Lawmakers who aided Capitol siege should be prosecuted: Pelosi

An FBI notice at a bus stop near the White House in Washington, seeking information about the hundreds of pro-Trump protesters who invaded the Capitol on Jan 6.
An FBI notice at a bus stop near the White House in Washington, seeking information about the hundreds of pro-Trump protesters who invaded the Capitol on Jan 6. PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON • Any members of the US Congress who helped a crowd of President Donald Trump's supporters storm the Capitol should face criminal prosecution, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

The unprecedented Jan 6 attack on the seat of Congress left five dead and led the House to impeach Mr Trump a second time, for a fiery speech that day in which he urged thousands of his followers to fight Democratic President-elect Joe Biden's victory.

The hundreds who stormed the Capitol quickly overwhelmed police guarding the building, calling security preparations into question, and showed a level of detailed knowledge about the location of lawmakers' offices by some rioters that raised suspicions.

Democratic Representative Mikie Sherrill, a former US Navy helicopter pilot, has accused some Republican lawmakers of helping Trump supporters, saying she saw colleagues leading groups on "reconnaissance" tours on Jan 5.

Ms Pelosi was asked at a news conference on Friday whether any actions would be taken against lawmakers who may have brought tours to the Capitol the day before the attack, which briefly halted Congress in its duty of certifying Mr Biden's win.

"If in fact it is found that members of Congress were accomplices to this insurrection, if they aided and abetted the crimes, there may have to be actions taken beyond the Congress, in terms of prosecution for that," Ms Pelosi said.

Investigators are probing the possibility that the attack on the Capitol was planned, with help from insiders. Disturbing videos, photos and online communications point to potential conspiracy.

In one video, more than a dozen men wearing assault force-type garb push up the Capitol steps in a line, cutting through the dense crowd towards the building's doors. In another, a woman in a pink hat gives directions via megaphone to others inside the building, telling them where to go.

And several men, including two who made it inside the Senate chamber, carried zip ties that could be used to restrain hostages.

Some officials said many of the pro-Trump protesters who broke into the offices of Ms Pelosi appeared to know how to navigate the maze-like Capitol.

"They knew where to go," senior Democrat James Clyburn told CBS News. "Yes, somebody on the inside of those buildings were complicit in this."

Prosecutors have arrested dozens so far and say more than 200 could be charged. But they have not used the words "conspiracy" or "plot" to describe the assault on the US legislature.

Mr Michael Sherwin, the Washington federal prosecutor overseeing the investigation, said on Friday that investigators see "breadcrumbs of organisation" including communications between those inside the building and outside.

"This is going to take weeks, if not months, to find out the actual motivations of some of these groups," he said.

More than 30 House Democrats, including Ms Sherrill, have asked the acting House and Senate sergeants-at-arms and the acting head of the Capitol Police for information about who was in the building on Jan 5.

The US Justice Department's internal watchdog will review how the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies prepared and responded, said Inspector-General Michael Horowitz on Friday.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 17, 2021, with the headline Lawmakers who aided Capitol siege should be prosecuted: Pelosi. Subscribe