Authorities investigating last week’s siege of the U.S. Capitol made more arrests this weekend amid revelations from a white supremacist monitoring group that the attack was openly planned online for weeks.
House Democrats could introduce an article of impeachment against President Donald Trump as soon as Monday alleging “incitement of insurrection” for his role in encouraging a “wild” rally that morphed into a deadly riot. Some Republicans also have expressed support for Trump’s removal from office.
Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intelligence Group, a non-governmental organization that tracks online activity of white supremacists and jihadist groups, says many Americans don’t understand how openly the riot was planned.
Katz tweeted late Saturday that the riot, which led to scores of arrests and five deaths, came after a month of “rampant strategizing and incitements … to storm and occupy Congress and kidnap/arrest lawmakers.”
Katz said protesters were urged to “consider bringing zip ties” and make citizens arrests. At least one man seen in photos and videos carrying zip-tie handcuffs amid the Capitol chaos was later arrested.
Trump promoted the protest for weeks in advance, promising on Dec. 19 that the rally “will be wild.” Followers believed Trump could not promote an open revolt, but they inferred that was his meaning, Katz says.
“Trump’s words were fuel to the fire,” Katz says. “Supporters interpreted this as their green light.”
Katz added that her group publicized online planning activity dozens of times in the two weeks leading up to the riot, but that Capitol police still were unprepared for the onslaught.
The seeds were sown within days of Trump’s election defeat to President-elect Joe Biden. Trump’s baseless claims that a “landslide” victory was stolen from him fueled “Stop the Steal” groups on social media platforms. The New York Times reports that one such group at one point was gaining 10 followers a second, reaching 320,000 followers before Facebook shut it down.
Yogananda D. Pittman became acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police on Friday, a day after Steven Sund’s resignation, according to the agency’s website.
A Capitol Police officer since 2001, Pittman was one of the first Black female supervisors to become a captain, according to her website bio. In that role, she led efforts to provide the security footprint for the 2013 Presidential Inauguration.
Capitol Police announced Thursday that Sund would resign effective Jan. 16. He already has left, News4 reported.
At least 25 people are under investigation for terrorism related to Wednesday’s siege at the Capitol, according to a Defense official and a member of Congress.
Rep. Jason Crow, a Democrat of Colorado and a former Army Ranger, said he spoke with Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy on Sunday and was told that “at least 25 domestic terrorism cases have been opened as a result of the assault on the Capitol.”
A Defense official who was informed about the call initially confirmed that the cases involved troops but later corrected that statement. The official said some troops – active and reserve duty – may have been involved in the riot, and the military will investigate them as necessary.
A Tennessee man and a Texas man accused by online researchers of carrying plastic restraints into the U.S. Senate during Wednesday’s riot were jailed and charged Sunday.
Eric Munchel and Larry Rendell Brock are allegedly the subjects of extensive online efforts to identify two men in photos carrying hand restraints in the Senate. Both have been charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, as well as violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, the U.S. District Attorney’s office said.
“Photos depicting his presence show a person who appears to be Munchel carrying plastic restraints, an item in a holster on his right hip, and a cell phone mounted on his chest with the camera facing outward, ostensibly to record events that day,” the federal prosecutor’s office in Washington said in a news release.
Brock was identified as one of the individuals who allegedly unlawfully entered the U.S. Capitol “wearing a green helmet, green tactical vest with patches, black and camo jacket, and beige pants,” the releae said.
The police department in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, said it had notified federal authorities that two of its off-duty officers were present at Wednesday’s riot at the U.S. Capitol. No details on how the officers were involved or how the department learned of their involvement was immediately released.
“The Town of Rocky Mount fully supports all lawful expressions of freedom of speech and assembly by its employees but does not condone the unlawful acts that occurred that day,” a news release said. About a dozen members of Black Lives Matter of Franklin County gathered outside the police department building after the announcement, The Roanoke Times reported.
“We came out to let them know enough is enough, and they have to all be held accountable for the two officers’ actions this past Wednesday,” Bridgette Craighead, the chapter president, told the Roanoke Times. “Nobody has ever challenged them before. We want to know what’s going on in our courthouse and the police departments behind closed doors.”
The U.S. flag at the White House was flying at half-staff Sunday to honor U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered flags at the Capitol lowered to half-staff Friday, and calls had been growing for Trump to show similar respect at the White House. Sicknick was injured engaging with pro-Trump rioters at the Capitol on Wednesday and died the next day. Sicknick, 42, joined the force in 2008.
Not everyone arrested at the Capitol was parading around in buffalo horns or taking viral selfies from a seat of power. But that doesn’t mean they are in the clear. Bradley Rukstales, CEO of Chicago-area tech company Cogensia, was arrested for unlawful entry. Rukstales quickly issued a statement saying he made a mistake, he was sorry and he condemns the violence. It did not save him. Hours later, he was put on leave, and days later he was unemployed. Cogensia said in a statement that Rukstales’ “actions were inconsistent with the core values” of the company.
In Pennsylvania, the Allentown School District said many community members were upset with an image of an unnamed teacher at the Capitol. The teacher was temporarily relieved of his teaching duties pending an investigation, the district said.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a passionate, seven-minute video posted on Twitter, compared the Capitol rampage to the “Night of Broken Glass” attack on Jews by Nazis in his native Austria in 1938. The actor and former Republican governor of California accused Trump of inspiring a coup by “misleading people with lies.” Schwarzenegger chastised unnamed members of his own party for being complicit. But he added that ‘America will come back from these dark days and shine our light once again.”
“Trump is a failed leader. He will go down in history as the worst president ever, Schwarzenegger said. “The good thing is he will soon be as irrelevant as an old tweet.”
Pope Francis offered prayers Sunday for those who lost their lives in the riot and those “shaken by the recent siege” at the Capitol. The pope spoke a day after urging an end to the violence, saying “this must be condemned, this movement.”
“Nothing is earned with violence and so much is lost,” Francis said Sunday. “I exhort the government authorities and the entire population to maintain a deep sense of responsibility, in order to calm souls, to promote national reconciliation and to protect the democratic values rooted in American society.”
Authorities arrested more U.S. Capitol rioters over the weekend, including one man who carried off the House speaker’s lectern and another photographed sitting in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office with his foot on her desk. Also arrested: Jake Angeli, a QAnon-supporter from Phoenix who briefly stood at the dais while wearing a fur hat topped with buffalo horns and wielding a spear.
Angeli told the FBI he came to D.C. “as part of a group effort, with other ‘patriots’ from Arizona, at the request of the president,” the statement of facts reads.
More graphic details and video of the insurrection is emerging. One officer appeared to be crushed in a doorway as rioters attempted to push their way through. Another was body-slammed from behind, tumbling over a railing into the crowd. Many of the images were taken by the rioters, most of whom wore no masks and made no effort to hide their identities.
Parler, a favorite social media app among ultra-conservative voices, was banned from the app stores of Apple and Google. Apple said the Parler “has not taken adequate measures to address the proliferation of … threats to people’s safety.”
Trump has been banned from Twitter “due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” the social media company said, adding that there was a risk of future armed protests at the Capitol. Trump attempted to evade the ban by tweeting from other accounts, which have also been banned or had tweets deleted.
Contributing: Tom Vanden Brook and Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY; Richard Ruelas and Craig Harris, Arizona Republic; The Associated Press