One year after the Capitol riot, no one has been charged with sedition or insurrection, despite initial Justice Department claims that such charges were likely and former President Donald Trump being impeached for allegedly inciting an insurrection.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a Wednesday speech ahead of the riot’s anniversary that more than 725 defendants have been arrested. However, none of the charges have been for sedition or insurrection.
The riot disrupted the certification of now-President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump.
Michael Sherwin, the now-former acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, told 60 Minutes in March that authorities were investigating Trump’s potential criminal liability and that he also believed the evidence existed to file sedition charges against some involved in the riot.
“It's unequivocal that Trump was the magnet that brought the people to D.C. on the 6th,” Sherwin said. “Now the question is, is he criminally culpable for everything that happened during the siege, during the breach?”
Sherwin, who subsequently left the DOJ for private practice, was asked about possible sedition charges and claimed, “I believe the facts do support those charges, and I think that, as we go forward, more facts will support that.”
Much of that echoed what Sherwin said immediately after the riot. When asked in January 2021 about whether Trump’s actions were being investigated, he said, ”We're looking at all actors.”
Sherwin had announced the creation of a specialized “strike force of very senior national security prosecutors and public corruption prosecutors” whose sole directions were to determine whether there should be “significant cases tied to sedition and conspiracy.” He added that “we are closely looking at evidence related to the sedition charges” and claimed that “the results will bear fruit very soon.”
That hasn't happened.
The Justice Department said that as of the end of 2021, more than 225 defendants had been charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding law enforcement officers and contended that 140 police officers were assaulted during the riot.
Prosecutors say that at least 275 defendants have been charged with obstructing a congressional proceeding, while roughly 40 defendants have been charged with some sort of conspiracy charge. The FBI said it still wants help identifying 350 suspects, including over 250 who allegedly assaulted officers.
Sherwin continued to hint at possible charges against Trump during an interview with CBS News this week.
“It didn't matter if you were a speaker that day or if you were a congressman, if you were in the executive office, the president, or if you were just one of the vendors selling popcorn that day — if your conduct fit the crime, we had the evidence, you were charged,” Sherwin said.
U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta criticized the Justice Department last year in a rare rebuke after DOJ officials speculated in the media about possible sedition charges against members of the Oath Keepers.
“I was surprised — and I’m being restrained in my use of terminology — surprised, to say the least, to see Mr. Sherwin sitting for an interview about a pending case in an ongoing criminal investigation,” the judge said, adding, “As for the New York Times story, I found it troubling that sources within the Department of Justice were detailing the possibility of additional charges in a pending criminal case in an ongoing criminal investigation.”
The judge said the defendants should only have to defend themselves against the actual charges brought against them, not speculation about what might be coming.
John Crabb, who ran the criminal division for the prosecutor’s office, told the judge that the matter would be referred to the Office of Professional Responsibility for investigation.
Prominent Democrats, including Biden and those leading the congressional investigation into the riot, repeatedly claimed that Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died as a result of the violence at the Capitol, despite the medical examiner’s office in Washington concluding that his “cause of death” was from a stroke and that the “manner of death” was “natural.”
A Democratic pretrial impeachment memo against Trump falsely claimed that “the insurrectionists killed a Capitol police officer by striking him in the head with a fire extinguisher.”
The medical examiner also said that two protesters had fatal heart attacks during the riot and that another died of a suspected drug overdose.
The only person determined to have been killed during the riot was Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran and Trump supporter who was shot by a Capitol Police officer as she attempted to climb through a broken window into the Speaker's Lobby. The officer was not charged.
An unknown person seen planting pipe bombs outside the RNC and DNC the night before the riot remains at large.
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