US government prosecutors allege rioters who stormed the Capitol intended to “capture and assassinate elected officials” as more evidence emerges there was some planning behind the chaos.
A court filing in the case against Jacob Anthony Chansley, the painted rioter wearing horns and fur, claims the Trump supporters had more sinister motives, US media report.
“Strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States government,” Justice Department lawyers in Arizona reportedly wrote.
However the top US federal prosecutor in Washington DC later said there was no “direct evidence” to suggest that rioters who stormed the US Capitol had formed “kill capture teams”.
The comments by acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin appeared to be an effort to walk back the claims that rioters intended “to capture and assassinate”.
Mr Sherwin said his office was leading the prosecution effort but as local offices help to run down suspects in their districts, there may have been a “disconnect” on the evidence obtained so far in the cases.
Prosecutors say after Chansley climbed up to the dais where Vice President Mike Pence had been presiding moments earlier, he wrote a threatening note to Mr Pence that said: “It’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.”
Mr Pence and other congressional leaders had been ushered out of the chamber by the Secret Service and US Capitol Police before the rioters stormed into the room.
The FBI has been investigating whether any of the rioters had plots to kidnap members of Congress and hold them hostage, focusing particularly on the men seen carrying plastic zip-tie handcuffs and pepper spray.
In one case it’s alleged a former Air Force officer was carrying plastic zip-tie handcuffs and intended “to take hostages”.
But so far the Justice Department has not publicly released any specific evidence on the plots or explained how the rioters planned to carry them out.
Chansley, who calls himself the “QAnon Shaman”, surrendered to the FBI field office in Phoenix on Saturday.
News photos show him at the riot shirtless, with his face painted and wearing a fur hat with horns, carrying a US flag attached to a wooden pole topped with a spear.
Chansley told investigators he came to the Capitol “at the request of the president that all ‘patriots’ come to DC on January 6, 2021”.
An indictment unsealed on Tuesday in Washington DC charges him with civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, disorderly conduct in a restricted building and demonstrating in a Capitol building.
More than 80 people are facing charges stemming from the violence, including more than 40 people in federal court.
The federal charges brought so far are primarily for crimes such as illegal entry but prosecutors have said they are weighing more serious charges against at least some of the rioters.
Meanwhile official investigations are probing why federal and local law enforcement agencies did not pay closer attention to a warning the day before pro-Trump rioters entered the building and threatened lawmakers and staff.
Security lapses which resulted in rioters entering the building and threatening legislators are also being examined.
The day before the January 6 “insurrection”, the FBI circulated a warning widely to law enforcement agencies that extremists were preparing to travel to Washington to commit violence and “war,” the FBI has confirmed.
The FBI bulletin was “raw, open source” intelligence, meaning the FBI had not confirmed it, a law enforcement source said, a possible explanation for the weak police response.
Congress also is expected to investigate how social media and technology companies were used to organise the rampage.