A week after an angry mob stormed the Capitol, Congress struggled on Wednesday to make sense of the most serious incursion into its home in more than two centuries as lawmakers called for new investigations and that federal authorities were deploying across the country, arresting several others. suspects, including two police officers from Virginia and a firefighter from Florida.
The wave of arrests and calls for inquiries came as the House laid a landmark second impeachment charge against President Trump and federal law enforcement officials continued to examine whether the attack on Capitol Hill included coordinated efforts of small groups of extremists and was not simply a mass protest. which got out of hand. All of this took place as official Washington remained crouched on the defensive, with much of the city surrounded by protective fences and armed troops encamped inside the Capitol complex.
Led by Rep. Mikie Sherrill, a New Jersey Democrat and former Navy pilot, more than 30 lawmakers on Wednesday called for an investigation into visitor access to the Capitol the day before the riot. In a letter to Acting House and Senate Sergeants-at-Arms and the United States Capitol Police, lawmakers, many of whom served in the military and said they had been trained to ” recognize suspicious activity, ”demanded responses on what they described as an“ Extremely high number of outside groups ”admitted to the Capitol on January 5 at a time when most visits were restricted due to the pandemic of coronavirus.
Separately, the Capitol Police Inspector General’s office said it was opening a potentially large-scale investigation into the siege-related security violations. The Government Accountability Office, a non-partisan federal watchdog, said it would examine what role, if any, members of Congress could have played in inciting the mob of Trump supporters who breached metal barricades and smashed windows Jan. 6, seeking to overturn the election results.
Banned from Twitter last week, Mr. Trump issued a brief statement on Wednesday, calling on Americans to “ease tensions and calm people.” But senior officials, including some in the Pentagon, have argued they are deeply concerned about inauguration day, when President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is supposed to be sworn in.
Seeking to keep their local counterparts informed, Christopher A. Wray, director of the FBI, and Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, a senior official in the Department of Homeland Security, on Wednesday briefed more than 5,000 law enforcement officials of the potential threats Across the country. . They stressed in particular that violence could break out this weekend in the 50 buildings of the State Capitol in the country.
For the first time since the riot in Washington, Jeffrey A. Rosen, the Acting Attorney General, issued a public statement, saying in a video released Tuesday night that he would not tolerate violence or other criminal behavior and that Mr. Biden would, like all of his predecessors, take office on January 20 in a peaceful transition ceremony. Mr Rosen also pledged to hold those who stormed the Capitol responsible for what he called an “intolerable, shocking and tragic episode,” and asked the public to share with the FBI all that he knows about aggression.
The federal investigation – a growing investigation that has already trapped more than 70 people – continued on Wednesday as charges of disorderly conduct and entry into tight space were filed against the officer Jacob Fracker and Sgt. Thomas Robertson, two members of the Rocky Mount Police Department in Virginia who witnessed the riot while off duty.
According to a criminal complaint, the pair broke into the Capitol last week and posed for a photo under a statue of John Stark, an Revolutionary War general, posting it on a social network. The complaint mentioned a subsequent message from Sergeant Robertson who wrote that the photo showed “2 men ready to really put the skin in the game and stand up for their rights.”
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said in an interview on Wednesday that one of his officers, an 18-year veteran of the force, was also under investigation in connection with the attack on Capitol and was likely to face charges.
Capitol Riot Fallout
“It is absolutely clear that he has entered the Capitol,” said Chief Acevedo, “and we anticipate that he will be charged federally.”
Federal agents made further arrests in New York, Maryland, Texas and Florida on Wednesday, including a firefighter from the town of Sanford, near Orlando. Firefighter Andrew Williams has been charged with illegal entry and disorderly conduct, and his attorney, Vincent Citro, told a Florida news station that Mr. Trump was to blame.
“The president and the Capitol police have encouraged contemptible behavior,” Citro said. “Mr. Williams was not involved in any of this.
New charges have also been filed against one of the riot’s best-known figures: a bearded man pictured inside the Capitol in a sweatshirt emblazoned with the ‘Camp Auschwitz’ logo.
The man, Robert K. Packer, 56, was arrested in Newport News, Va., And charged with illegal entry and disrupting official government operations. In a lawsuit filed in the Washington District Federal Court, prosecutors said a witness identified Mr. Packer because he regularly wore the anti-Semitic sweatshirt while shopping at Newport News.
As more people are charged in connection with the attack, it has become clear that many of those who went to Washington last week were not only angry but heavily armed and in some cases dangerous. This point was made evident by court documents filed Wednesday in the case of Cleveland G. Meredith Jr., who wrote in a text message that he wanted to put a bullet in the “noggin” of President Nancy Pelosi at the “Live television,” prosecutors said.
According to the newspapers, Mr. Meredith crossed the country with a Tavor X95 assault rifle, a 9mm pistol painted to resemble an American flag and around 2,500 rounds of ammunition, including at least 320 5.56 caliber armor-piercing rounds . Prosecutors say Mr Meredith, who has a history of drug addiction and mental illness, also threatened to kill Washington Mayor Muriel E. Bowser.
“I can go to the mayor’s office and put a 5.56 in his head,” he wrote in a text message, according to court documents.
This mood of outrage was echoed in the tumultuous congressional debate over impeachment, which dragged on throughout the day. The feeling of recriminations has spread beyond Washington’s borders as local politicians in other states have leveled accusations.
A group of Arizona state lawmakers on Wednesday released a letter they sent a day earlier to Mr Rosen and Mr Wray, calling for an investigation of two of their own colleagues, Mark Finchem and Anthony Kern, who, according to social media posts, was rioting on Capitol Hill.
Lawmakers also mentioned that two Arizona congressmen Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, both Republicans, had planned the rally leading up to the riot with so-called Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander. . A spokesperson for Mr Biggs denied having played any role in organizing the rally. Mr. Gosar appeared to be on good terms with Mr. Alexander, frequently tagging him in Twitter messages. At a rally last month outside the Arizona state capitol where Mr. Gosar spoke, Mr. Alexander called the congressman “the spirit animal of this movement.”
“It is vital for any current or future federal investigation, and ultimately for the Arizona public they represent, that we learn what these elected officials knew about this planned insurgency and when they knew it,” the said. letter from legislators.
A similar desire for answers – and for justice – was expressed by Rep. Jason Crow, a veteran Democrat in Colorado and the military who led the call for inquiry into whether any of his colleagues at the Chamber played a role in instigating the assault on the Capitol. At least five people died in the attack and the accompanying protests.
“To the extent that there were members of the House who were complicit, and I believe there were, we will pursue appropriate remedies, including expulsion and prohibition from holding elected office for the rest of their lives, ”Crow said in an interview. “They will of course be investigated and prosecuted if that’s what the facts of the investigation show.”
Adam goldman and Manny Fernandez contribution to reports.