Federal prosecutors allege Capitol rioters sought to ‘capture and assassinate’ lawmakers

Alex Woodward
·5 min read
Jake Angeli, center, stands in the US Capitol dressed in fur and horns after Trump supporters stormed the building on 6 January in an effort to force legislators to overturn the election results.   (EPA)
Jake Angeli, center, stands in the US Capitol dressed in fur and horns after Trump supporters stormed the building on 6 January in an effort to force legislators to overturn the election results. (EPA)

Federal prosecutors believe rioters involved with a deadly insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January intended to “capture and assassinate election officials” in Congress.

The statement is included in court documents filed by US attorneys concerning Jacob Chansley, who was seen in widely shared images from the Capitol wearing face paint and fur clothing before reaching the dais where the vice president, Mike Pence, sat inside the Senate.

Prosecutors believe they have “strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions” during the riot, to determine rioters’ intent.

Chansley allegedly left a note on the dais, reading: “It's only a matter of time, justice is coming.”

The statements were included in a motion in US District Court in Arizona on 14 January to keep Chansley detained ahead of a hearing on Friday to determine whether he should remain in custody before a trial.

“Chansley is an active participant in – and has made himself the most prominent symbol of – a violent insurrection that attempted to overthrow” the government, prosecutors allege. “No conditions can reasonably assure his appearance as required, nor ensure the safety of the community.”

But during a briefing with reporters on Friday, US Attorney for DC Michael Sherwin said the Justice Department does not have “any direct evidence of kill capture teams” involved with the Capitol cases. Investigators have “bread crumbs” of evidence that rioters had some line of communication with people inside the Capitol, he said.

The case involving Chansley – aka Jake Angeli, the “QAnon Shaman” – reveals other details linking the riots to QAnon cultists and the president’s supporters.

On 7 January, he allegedly called the FBI’s Washington field office and confessed that he was the person photographed inside the Senate at the vice president’s chair. He said that he entered the Senate chamber “by the grace of God” and believed the vice president is a “child-trafficking traitor”, the government alleges in court filings. Chansley, alelgedly echoing a core tenet of QAnon

He faces two felony charges and four misdeamour charges.

His attorney Albert Watkins told CNN on Thursday that his client “felt very, very, very solidly in sync” with the president.

“He felt like his voice was, for the first time, being heard,” he said. “And what ended up happening, over the course of the lead-up to the election, over the course of the period from the election [to 6 January] – it was a driving force by a man he hung his hat on, he hitched his wagon to. He loved Trump. Every word, he listens to him.”

Chansley also told investigators that “he came as a part of a group effort, with other ‘patriots’ from Arizona, at the request of the president that all ‘patriots’ come to" the capital on 6 January.

Prosecutors also said there are mental health concerns: “Chansley has spoken openly about his belief that he is an alien, a higher being, and he is here on Earth to ascend to another reality,” they wrote.

Prosecutors warned that “the insurrection is still in progress” as federal law enforcement prepares additional charges against a growing list of rioters.

Nearly 300 open investigations in to Capitol violence have been opened, according to US Attorney for DC Michael Sherwin.

As of Friday, the Justice Department has opened 98 criminal cases, most of which involve felonies.

The latest filings follow statements from federal law enforcement officials that investigations are underway into “significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy” after initial misdemeanor arrests, after a mob – compelled by Donald Trump’s repeat lie that the election was “stolen” from them – breached the Capitol and threatened lawmakers and police during a joint session of Congress convened to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also opened an “immediate review” of the Capitol’s “security infrastructure, interagency processes and procedures, and command and control”.

Jake Angeli, center, stands in the US Capitol dressed in fur and horns after Trump supporters stormed the building on 6 January in an effort to force legislators to overturn the election results.EPA
Jake Angeli, center, stands in the US Capitol dressed in fur and horns after Trump supporters stormed the building on 6 January in an effort to force legislators to overturn the election results.EPA

Several Republican members of Congress have been accused of not only echoing the president’s false claims of election fraud but collaborating with far-right figures involved with plotting the events that led to the riot, which saw the deaths of at least five people, including a woman fatally shot by Capitol police, three rioters who died from medical emergencies, and a Capitol police officer who died from injuries after he was beaten by rioters.

“If in fact it is found that members of Congress were accomplices to this insurrection, if they aided and abetted the crime, there may have to be actions taken beyond the Congress in terms of prosecution for that,” she said on Friday.

The probe follows growing speculation that rioters may have had “inside assistance” reaching the Capitol’s interior.

Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio, who chairs a Capitol Police oversight committee, said this week that an investigation is centred around more than one lawmaker who gave tours to “handfuls” of people at the Capitol the day before the riot.

Aleast two Capitol Police officers have been suspended and more than a dozen others are under investigation.

Congressman Ryan said one of the officers took a selfie with a rioter and another wore a “Make America Great Again” hat. The congressman said that the “interim chief determined that to be qualifying for immediate suspension.

Congresswoman Val Demings said the insurrection was a “well-coordinated breach of security attack on our Capitol,” possibly aided in part by Capitol Police officers.

“I do believe, when we look at how the attackers were able to – they knew where they were going,” she told CNN on Wednesday. “I do believe there was some inside assistance.”

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