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Evidence in Capitol attack investigation trending toward sedition charges, departing chief says

Rioters in the Capitol on Jan. 6 are show in this image taken from video footage released in a criminal complaint.
Rioters in the Capitol on Jan. 6 are show in this image taken from video footage released in a criminal complaint. (AP/U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia)
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Former interim U.S. attorney Michael R. Sherwin, of Washington, reiterated Sunday that he thinks charges of seditious conspiracy could be brought against certain defendants in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach, a rarely invoked charge for those who use violence to hinder the execution of federal law.

In a “60 Minutes” interview aired on CBS two days after he stepped down from supervising the investigation, Sherwin said, “I personally believe the evidence is trending toward that, and probably meets those elements.”

“I believe the facts do support those charges. And I think that, as we go forward, more facts will support that,” he said.

Sherwin’s comments echo those he made Jan. 26, when he said, “We are closely looking at evidence related to the sedition charges. . . . We are working on those cases. I think the results will bear fruit very soon.”

Many have argued that President Donald Trump's efforts amounted to an attempted coup on Jan. 6. Was it? And why does that matter? (Video: Monica Rodman, Sarah Hashemi/The Washington Post)

Since that time, prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office for District of Columbia, which has led the inquiry, have charged about 20 members of the Proud Boys — a far-right group with a history of violence — with leading some of the earliest and most aggressive efforts to breach the Capitol.

U.S. prosecutors eye 400 potential suspects, expect sedition charges ‘very soon’ in Jan. 6 Capitol breach

On Friday, authorities unsealed the latest indictment, charging four Proud Boys leaders from Washington state, Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania with conspiracy to aid and abet the obstruction of Congress’s confirmation of the 2020 presidential election and police attempts to protect the Capitol from rioting that led to five deaths and 130 police assaults.

Prosecutors and the FBI also have accused 10 members and affiliates of the Oath Keepers with conspiring to obstruct Congress. The Justice Department is now looking at whether a larger conspiracy case can be made, including against senior figures in the group, which recruits military, law enforcement and first-responder personnel and claims authority to disobey government orders that some think are part of a conspiracy to strip Americans of their constitutional rights.

Members or associates of the two groups make up about 10 percent of more than 300 charged so far. Prosecutors have said they expect at least 400 people to be charged.

Federal law makes conspiring to overthrow or oppose by force federal authority punishable by up to 20 years in prison, including the use of violence to prevent, hinder or delay the execution of law.

Sherwin also told “60 Minutes” that he personally witnessed some of the events Jan. 6, noticing some people in Kevlar vets, helmets and tactical gear leave early while he accompanied D.C. police to President Donald Trump’s rally on the Ellipse.

In unaired portions of the interview, Sherwin debunked claims about left-wing extremists posing as Trump supporters and discussed tours of the building that took place before Jan. 6, “60 Minutes” reported.

Sherwin said investigators are examining whether suspects who toured the Capitol days before the attack were “casing or doing reconnaissance runs” or on “a basic tour.” He called the possibility troubling.

Sherwin, a career prosecutor from Miami, was named by then-Attorney General William P. Barr to be the top D.C. federal prosecutor last spring, while he was on detail to Barr’s deputy. Sherwin stepped down March 3, allowing the Biden administration to rename Channing D. Phillips as acting U.S. attorney while the White House and Attorney General Merrick Garland select a permanent nominee.