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The Latest On The Federal Investigation Into The Riot At The Capitol


A nationwide hunt is underway for the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol last week. Federal prosecutors say they're focused on the most serious crimes, including assaults on police officers. More significant felony charges still to come. NPR's Carrie Johnson joins us now. Carrie, thanks for being with us.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: What are the latest on the cases that have already been brought?

JOHNSON: More than 300 people are under investigation, and prosecutors have already filed criminal charges against about 100 people. Some of them are pretty serious. There's an Arkansas man caught on tape allegedly beating a police officer with an American flag pole. There's another case involving two off-duty cops from Rocky Mount, Va. One of them had allegedly posted online about their actions inside the Capitol, then deleted the post. And authorities also charged a retired firefighter from Pennsylvania. He allegedly threw a fire extinguisher that hit a policeman in the head.

Now, the investigation into the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick is ongoing. The FBI has found some video of people around him on January 6, and they're doing some interviews already.

SIMON: Carrie, there is so much video of this insurrection, people taking pictures of it and of each other. Some of the images seem to show people dressed in military gear. Were they just playing dress-up or did they plan something military-style?

JOHNSON: Well, we do have pictures of people dressed in camouflage, walking in lines toward the Capitol building. And there are also some Facebook videos of people discussing how they're going to approach the building. And there are military veterans who have been charged already, including a Texas man named Larry Brock, who actually got inside the chamber. The FBI says he was carrying what looks like a detention cuff. The question is, were he and others going after members of Congress or Vice President Mike Pence?

For now, the Justice Department says they have, quote, "no direct evidence" of kill or capture teams, but they're still looking at what kind of preparation and planning there was. Prosecutors are being pretty careful about how they describe all this. Here's Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney here in D.C.


MICHAEL SHERWIN: And that is a tier-one top priority for both the U.S. attorney's office and our federal law enforcement partners to see, again, whether there was this overarching command and control and whether there were these organized teams that were organized to breach the Capitol and then perhaps try to accomplish some type of a mission inside the Capitol.

SIMON: Carrie, a lot of Americans, as we know, are wondering, how could this happen at the Capitol, which we've always thought is so well guarded? How could police have been so out of place?

JOHNSON: Every day, it's more clear there were plenty of indications of trouble in advance, and police were simply not prepared. Now, federal watchdogs called inspectors general have announced a big investigation. They're asking what different parts of the government knew and when. That will include the FBI, the Pentagon, the Homeland Security Department and Interior. Those investigations can take a while.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she's named a retired lieutenant general who was in charge after Hurricane Katrina to investigate what went wrong. Some security experts say we're going to need some kind of big independent commission like happened after September 11 to really understand what happened.

SIMON: And, Carrie, before we let you go, you are near downtown D.C., which, of course, is preparing for Joe Biden's inauguration in just a few days. What's it like to be there?

JOHNSON: So many street closures and, Scott, really the sounds of helicopters and sirens in the night and all day long. There's a real feeling of tension around here, something I haven't felt since 2001 when we were dealing with the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and those Washington, D.C., snipers, too. So it's a little rough.

SIMON: Carrie, thanks so much.

JOHNSON: Happy to do it.

SIMON: NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.