The Justice Department is investigating former President Donald Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, a federal prosecutor has confirmed.
What You Need To Know
- The Justice Department is investigating former President Donald Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, federal prosecutor Michael Sherwin told "60 Minutes"
- Sherwin said there is evidence to support that Trump loyalists were motivated by the former president’s rhetoric on Jan. 6, but that there is also evidence to the contrary
- The prosecutor said he believes there is enough evidence to upgrade the charges against some suspects to include sedition
- Sherwin was named acting U.S. attorney in Washington in May 2020 but is returning to U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida
In an interview that aired Sunday on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Sherwin, who up until Friday was the acting U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., said there is evidence to support that Trump loyalists were motivated by the former president’s rhetoric on Jan. 6. But Sherwin said there is also evidence to the contrary.
“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?
“What I could tell you is this: Based upon, again, what we see in the public record and what we see in public statements in court, we have plenty of people — we have soccer moms from Ohio — that were arrested saying, ‘Well, I did this because my president said I had to take back our house.’ That moves the needle towards that direction. Maybe the president is culpable for those actions.
“But also you see in the public record, too, militia members saying, ‘You know what? We did this because Trump just talks a big game. He's just all talk. We did what he wouldn't do,’ ” Sherwin continued.
"You have investigators looking into the president’s role?" 60 Minutes' Scott Pelley asked.
"We have people looking at everything, correct," Sherwin replied. "Everything’s being looked at."
Just before the riot, Trump, who had falsely claimed for two months that there was widespread fraud in the presidential election, urged a rally crowd near the White House to march to the Capitol. He told his supporters, “You will never take back our country with weakness” and, “If you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.”
Trump was impeached, for a second time, by the House for inciting an insurrection, but the vote in the Senate fell short of the two-thirds needed to acquit him.
He could still face criminal charges, however.
During the impeachment trial, Trump’s lawyers argued that his speech did not incite the riot and that his calls to "fight" were political speech similar to what Democrats previously have engaged in. Trump said in January of the speech: "People thought that what I said was totally appropriate.”
Sherwin said of the more than 400 people to be charged in the riot, 80 to 90% were accused of trespassing. More than 100 people were charged with assaulting federal authorities and local police. And he said about 10% of the suspects were involved with “more complex conspiracy cases.”
To date, no suspects have been charged with sedition in the riot, which disrupted Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s election victory as lawmakers were rushed out to safety. But Sherwin said he thinks there is enough evidence to upgrade the charges against some suspects to include sedition.
“I believe the facts do support those charges,” Sherwin said. “And I think that, as we go forward, more facts will support that.”
Justice Department records show that 106 suspects have been charged with obstruction of an official proceeding, which Sherwin called “the most significant charge.” The felony carries a possible 20-year prison sentence.
Sherwin said the most serious cases involve about two dozen members of far-right militias.
“We've charged multiple conspiracy cases, and some of those involve single militia groups,” he said. “Some of them involve multiple militia groups.”
Sherwin said prosecutors have not found any communication between groups specifically about breaching the Capitol, but rather about “taking back the House,” “stopping the steal” and “how they need a show of force in D.C.”
Sherwin said he personally witnessed people in tactical gear leave Trump’s speech early for the Capitol. He said he followed them.
“It became more aggressive,” he said. “Where it was initially pro-Trump, it digressed to anti-government, anti-Congress, anti-institutional. … When I saw people climbing up the scaffolding, hanging from it, hanging flags, I was like, ‘This is going bad fast.’ ”
Sherwin was named acting U.S. attorney in Washington in May 2020 but is returning to U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.