The January 6 criminal investigation extends to the planning and financing of the rally

Over the past two months, a federal grand jury in Washington has issued subpoenas to certain officials in former President Donald Trump’s orbit who helped plan, fund and execute the Jan. 6 rally. , said people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

The development shows just how far the Justice Department’s investigation — which already involves more defendants than any other criminal prosecution in the nation’s history — has gone beyond the capitol storm to examine events leading up to the incident. ‘attack.

The events of January 6, 2021 are a legally heavy headache for federal investigators. FBI prosecutors and agents must distinguish between constitutionally protected First Amendment activities, such as speaking and assembly, and alleged conspiracy to obstruct Congress or other potential crimes related to the collection of fund and organization leading up to January 6th.

The task is also complicated by the proximity of these two very different types of activity – speech and violence – which occurred within hours of each other and within a mile of each other.

A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington declined to comment.

On the morning of January 6, thousands of people from across the country gathered at the Ellipse behind the White House to rally behind the false premise that Trump had won the 2020 presidential election. began speaking to the crowd around noon and called on attendees to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue to the US Capitol. At 12:30 p.m., hundreds of people began to gather near Congress. Around 1 p.m., the barricaded security perimeter of the Capitol complex was breached and people flocked to the building.

The crowd erupted, with rioters beating officers, smashing windows and smashing their way into legislative offices. Lawmakers fled to safety, delaying the official tally of Joe Biden’s election victory for hours until order could be restored. More than 100 police officers were injured, many of them seriously.

Prosecutors have charged more than 770 people with crimes so far, and the FBI is seeking information to identify hundreds of additional suspects, including a person who planted pipe bombs outside Democratic and Republican party headquarters overnight. former.

Grand jury subpoenas are a legal mechanism used by prosecutors to gather information for a criminal investigation, and a subpoena by itself does not mean that a particular recipient is under investigation or is likely to face charges. But subpoena requests issued in recent weeks indicate the opening of the investigation has widened, after Attorney General Merrick Garland engaged in a speech on January 5, the eve of the first anniversary of the attack on the Capitol, to follow the evidence. wherever it leads.

People familiar with the subpoena requests declined to identify the people who received them or provide further details.

Garland, who has at times come under pressure from Democrats and others to more aggressively investigate those close to Trump and the events leading up to the attack on Congress, said in his January 5 speech that Complex surveys like this take time and are built from the bottom up.

“We follow the physical evidence. We track digital evidence. We follow the money,” Garland said. “But most importantly, we follow the facts – not a program or an assumption. The facts tell us where to go next.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said Jan. 5 that investigators would prosecute those involved in the Jan. 6 riot “at any level.” (Video: Reuters, Photo: Reuters)

Prosecutors have long been interested in how those accused of violently violating the Capitol paid for their trips to Washington and their accommodations, and have frequently asked witnesses to explain who covered the cost of their buses and other modes of transport. According to court documents, many of the Jan. 6 defendants appear to have organized and paid for themselves, or raised money online to pay for group trips as large as a 60-vehicle caravan.

But as Jan. 6 approached, the pro-Trump groups behind the protests backed and promoted caravans, including March for Trump, which was largely organized by Women for America First, a group chaired by the former Tea Party Express leader Amy Kremer; and Stop the Steal, hosted by Ali Alexander. Both groups have denied wrongdoing.

Early in the Jan. 6 investigation, a few prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington wanted to use subpoenas and search warrants to gather evidence about the organizers or speakers of the rally. But the FBI, Justice Department officials and Michael R. Sherwin — who was named acting DCUS attorney during the Trump administration and continued to lead the investigation after leaving that post — resisted the sting. idea, people familiar with the matter said. on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations. Authorities feared that such a move would violate the protesters’ First Amendment rights.

Instead, the Justice Department decided to investigate those caught on video committing crimes first and see if investigators could connect those people to higher-level targets.

In an October arrest affidavit for a Virginia man and his daughter, the FBI said the father received a packing list from a protest organizer via a person “who coordinated convoys, plans communications, maps and packing lists” for January 6 attendees. The list included a telescopic metal police baton, bulletproof vests and helmets, according to the affidavit, with the organizer explaining on social media that participants were “not looking for a fight but had to be ready for one”.

The Justice Department’s interest in the details of the rally’s planning dovetails with previous subpoenas issued to some rally organizers by a House committee that is separately investigating Jan. 6. But grand jury work involving Justice Department subpoena requests is a criminal investigation, far different from lawmakers pressing for public accountability.

From the start, the January 6 investigation focused heavily on the actions of two extremist groups, the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. Proud Boys executives accused of playing a key role in the attack appeared to have arranged their own trip, rented a house in Washington and raised money online to pay for body armor, according to court filings governmental.

Then-Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was not in Washington on Jan. 6 but was arrested earlier this month for conspiring with other members of the group to attack Congress that day. . Prosecutors said the arrest resulted from newly uncovered evidence detailing his role. Tarrio has denied any wrongdoing.

Authorities said in court documents that at the time of After Tarrio’s arrest, several additional search warrants were executed and additional information and devices were collected. Prosecutors have said they may add charges or indict several additional defendants by May 20.

The federal conspiracy charges against Proud Boys members stemming from Jan. 6 are separate from the charges against Oath Keepers chief Stewart Rhodes and 10 other Oath Keepers or associates who were charged in January with seditious conspiracy, a historically rare charge that carries a maximum of 20 -year in prison. That indictment alleges Rhodes conspired in late 2020 and early 2021 to prevent Biden from becoming president, guiding a months-long effort to spark the political violence that prosecutors say culminated in the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol.

“Rhodes and certain co-conspirators … planned to halt the lawful transfer of presidential power by January 20, 2021, which included multiple ways to deploy force,” his indictment reads.

Rhodes, 56, remains in jail awaiting trial. He pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing.


Washington

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