Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch last week that militia groups present on Jan. 6 have states desires to “blow up” the Capitol in order to “kill as many members as possible” when President Biden addresses Congress.
Wray may also face questions about the FBI’s investigation into the massive Russian hack of corporations and U.S. government agencies, which happened when elite hackers injected malicious code into a software update.
Last week, Sund, former Senate Sergeant of Arms Michael Stenger, former House Sergeant of Arms Paul Irving and Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee testified before a joint Senate Rules and Homeland Security Committee hearing.
Author: Danielle Wallace