The FBI issued a dire warning on the day before the Capitol riots that violent extremists were planning an armed uprising in Washington, a plot the attackers described as “war” to coincide with Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, officials confirmed Tuesday.
Assistant FBI Director Steven D’Antuono said the intelligence report, prepared by the bureau’s Norfolk, Virginia, office, included a “thread from a message board” that described an array of preparations for an assault, including a map of Capitol-area tunnels and staging areas in in Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
During a Justice Department briefing, D’Antuono said that while the information could not be attributed to a actual suspect, the information was shared within “40 minutes” with law enforcement partners, including the Joint Terrorism Task Forces, which includes the U.S. Capitol Police, the law enforcement agency that led the failed response.
JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Capitol riots were criminal ‘sedition and insurrection’
The contents of the warning, first disclosed earlier Tuesday by the Washington Post, included ominous language calling for attackers to “be ready to fight.”
“Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in … Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal,” the Post reported, citing the document.
D’Antuono said the warning was part of a cache of intelligence that the FBI shared with law enforcement partners in the run-up to the Jan. 6 riots. The prescient nature of the Norfolk warning, however, appeared to represent one of the most serious of the alarms touched off prior to the deadly assault.
“In the weeks leading up to the January 6 rally, the FBI worked internally with every FBI field office to ensure they were looking for any intelligence they may have developed about potential violence during the rally on January 6,” the assistant director said. “We developed some intelligence that a number of individuals were planning to travel to the D.C. area with intentions to cause violence.”
As a result, D’Antuono said some of that intelligence prompted the pre-riot arrest of Enrique Tarrio, leader of the far-right group Proud Boys that supports President Donald Trump.
“Other individuals were identified in other parts of the country and their travel subsequently disrupted,” the assistant director said.
The actual assault, which left splintered doors and shattered windows in the mob’s wake, proved eerily similar to the call to arms by Trump supporters, as outlined by the FBI Norfolk warning.
It was still unclear, however, whether officials specifically altered security preparations to account for that warning.
Ultimately, the siege left five dead, including a Capitol police officer whom pro-Trump rioters allegedly beat with a fire extinguisher.
The assault also raised troubling questions about a clear lack of preparation to confront the mob that overwhelmed U.S. Capitol Police and laid waste to the iconic landmark.
‘Only the beginning’: 170 suspects
Information about the explicit advance warnings came as D’Antuono and D.C. U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin described a sprawling criminal investigation that now includes more more than 170 suspects, some of whom could be charged with sedition.
Sherwin said 70 had been charged with a range of crimes so far, including the possession of weapons and explosives.
Federal authorities have not ruled out that some in the mob, who were carrying plastic hand-restraints known as zip-ties, may have intended to take lawmakers hostage.
Sherwin cast the inquiry as “mind-blowing” in scope.
“This is only the beginning,” Sherwin said, adding that some initially charged with minor trespassing charges would likely face myriad felony charges before the investigation was over.
In addition to the mayhem and violence, authorities raised the prospect that some who had riffled the offices of lawmakers may have taken sensitive national security documents.
The assistant director and the U.S. attorney said the massive investigation was being aided by 100,000 pieces of digital media submitted by the public that is aiding law enforcement in identifying suspects.
Federal authorities said they also were considering a recommendation from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who urged officials to place riot suspects on no-fly lists to bar them from attempting a return to Washington to disrupt the Jan. 20 inauguration.
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The FBI issued a bulletin to law enforcement partners, warning of the potential for additional armed demonstrations in Washington and in state capitals across the country. The bulletin cautioned that actions could begin Jan. 17 and continue through the inauguration.
Already, state authorities have taken action to fortify their capitol buildings to guard from any planned assaults.
ARMED PROTESTS:Violence feared Jan. 17-20
Public ‘will be shocked’
Sherwin described the scope of the ongoing inquiry as possibly “unprecedented” and said it could see the filing of hundreds of cases before the inquiry is complete.
The chief federal prosecutor in Washington said a federal grand jury was booked for an entire day Monday to consider an array of charges against suspects. And he suggested that the public “will be shocked” when a full accounting of the siege emerges in the next few weeks and months.
Among the most prominent cases being pursued is the investigation into the murder of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick.
“It cuts to the core that one of our law enforcement brethren has passed away,” D’Antuono said.