Politics

100 days after US Capitol insurrection, massive federal inquiry sees progress and roadblocks

Prosecutors have moved full speed ahead with hundreds of cases against rioters but haven’t made use of the much-discussed sedition laws. They’ve rounded up dozens of extremists and militia members yet failed to convince judges that most are too dangerous to release pre-trial.

The investigation is still in its early stages. Prosecutions in the backlogged court system could stretch on for years, even if most rioters ultimately plead guilty.

Thousands of people’s lives changed forever that day — including the lawmakers, staffers and journalists who ran for their lives, the hundreds of rioters who are now facing potential prison time, the families of the five people who died, and the 140 police officers who were injured.

The 100-day mark provides an opportunity for reflection. Here’s a breakdown of where things stand, and what the Justice Department has and hasn’t done so far with its criminal probe.

What prosecutors have done so far

The Justice Department has charged at least 375 people in 43 states and the District of Columbia in connection with the insurrection, according to CNN’s latest review of court documents. The sweeping nationwide manhunt has lived up to the early predictions from law enforcement officials that this would be the largest federal investigation since the 9/11 attacks.

Investigators quickly nabbed the “low-hanging fruit” rioters who brazenly posted about their exploits online. Some of the rioters even turned themselves in. But investigators also went through the painstaking process of examining tens of thousands of hours of video to identify the pro-Trump rioters allegedly responsible for the most vicious attacks against police officers.
This includes more than 100 rioters charged with assaulting or impeding officers, according to the Justice Department. Among them are the two men charged in connection with the bear-spray attack on US Capitol Officer Brian Sicknick, who later died from his injuries. After initially struggling with the video evidence, prosecutors announced these high-profile arrests in March.
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The Justice Department secured its first guilty plea Friday, a watershed moment in the probe. The cooperation deal could be the first of many, with rioters hoping to move on with their lives.
The probe also led to an unprecedented government crackdown against right-wing extremist groups, including the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys. Intelligence officials warned for years that groups like these posed a major domestic terrorism threat, and they’re now facing the music.

Prosecutors brought conspiracy cases against about 20 members of these paramilitary groups, differentiating them from the hundreds of rioters facing trespassing charges. But going forward, prosecutors could struggle to prove that there was a thought-out plan to storm the Capitol or commit violence in Washington, which has already become a sticking point in some cases.

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What prosecutors haven’t done

Even with all the arrests, there are still about 225 photographs of rioters on the FBI website that haven’t been identified. Some of them were involved in grisly attacks against law enforcement.

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Also missing are those much-discussed sedition charges, which would ramp up the pressure for defendants because they could carry a 20-year prison sentence. For all the talk — including from the former US attorney who led the inquiry — prosecutors haven’t filed a single sedition charge.
Seditious conspiracy, generally defined as plotting to use force against the US government, seems to fit the facts of the Capitol siege. But the last time federal prosecutors tried to use the law, the case collapsed in court and ended with a judge acquitting seven of nine defendants.
Investigators also haven’t charged anyone in connection with the pipe bombs that were planted at the Republican and Democratic party headquarters on the eve of the insurrection. They keep increasing the reward money, but 100 days later, there are no public signs of tangible progress.
There’s also the question of whether the Justice Department will seriously investigate former President Donald Trump and other Republicans who spoke at the rally before the attack and incited many members of the crowd. Investigators also haven’t put forward any information to corroborate claims from Democrats that some GOP lawmakers gave “insider” help to rioters.
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