A sprawling investigation. Almost a year after the assault on Capitol Hill by supporters of Donald Trump, investigations are continuing and are going up to the highest level of the state.
Nearly 2,000 people involved in the attack
On January 6, 2021, Donald Trump, beaten at the polls two months earlier by Joe Biden, delivers a speech in Washington during which he refuses to acknowledge his defeat. He claims, as he has been doing for weeks, that the election has been “stolen” from him and calls on his supporters to “march to the Capitol” and “fight like devils”. A few hours later, several hundred people violently enter the Capitol, seat of the American parliament, when the elected officials certify the victory of Joe Biden. The balance sheet shows five dead, including four demonstrators and a police officer, and more than a hundred injured.
Investigations by federal agents, who notably analyzed videos of the attack and scoured social media, have arrested and charged more than 725 supporters of Donald Trump who entered the building. The federal police initially mentioned 800 participants but now estimate that at least 2,000 people were involved in the siege of the Capitol.
The attackers are mainly men, white, with an average age of 39 years. They come from all over the country and have varied socio-economic profiles: lawyer, landscaper, real estate agent, small boss, former soldier …
Among them, there are also far-right activists like those of the “Proud Boys” group, conspiracyists from the QAnon movement, but also ordinary supporters of Donald Trump, convinced by their leader that the election was rigged by the Democrats.
petty crimes …
The majority of those implicated have not committed violence and are prosecuted for minor offenses, such as violation of an entry ban or disturbing public order. Some 165 people have entered into guilty plea agreements and some 50 sentences have already been handed down. A young man, who admitted to having stolen a beer in the office of the democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, for example sentenced to 20 days in prison.
Jacob Chansley, 34, nicknamed the “shaman” and recognizable by his buffalo horns, was sentenced to three and a half years in detention. Having become the emblem of the riot, he pleaded guilty to “obstructing” the certification of the election results. If he didn’t commit violence, he walked into the Capitol armed with a flag attached to a pointed handle and left a threatening message for Vice President Mike Pence.
… And heavy sentences already pronounced
The heaviest sentences are reserved for some 225 people accused of having committed violence, in particular against the police officers of the Capitol. Robert Scott Palmer, 54, was sentenced in December to five years in prison for throwing boards and a fire extinguisher, among other things, at the police.
Forty people are also being prosecuted for “criminal conspiracy” and are suspected of having planned the attack. This charge mainly targets members of the extreme right-wing groups Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and Three Percenters. Donald Trump, who has always refused to condemn their ideology, recommended that they “step back” and “stand ready” during a televised debate against Joe Biden in September 2020.
These defendants, some of whom are in preventive detention, should be tried by popular jurors. The first trial could be held as early as February. One of the members of the Proud Boys, however, has just made an agreement with the prosecutors, with whom he will cooperate, in exchange for a lighter sentence.
The noose is tightening around Donald Trump
There remains the question of those who, absent from the scene, incited the assault. On this subject, a commission of inquiry was created in the House of Representatives to shed light on the role of Donald Trump and that of his relatives. If it manages to compile evidence for the prosecution, prosecutors will be able to seize it.
The commission has already recommended indicting the president’s ex-chief strategy officer, Steve Bannon, and chief of staff Mark Meadows, over their refusal to cooperate with the investigation. The latter nevertheless agreed to provide thousands of official documents, including emails and text messages.
Among these documents, a 38-page PowerPoint presentation, which circulated in the White House before the attack, describes a strategy to be followed in order for Donald Trump to retain power. The author, who is not yet identified, is based on the allegations – never substantiated – of electoral fraud and assures that Vice-President Mike Pence can block the certification of the presidential result. A dubious maneuver to which Mike Pence refused, despite Donald Trump’s insistence.
Another element that intrigued investigators, the presence of a “command center” based at the Willard hotel, near the White House, where lawyer Rudolph Giuliani and Steve Bannon organized communication on social networks, calls the mobilization against an alleged fraud and pressure on elected officials.
Liz Cheney, one of the few Republican women to sit on the commission of inquiry, claimed on ABC to have “first-hand testimony” indicating that Donald Trump has been following the attack on Capitol Hill on television since the White House.
On ABC, Liz Cheney says Jan 6 committee has first-hand testimony that Trump watched assault on the Capitol on TV & resisted pleas from McCarthy & Ivanka asking he call for a stop to the violence.
Cheney adds that she thinks Trump returning to office could be the end of democracy pic.twitter.com/iz8Ibydb3u
– Aaron Rupar (atrupar) January 2, 2022
The elected added that several personalities, including Ivanka Trump, daughter of the former president, have repeatedly asked Donald Trump to end the violence, in vain.
The ex-president never explicitly incited the insurgency but had called on his supporters to demonstrate in Washington on January 6. “Be there, it will be wild!” He wrote on Twitter. On D-Day, Donald Trump waited several hours after the assault before calling on the attackers to “return home”, without condemning the violence and while maintaining that the election “was fraudulent”. While his moral and political responsibility is clear, his criminal responsibility has yet to be established.