Riot on Capitol Hill: FBI Director Wray refutes conspiracy theory that January 6 rioters were ‘bogus protesters against Trump’

Testifying publicly for the first time since pro-Trump rioters raped the Capitol nearly two months ago, Wray was pressed by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Dick Durbin to find out whether the FBI had seen evidence that those involved in the Jan. 6 attack were posing as Trump supporters – a claim the Illinois Democrat has called “the next big lie.”

“We haven’t seen any evidence of that, at this point, certainly,” Wray replied when asked if Durbin asked if he had seen any evidence that the riot was staged by “bogus Trump protesters.” Referring to Johnson’s comments at a Senate hearing last week in He also claimed those involved in the attack were “agents provocateurs.”

Most Republicans on the panel did not accept these conspiracies, but the baseless claim that left-wing infiltrators were responsible for the violent attack was promoted by Trump’s impeachment advocates, several GOP lawmakers and at least one speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week. .

On Tuesday, Wray clarified that Antifa and other leftist groups were not part of the January 6 violence, which he called “domestic terrorism” – even as several Republicans sought to take advantage of the hearing to highlight the threat posed. by these groups rather than focusing on the attack on Capitol Hill.

“We have not, to date, seen any evidence of violent extremist anarchists or of people subscribing to Antifa as part of the 6th,” Wray told the Senate committee.

More than 260 defendants – many of them professing allegiance to Trump, disgusting Congress and supporting the revolution – have been indicted in federal court for their actions in and around the U.S. Capitol headquarters on January 6.

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Previously, nearly a dozen Trump supporters accused in connection with the U.S. Capitol uprising said Antifa and other left-wing groups were not involved in the attack, further debunking the plot of supporters of the U.S. Capitol. Trump.

Wray pressed the ‘Norfolk memo’

Wray’s team of federal investigators are currently pursuing thousands of leads in a dual effort to prosecute those involved in the Jan.6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and to try to prevent the feared follow-up attacks in Washington and the United States. the country.

While federal law enforcement officials have sought to reassure the American public in the months following the riot that they are up to the task on both fronts, their public remarks put Also bare the enormity of the challenge they face in tracking potential threats not only to the nation’s capital, but across the country.

Law enforcement officials told CNN authorities missed key signs ahead of the siege, which left five people dead and the Capitol sacked, and FBI preparations leading up to the day of the attack. is under scrutiny.

On Tuesday, Wray defended the FBI’s sharing of critical information about possible threats to the Capitol by January 6, including his handling of the “Norfolk memo,” which has become at the heart of questions relating to the issue of find out if the police protecting the Capitol had enough solid information. before the siege to prepare.

Wray described how the FBI quickly shared an intelligence report of the online gossip before January 6, in three ways with other law enforcement agencies, after receiving the information from the FBI field office in Norfolk .

Findings of the Senate Hearing on the Attack on the U.S. Capitol

His answers to at least three questions from Senators on Tuesday about the Norfolk report explain where and how the intelligence was shared, and contrast with testimony last week from Capitol Hill law enforcement officials who largely blamed the failures security to a lack of intelligence. that had been communicated.

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The Norfolk report was passed on to law enforcement partners, Wray said, including Capitol Police and Metro Police an hour after it was received.

It was shared three ways: an email to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, a verbal briefing from the command post in the Washington field office and FBI headquarters involving police in DC, and through the portal. law enforcement, according to Wray.

“In a perfect world, we would have taken longer to determine if it was reliable, but we made the judgment, our people decided to pass this information on to the people concerned as quickly as possible, as I said, to three different ways, in order to leave as little as possible to chance, ”said Wray.

Wray called the memo “raw, unverified, unsubstantiated information” that had been gathered from online publications, but was noteworthy enough for the FBI to share with police in Washington almost immediately. “It’s more than just an email,” Wray said.

Wray didn’t see the Norfolk report until after the 6th, he added.

“As to why the information was not passed on to people in all departments … I don’t have an answer to that,” he said later.

FBI obtains intelligence through arrests

Prosecution documents continue to reveal new information about extremists who took part in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, including members of right-wing militant groups whom prosecutors accused of conspiracy-related crimes.

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Yet lawmakers have indicated they remain less clear about the threat these types of individuals continue to pose and have unsuccessfully urged law enforcement officials to justify the heightened security posture on Capitol Hill.

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A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security told CNN last month that officials are currently not tracking any “credible or specific threats,” but continue to constantly monitor online discussions of the potential violence in Washington, DC, and against members of Congress.

Wray said Tuesday that the FBI “is always looking to develop more and better sources” to combat domestic terrorism and counterterrorism threats, but the key to obtaining intelligence is through arrests.

He also told lawmakers that the more arrests the FBI makes, “the more of these cases we learn who their contacts are, what their tactics are, what their strategies are … and that makes us smarter and better able to ‘get in front of the threat, go ahead. “

CNN’s Jeff Zeleny, Whitney Wild, Ali Zaslav and Manu Raju contributed to this report.

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