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Tag: Washington D.C.

Oath Keeper Leader Charged with Seditious Conspiracy for Role in Jan. 6 Riot

Alex Gakos/Shutterstock.com

By Steve Neavling

The leader and founder of the extremist far-right group Oath Keepers and 10 others were arrested and charged with seditious conspiracies and other crimes for their involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol siege, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

Stewart Rhodes, 56, was arrested in Little Elm, Texas. 

The Oath Keepers is a loosely organized group that focuses on recruiting current and former military, law enforcement and first-responder personnel. 

According to the indictment, the defendants were wearing paramilitary gear and using a military formation to navigate the crowds and enter the Capitol. 

They assaulted U.S. Capitol Police and conspired to storm the Capitol to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s victory, prosecutors said. 

The indictment marks the first time anyone has been charged with sedition for participating in the riot. 

Since the riot, more than 725 people from nearly every state has been charged in connection with the insurrection. Of those, 225 have been charged with assaulting or impending law enforcement. 

Capitol Police Exodus Followed Jan. 6 Insurrection

Alex Gakos/Shutterstock.com

By Steve Neavling

Since the Jan. 6 riot in Washington D.C., about 130 Capitol Police officers have left their jobs, a Senate panel was told Tuesday. 

There are now more than 230 vacancies in the roughly 2,000-officer force. 

“They are down significantly (in) officers and they need to bring … folks on that can augment that,” Michael Bolton, the inspector general for Capitol Police, told the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, USA Today reports.

The Capitol riot left about 140 officers injured, and five have died since. Two of the deaths were Capitol Police officers, including Brian Sicknick, who died from a stroke the following day, and Howard Liebengood, who committed suicide days later.

While Bolton said morale has improved since the riot, he said there are concerns about overtime and recruiting. 

A House task force in April recommended hiring 854 officers, including 350 to reduce an alarming increase in overtime. 

Congress still hasn’t decided on funding for the department. 

“This work is crucial to securing the work of the Capitol,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who heads the committee, said. 

FBI Failed to Act on Detailed Tips about Violence Ahead of Jan. 6 Riot

Alex Gakos/Shutterstock.com

By Steve Neavling

The FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies received a plethora of detailed and credible tips about potential violence on Jan. 6, but they failed to act ahead of the insurrection, The Washington Post reports.

In one case, the FBI received a tip on Dec. 20 that supporters of then-President Trump were discussing ways to sneak in guns to Washington D.C. to “overrun” police and kidnap members of Congress. Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican whom Trump often criticized, was one of the targets. 

The tips continued to come in, many that were very specific and detailed, but the FBI failed to act. 

While the FBI passed the information to law enforcement agencies in Washington, agents didn’t pursue the threats themselves. 

“The individual or group identified during the Assessment does not warrant further FBI investigation at this time,” an internal bureau report concluded at the time. 

Despite all of tips, top officials wrongly suspected that the biggest threat was for violence between Trump supporters and Trump opponents. 

“The paralysis that led to one of the biggest security failures in the nation’s history was driven by unique breakdowns inside each law enforcement agency and was exacerbated by the patchwork nature of security across a city where responsibilities are split between local and federal authorities,” The Post wrote.

Long-Delayed Plans to Build New FBI Headquarters May Soon Be Back on Track

The FBI’s current headquarters in Washington D.C., named after J. Edgar Hoover.

By Steve Neavling

The long-delayed construction of a new a FBI headquarters may be back on track with the introduction of appropriation bills in the Senate. 

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Financial Services and General Government panel, announced this week language in a bill that would restart the project. 

Van Hollen blamed former President Trump for delaying the project. Trump has long called for the headquarters, which is a stone’s throw from his Washington D.C. hotel, to be built downtown, rather than in the suburbs.

“For the last four years, President Trump did all he could to block our efforts to construct a new FBI consolidated headquarters that meets the security and capacity needs of the Bureau solely because it stood to hurt his personal financial interests,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “We fought back tooth and nail, and now, it’s past time to get this project back on track. That’s why I worked to include language in our proposed legislation requiring GSA to provide an update on the construction of a new headquarters and urging the FBI and GSA to work together to move forward. The status quo is unacceptable.”

Van Hollen has advocated for a new FBI headquarters in Maryland.

The FBI has been searching for a new headquarters for years, but funding problems continue to delay the project. The current headquarters is cramped and outdated, critics say. 

The bill’s new language says:

SEC. 530. (a) No later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the General Services Administration shall transmit to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives, and the Committee on Environment and Public Works of the Senate, a report on the construction of a new headquarters for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the National Capital Region.

(b) The report transmitted under subsection (a) shall be consistent with the requirements of section 3307(b) of title 40, United States Code, and include a summary of the material provisions of the construction and consolidation of the FBI in a new headquarters facility, including all the costs associated with site acquisition, design, management, and inspection, and a description of all buildings and infrastructure needed to complete the project.

(c) Any FBI headquarters project shall result in a consolidation of space in the National Capital Area and shall meet key tenets of the space, transportation, and security requirements included in the General Services Administration’s Fiscal Year 2017 prospectus (PNCR–FBI–NCR 17).

330-Mile Bike Ride Honors Slain FBI Agent Martha Dixon-Martinez

By Steve Neavling

Family members of FBI Special Agent Martha Dixon-Martinez, who was killed during a shooting rampage in November 1994, stopped at the bureau’s Pittsburgh Field Office last week as part of an annual 330-mile bike ride in her honor. 

“Martha’s Ride” began on March 8 in Washington D.C., where she was shot, and ended at the field office on Friday. 

“We all walk into this building named after Ms. Dixon every day and remember the sacrifice she made,” Mike Nordwall, special agent in charge of the Pittsburgh Field Office, said in a statement. “We are thankful to her family for continuing to honor her legacy.”

The ride raises money for the Martha Fund, which has built playgrounds in the Pittsburgh area for more than 20 years. 

“Martha’s Ride honors the enduring legacy of a true American hero,” said Kevin Dixon, Martha Dixon’s brother. “Martha was unfortunately called upon to make the supreme sacrifice for her fellow Americans. Aside from a devoted agent, she was known for her love of her young nieces and nephews and for athletics. To keep her memory alive, the Martha Fund conducts the ‘Martha’s Ride,’ as well as a run in her name each spring as an homage to her athleticism. It also honors her love for kids by helping build playgrounds in the Pittsburgh area.”

On Nov. 22, 1994, a gunman opened fire inside the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Department, killing Dixon-Martinez, FBI agent Michael John Miller and Metro Police Sgt. Henry Daly. 

Before joining the FBI, Dixon-Martinez received a degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Several years later, she began her career with the FBI in Knoxville where she became the first female agent in the field office to be certified as a SWAT team member. 

In November 2001, the Pittsburgh Field Office was later named in honor of Dixon.

Homeland Security Warns about Potential for Violence at ‘Justice for J6’ Rally

Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo via Shutterstock.

By Steve Neavling

Homeland Security officials expressed concern about the potential for violence at an upcoming right-wing rally to advocate for the jailed Jan. 6 rioters. 

In a bulletin to law enforcement partners, the Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis warned about a “small number of recent online threats” related to the Justice for J6 rally on Saturday and noted there were “online discussions encouraging violence the day before the rally,” CBS News reports.

Meanwhile, U.S. Capitol Police are erecting a chain-link fence around the Capitol building and requested the National Guard Quick Reaction Force and D.C. Metropolitan police to be prepared in the event of violence. 

The bulletin says that some social media users discussed rushing the Capitol, and one user “commented on kidnapping an identified member of Congress.”

“Other references to violence identified on social media include discussions of using the rally to target local Jewish institutions, elected officials, and ‘liberal churches,'” the bulletin states. 

Authorities expected as many as 700 people attend the rally. 

Making matters worse, former President Trump criticized the prosecution of hundreds of rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, CNBC reports.

“Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the January 6th protest concerning the Rigged Presidential Election,” Trump said in a written statement. 

“In addition to everything else, it has proven conclusively that we are a two-tiered system of justice. In the end, however, JUSTICE WILL PREVAIL!” Trump said.

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., responded by accusing Trump  of “trying again to gin up insurrection and get people killed.”

“I’ve called for trump to be arrested and prosecuted for his Jan 6 treason,” Pascrell tweeted. “Nothing has changed.”

FBI Releases New Video of Suspect Who Placed Bombs Outside RNC, DNC on Eve of Jan. 6 Riot

Screenshot from a new video released by the FBI of the pipe bomb suspect.

By Steve Neavling

The FBI on Wednesday released new information and video surveillance of the suspect wanted for placing pipe bombs in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington D.C. the night before the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

The new video, which is the clearest to be released, shows the suspect sitting on a park bench near the Democratic National Headquarters, close to where the suspect placed one of the bombs. 

Included in the video is a virtual map that shows where the suspect walked while depositing the bombs between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

The suspect was wearing a face mask, glasses, a grey-hooded sweatshirt, gloves, and black-and-light grey Nike Air Max Speed Turf shoes with a yellow logo. The bombs were transported in a backpack. 

The FBI believes the suspect is not from the area. 

“The FBI is extremely grateful to the American people who have already provided us with vital assistance in this case,” Steven M. D’Antuono, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said in a statement. “Since January, the FBI has conducted more than 800 interviews, collected more than 23,000 video files, and assessed more than 300 tips related to this investigation. Those tips have helped us uncover new information, which we are releasing today and asking the public to view it and call us with any information you think may be relevant.”

He added, “We know it is hard to report information about a friend or family member, but these pipe bombs were viable devices that could have detonated, causing innocent bystanders to be seriously injured or killed. Your tip could be the one that prevents this person from harming themselves or anyone else.”

Capitol Police Officer Speaks Out about Fatal Shooting of Ashli Babbitt

Alex Gakos/Shutterstock.com

By Steve Neavling

The Capitol police officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt during the Jan. 6 siege said he pulled the trigger to “save the lives of members of Congress and myself and my fellow officers.”

For the first time, Lt. Michael Byrd spoke publicly about the Capitol attack and his reasons for firing his weapon during an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt on Thursday night. 

Byrd, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran, said he’s been threatened, and some of the attacks have been racist. 

“They talked about killing me, cutting off my head,” Byrd said. “It’s all disheartening, because I know I was doing my job.”

The interview comes several days after an internal investigation cleared Byrd of wrongdoing, saying he followed department policy, which allows deadly force when there’s a reasonable expectation of serious physical harm to themselves or others. 

“If they get through that door, they’re into the House chamber and upon the members of Congress,” Byrd told NBC, saying Babbitt had been “posing a threat to the United States House of Representatives.” 

Byrd said he saved lives: “I know members of Congress, as well as my fellow officers and staff, were in jeopardy and in serious danger. And that’s my job.”

Also on Thursday, seven other Capitol police officers filed a lawsuit against former President Trump and others, including right-wing extremists groups, accusing them of conspiring to promote groundless claims of widespread fraud that fueled the riot.