US Capitol attack perpetrators will be pursued, says attorney general

‘Those involved must be held accountable ... there is no higher priority for us,’ says Garland

The US justice department remains committed to holding all the perpetrators of the January 6th attack on the US Capitol "at any level" accountable under law, the country's attorney general Merrick Garland has said.

In a speech on Wednesday – ahead of the anniversary of the assault on the Capitol last year by supporters of former president Donald Trump – he said his department would pursue those responsible "whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy. We will follow the facts wherever they lead."

Mr Garland said so far more than 725 people had been charged with crimes arising from the January 6th riot.

In comments that appeared to address criticism levelled against his department by some Democrats that it had not been robust enough and was too slow in pursing the investigation, he said the work was far from over.


He said five officers who had responded to the attack on the Capitol had since lost their lives.

Mr Garland said that over several hours on January 6th “outnumbered” law enforcement officers at the Capitol had sustained a barrage of repeated violent attacks. He said about 80 Capitol police and 60 District of Columbia police had been assaulted.

“Perpetrators punched dozens of law enforcement officers, knocking some officers unconscious. Some perpetrators tackled and dragged law enforcement officers. Among the many examples of such violence one officer was crushed in a door, another was dragged down a set of stairs and, face down, repeatedly tased and beaten and suffered a heart attack.”

He said some perpetrators had attacked law enforcement officers with chemicals that had burned eyes and skin. He said some had attacked officers with pipes, poles and other deadly weapons.

Aftermath of attack

“Those involved must be held accountable and there is no higher priority for us at the department of justice,” he said.

He said in the aftermath of the attack the department of justice had undertaken one of the largest, most complex and most resource- intensive investigations in its history.

He said so far more than 5,000 subpoenas and search warrants had been issued, about 2,000 devices had been seized, 20,000 hours of video footage had been examined while investigators had gone through an estimated 15 terabytes of data. He said more than 300,000 tips had been received from ordinary citizens.

He said more than 325 people had been charged with felony offences, many for assaulting officers and many for obstructing or attempting to obstruct an official proceeding. He said 20 individuals charged with felonies had pleaded guilty.

Mr Garland said the actions taken so far by the department of justice would not be its last.

The attorney general said he understood there was broad public interest in the department of justice investigation and also understood that there were questions about how long the process would take and what exactly it was doing.

“Our answer is and will continue to be the same answer we would give with respect to any ongoing investigation. As long as it takes and whatever it takes for justice to be done , consistent with the facts and the law.

“We follow the physical evidence. We follow the digital evidence. We follow the money. But most importantly , we follow the facts.”

“I understand that this may not be the answer some are looking for,” Mr Garland said. “But we will and we must speak through our work. Anything else jeopardizes the viability of our investigations and the civil liberties of our citizens.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent