Washington: Testifying in front of Congress for the first time since the Jan. 6 assault on the US Capitol, FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers Tuesday he was “appalled” about the violent attack while defending the bureau’s handling of the rising domestic terror threat in recent years.
“I was appalled that you, our country’s elected leaders were victimized right here in these very halls,” Wray said in his opening statement. “That attack, that siege was criminal behavior, plain and simple and the behavior that we, the FBI view as domestic terrorism. It’s got no place in our democracy and tolerating it would make a mockery of our nation’s rule of law.”
Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee the bureau has arrested more than 270 suspects involved in the violent insurrection with more than 300 facing federal charges and more being identified every day. He called the American public the FBI’s “greatest partner” in the investigation with more than 270,000 digital media tips sent to agents so far.
More broadly, the FBI director said that there are 2,000 domestic terrorism investigations, up from almost 1,000 when he first started in 2017.
Pressed by Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin whether the Capitol attack involved white supremacists, Wray said the majority of the people arrested could be categorized as militia extremists.
“We at the FBI don’t tend to think of violent extremism in terms of right, left, that’s not a spectrum that we look at. What I would say is that it is clear …. a large and growing number of the people that we have arrested so far in the connection with the 6th are what we would call militia violent extremists … and some already who emerged that I would have been in the racially motivated extremist bucket,” he explained.
The director said it is getting harder and harder to identify the motives of domestic extremists, but added that racially motivated extremist cases are “the biggest chunk of our domestic terrorism caseload overall.”
Wray told lawmakers that the FBI has been “sounding the alarm” about the rising domestic terror threat for “a number of years now.”
When Durbin asked Wray about the situation report from the FBI field office in Norfolk on Jan. 5 that warned of individuals plotting “war” on Jan. 6, with specific intelligence about a potential attack on the Capitol, Wray said that the intelligence was shared in three different ways.
Wray emphasized, as did former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund at a congressional hearing last week, that the information was “raw” and “unverified” and said the information sharing process was consistent with the bureau’s normal procedures. At the same time, he revealed he hadn’t seen the report until after the 6th.