FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday that the Jan. 6 insurrection has been “an inspiration to a number of terrorist extremists” — foreign and domestic — and that the bureau is still eyeing whether any foreign actors might seek to infiltrate domestic groups to exploit vulnerabilities.
Wray also said he considers the siege “domestic terrorism” and is deploying intensive resources in every field office to pursue perpetrators.
“I was appalled, like you at the violence and destruction that we saw that day,” Wray said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. “I was appalled that you, our country’s elected leaders, were victimized right here in these very halls.”
Wray’s public comments are his first since the assault on the Capitol, and they come nearly two months after thousands of Donald Trump supporters stormed the building — and hundreds breached the interior — in an effort to stop lawmakers from certifying the results of the 2020 election.
Wray declined to disclose the cause of death of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died following the insurrection, and he evaded saying whether a cause of death had been determined. Authorities have been pursuing a suspect seen in riot footage spraying officers, including Sicknick, with a chemical agent. Wray said the matter is still under investigation.
He also said there is “no evidence” that antifa played any role in the Jan. 6 events, despite Trump allies increasingly using that claim as a talking point.
Wray has faced calls for weeks to address the attack, but he remained largely out of view while FBI investigators initiated a sweeping nationwide manhunt to track down and arrest the rioters. Of the more than 300 arrests, alleged offenses range from trespassing and obstructing Congress to conspiracy and assaulting police officers. At least five people, including Sicknick, died as a result of the insurrection.
The effort has also uncovered increasingly dark and well-coordinated plans by Trump-supporting extremist paramilitary groups, including the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, dozens of whom descended on Washington and participated in the siege.
Under questioning from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Wray said the Proud Boys have not been legally designated as a domestic terror group.
Wray’s remarks come as lawmakers are attempting to piece together the security lapses that permitted the violent mob to overtake police and occupy the Capitol until National Guard reinforcements arrived hours later. Officials in charge of Capitol security have indicated that an FBI warning about the “war”-like posture of the groups gathering in Washington on Jan. 6 failed to reach senior levels and was not sufficiently vetted.
Wray said that the FBI’s Norfolk field office prepared a “situational” report of “raw, unverified, uncorroborated” information that had been culled from material posted online. That material was shared quickly with law enforcement partners. Capitol Police and Washington DC Metropolitan police indicated in earlier hearings that they didn’t view the material as particularly urgent because it was unconfirmed.
Wray said the info was communicated in multiple ways, including electronically and verbally, “as quickly as possible.” He said it was disseminated “consistent with our normal process.”