FBI Director Christopher Wray has said the bureau considers the Jan.6 attack on the Capitol as an act of “internal terrorism” and suggested that “serious charges” were still missing from its ongoing criminal investigation.
Testifying before Congress on Thursday, the director disqualified Donald Trump’s claims about a stolen presidential election. “We found no evidence of fraud that could have changed the outcome of the elections,” he told lawmakers on the House judicial committee.
Wray’s testimony came when federal prosecutors charged six members of a right-wing militia group with conspiring to storm the Capitol, the latest in a series of such charges to emerge on January 6.
Democratic lawmakers repeatedly questioned Wray, Trump’s appointee in 2017, for what they said were intelligence failures that left law enforcement ill-prepared for the deadly attack.
“The inaction of the FBI in the weeks leading up to January 6 is just baffling,” said Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House judicial committee. “It is difficult to know if the FBI headquarters simply overlooked the evidence, which had been flagged by their field offices and was available online for the whole world to see, or if the office saw the intelligence, underestimated the threat and he just didn’t act. “
A Senate report recently concluded that the deadly insurrection had been planned “on the horizon,” but that the warnings had gone unheeded due to a disturbing combination of poor communications, poor planning, faulty equipment and a lack of leadership.
Wray said that “almost none” of the 500 people accused so far of participating in the attack had been under investigation by the FBI before, suggesting that it would have been difficult for the FBI to have monitored them in advance.
“You can rest assured that we are going to be looking closely at how we can do better, how we can do more, how we can do things differently in terms of intelligence gathering and dissemination,” Wray said.
Charges Thursday against six men, all from California, were revealed in an indictment revealed in federal court in Washington. Two of them, Alan Hostetter and Russell Taylor, were seen the day before the riot with Roger Stone, a friend and adviser to Trump, during a protest in front of the United States Supreme Court against the result of the 2020 presidential election.
Around 30 people, including members of two other right-wing groups, the Oath Keepers and Tte Proud Boys, have been charged with conspiracy, the most serious charges related to the riot. Those pending cases are the largest and most complex of the roughly 500 filed by the justice department since the attack.
When asked if the FBI was investigating Trump or Stone, Wray said he could neither confirm nor deny any FBI investigation.
“I mean Mr. Big, number one,” Tennessee Democrat Steve Cohen said, referring to Trump. “Have you gone after the people who incited the riots?”
Wray responded, “I don’t think it is appropriate for me to discuss whether or not we are investigating specific individuals.”
Wray also faced questions about the recent series of ransomware attacks against major US companies. The FBI director told lawmakers that the office discouraged ransomware payments to hacking groups.
“It is our policy, it is our guidance, from the FBI, that companies should not pay the ransom for a number of reasons,” Wray said.
Still, recently hacked companies, including Colonial Pipeline and JBS, the world’s largest meat-processing company, have admitted to paying hackers millions to regain control of their computer systems.
The Justice Department has said that it was able to recover most of the ransomware payment made by Colonial Pipeline after locating the virtual wallet used by the hackers.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism