The FBI warned law enforcement agencies ahead of last week's breach of the US Capitol about the potential for extremist-driven violence and prosecutors are now weighing sedition charges against at least some of the Trump loyalists who stormed the building, US officials said.
The statements by FBI and Justice Department officials were intended as both a defense of federal law enforcement preparations before the deadly riot, especially amid fresh revelations of an FBI report warning of violence, and as a warning to participants that they are still subject to arrest and felony charges even if they have left
Misdemeanor counts, including trespassing, against some of the dozens arrested so far may still be upgraded to sedition charges that are punishable by up to 20 years in prison, said acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin in Washington on Tuesday.
Sedition charges would effectively accuse rioters of attempting to overthrow or defeat the government, with House Democrats saying after an FBI briefing on the siege that the rioters had engaged in an "attempted coup." "This is only the beginning," Sherwin said of the initial round of charges against more than 70 people. "We're going to focus on the most significant charges as a deterrent because, regardless of it was just a trespass in the Capitol or if someone planted a pipe bomb, you will be charged and you will be found." Even for those who have left Washington, "agents from our local field offices will be knocking on your door," said Steven D'Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington field office in highlighting the nationwide effort to track down participants in the rioting.