The evidence obtained by the government in the investigation into the Jan. 6 assault of the Capitol may eventually meet the bar needed to charge some of the suspects detained who stormed the Capitol with sedition, Michael R. Sherwin, the federal prosecutor who has been leading the Justice Department’s investigation, said in an interview on Sunday for 60 Minutes.
The department has rarely brought charges of sedition, the crime of conspiring to overthrow the government. But prosecutor Michael Sherwin said prosecutors had evidence that most likely will prove the charge of sedition.
“I personally believe the evidence tends toward that, and probably meets those elements,” Sherwin said. “I think the facts support those charges. And I think, as we move forward, more facts will support it.”
The seditious conspiracy statute also says that persons who conspire to “forcibly oppose the authority” of the government or use force “to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States” can be charged with sedition.
The government has accused some of the defendants in the Jan. 6 case of conspiring to disrupt the final certification of President Biden’s election victory.
Mr Sherwin witnessed the crime as it unfolded. After dressing in his campaign clothes and entering the crowd at the rally near the White House, he observed a “carnival atmosphere” of people listening to speeches and selling T-shirts and snacks.
“I noticed some people in tactical gear. They were wearing Kevlar vests. They had military helmets on,” the prosecutor said in his interview for “60 Minutes.”
“Those individuals, I noticed, left the speeches early.”
“Where at first it was pro-Trump, it veered toward anti-government, anti-Congress and anti-establishment,” said prosecutor Sherwin. “And in the end, I saw people climbing the scaffolding. The scaffolding was being set up for the inauguration. When I saw people climbing the scaffolding, hanging on the scaffolding, hanging banners, I said to myself, ‘This is going bad fast.'”
Sherwin told “60 Minutes” that the government had indicted more than 400 people. Among them are hundreds charged with trespassing and more than 100 charged with assaulting officers, including Brian D. Sicknick, the Capitol Police officer who died after confronting the rioters.
Sicknick and two other officers were sprayed with an unidentified chemical agent that one of the assailants said were used to repel the bears.
“A medical examiner has not determined how Officer Sicknick died,” Mr Sherwin said, which is why two suspects were charged with assault on an officer rather than murder. “But that could change,” Sherwin said.
“If the evidence directly links that chemical to his death,” Mr Sherwin said, “in that scenario, right, it’s a murder case.”
He reiterated claims he made shortly after the attack that prosecutors were examining the conduct of former President Donald Trump, who had told his supporters to attend the Jan. 6 rally and goaded them with unsubstantiated claims that he had won the election.
“It is unequivocal that Trump was the magnet that drew people to Washington on the 6th. Now the question is, is he criminally culpable for everything that happened during the siege, during the breach?” Sherwin said. “We have people investigating everything,” he said.