The House Select Committee on the January 6 attack on the United States has been busy this summer pulling together evidence that the rioters that day were trying to overthrow the United States government or, at the very least, overturn the results of the election.
But according to the FBI’s investigation, there is very little evidence of any kind that the riot was some massive, right-wing plot to bring down the government.
“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.”
The FBI found that small groups of Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys were planning to break into the Capitol, but the Bureau could find no evidence that the mouth-breathers had any plans for what to do once they were inside.
The Democrats have been raising the alarm about Oath Keepers and other right-wing groups as a domestic terror threat. Would it be downplaying the seriousness of the riot if we stopped referring to it as a vast right-wing conspiracy “to overturn the election” or an “armed insurrection” to overthrow the government?
Perhaps the Democrats can now refrain from implicating Donald Trump as a ringleader of the whole conspiracy.
In public comments last month to the Democratic-led congressional committee formed to investigate the violence, police officers injured in the mayhem urged lawmakers to determine whether Trump helped instigate it. Some Democrats have said they want him to testify.
But the FBI has so far found no evidence that he or people directly around him were involved in organizing the violence, according to the four current and former law enforcement officials.
The Democrats will be looking for that bowl of strawberries for the next year until the House Select Committee’s report is released — right around election time.
What does this mean for the prosecutors’ cases against the 570 people waiting for trial as a result of the riot?
But one source said there has been little, if any, recent discussion by senior Justice Department officials of filing charges such as “seditious conspiracy” to accuse defendants of trying to overthrow the government. They have also opted not to bring racketeering charges, often used against organized criminal gangs.
Senior officials had discussed filing such charges in the weeks after the attack, the sources said.
Prosecutors have also not brought any charges alleging that any individual or group played a central role in organizing or leading the riot. Law-enforcement sources told Reuters no such charges appeared to be pending.
There were 170 defendants charged with assaulting or impeding a police officer. Those are the most serious charges and are not connected to any conspiracy-mongering by the Justice Department.
But the fact that the FBI is tiptoeing away from the “grand conspiracy” theory of a right-wing putsch means that the Democrats are going to have to find some other talking points that don’t involve Republicans being traitors and allies to right-wing terrorists.