The FBI has found little evidence that the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was a centrally-coordinated insurrection intended to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, Reuters reported, citing off-the-record sources including current and former law enforcement officials.
The report was followed by questions and criticism. Clinton Watts, a senior fellow at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University, said on Twitter, “every person at the rally didn’t have to be in on the plan,” for a “disaster” to ensue.
According to the report, the riot was not perpetrated by coordinating far-right actors or followers of former President Donald Trump.
“Ninety to ninety-five percent of these are one-off cases,” said a former senior law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation. “Then you have five percent, maybe, of these militia groups that were more closely organized. But there was no grand scheme with Roger Stone and Alex Jones and all of these people to storm the Capitol and take hostages.”
While it’s difficult to estimate the total number of people who showed up to the Capitol and participated in the riot, about 800 people entered the building. More than 600 people have been charged for their roles in the attack, which took place after Trump’s “Save America Rally” at Washington’s Ellipse park.
At around 12:15 p.m. that day, Trump told his supporters to head to the Capitol — some 1.7 miles away — saying, “You’ll never take back our country with weakness.”
Around 1:10 p.m., as members of Congress were preparing to count Electoral College votes, rioters began to show up on the Capitol steps.
As a result of the attack, five people died, including a Capitol Police officer. More than 140 D.C. and Capitol Police officers were injured during the riot. However, sources told Reuters the FBI found that neither Trump nor those around him organized the attack.
According to the sources, FBI investigators found that certain cells of protesters, including followers of the far-right Oath Keepers and Proud Boys group, planned to get inside the Capitol building, but no evidence showed that the groups had organized plans for what they’d do once inside.
Of all of those charged, just 40 people have been charged with conspiracy and accused in engaging in some form of planning prior to the attack.
While about 170 people have been charged with impeding a police officer which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, a source said there has ben minimal talk of charging rioters with “seditious conspiracy” to accuse them of attempting to overthrow the government.
Sources also told Reuters that no charges alleging any individual or group played a central role in organizing or leading the riot are pending, nor have any been brought.
Some have questioned whether the Justice Department is letting rioters off too easy. One user wrote that punishing those involved in the attack is a good step but “if we don’t nail the people in power who planned it, it’s bye bye democracy.”
“Did the FBI review what we all saw with our own eyes on Jan 6? Are they hopelessly blind?” another person questioned.
Another suggested the FBI had concluded rioters “happened to accidentally assemble at the Capital.”
New York Times bestselling writer and political commentator Seth Abramson claimed the FBI has “chosen not to see” evidence that the attack was coordinated. Calling them “f****** incompetent.”
A Democratic congressional source told Reuters senior lawmakers had been briefed on the details of the FBI’s findings and found them credible.