Nearly a dozen new known defendants were arrested or charged across the country, and the Justice Department made it clear that it was throwing its weight behind prosecuting major cases that may constitute the most comprehensive counter-terrorism probe since September 11, 2001.
The new arrests on Wednesday brought the total number of new federal criminal cases to at least 32 at night, with hundreds more people still being sought or investigated.
Over the past week, investigators have tracked down some of the most notable faces from the uprising. On Wednesday, a federal court brought public charges against two Virginia police officers who shared a photo on social media of themselves posing in front of a statue of a revolutionary war general in the Capitol.
Many of the recently charged drew attention to themselves by posing for photographs that circulated on the Internet or were identified (or identified) on social media. Some have even admitted their involvement in the melee to the FBI.
The new cases unfolding are still largely aimed at people caught in photos or videos.
Evidence suggests planning, law enforcement says
Attention is likely to revolve around cases with potentially more serious charges in the coming weeks.
This has led to more complex investigations, where public prosecutors and national security prosecutors have come together to approach the investigation as a widespread terrorist probe.
The presence of corruption prosecutors and agents is due in part to their expertise in financial investigations. “We are following the money,” the official said.
On Wednesday morning, the FBI reported that they had received more than 126,000 digital tips from the public regarding the attack on the Capitol and tracked online chats.
Among the tips the FBI received are some that appear to show members of Congress with people who later showed up at the Capitol uprising, two law enforcement officials said. This does not mean members of Congress and staff are under investigation, but the FBI is checking the accuracy of the allegations, officials said.
The court’s filing reveals frightening details about threats
A few cases have made the level of danger around the Capitol clear last week. In particular, two defendants, Cleveland Meredith Jr. and Lonnie Coffman, for having brought arsenals to the city with an interest in participating in a so-called war.
Coffman received one of the first charges from a grand jury related to the riots and now faces 17 criminal counts, mostly for possession of several weapons, including ammunition, shotgun shells and various cannons, including a shotgun, a rifle, three pistols and 11 Molotov cocktails without registration in Washington, DC, on January 6, according to the indictment.
He is alleged to have parked his truck filled with bomb blocks from the Capitol building before the Trump rally, after living in the truck in DC for about a week. In court documents concerning Coffman, prosecutors revealed that they found handwritten notes of an Abraham Lincoln quote about overthrowing “the men who pervert the Constitution,” telephone numbers of right-wingers, including Senator Ted Cruz and Sean Hannity, and a list marking a federal judge a “bad guy” and a member of Congress as a Muslim. He has pleaded guilty and is in jail awaiting trial.
Meredith is alleged to have made threats in a text message and had with him 2,500 rounds of ammunition, a rifle and another gun in the city.
He arrived in Washington, DC after the Trump demonstration, and reportedly had the text message to shoot DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He wrote about “wartime” against lawmakers when Joe Biden’s congressional confirmation as the president-elect approached, prosecutors said, according to court filings Wednesday.
“The defendant sent a text saying, ‘We surround DC and slowly converge,'” prosecutors noted, arguing for his detention. “Apparently, under the impression that law enforcement is monitoring his communications, defendant later sent a text stating that ‘ I’m harmless … I will not fire until I have ordered SIR! ‘”
When Meredith was in town, he claimed the charge and attacked a person, the prosecutors added.
“His threats were graphic – he threatened to shoot a public official on live television to put a bullet in her head. His threats were vulgar and misogynistic. What’s more, defendants clearly enjoyed imagining violence, which he described ‘as’ fun’ and ‘goal exercise’, “they wrote in his detention note.
DOJ wants to keep people off the streets …
At least some of those arrested have already been made part of a strategy used in the investigation of terrorism – finding even a minimal charge to remove a concerned person from the street. It could help ease concerns about possible attacks on the inauguration, officials say.
Authorities had already tried this once last week before the Trump demonstration in Washington when they arrested the leader of the right-wing group the proud boys, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, for burning a Black Lives Matter banner.
Police then said they found on him two high-capacity weapons magazines, leading to further charges. And this week, federal authorities in New York arrested a man on gun duty after investigators pursued online posts about an armed caravan on its way to the US Capitol.
But its strategy may have limits
The Department of Justice may strike at the potential limits of the law as they try to keep some people locked in – with Meredith their first challenge.
The opportunity arose Wednesday when a judge pushed back at their request to keep him detained.
Meredith’s lawyer had argued that it was not enough to keep him locked in because of perceived “danger” alone.
“Congress restricted the government’s ability to request detention,” Meredith’s lawyer wrote in a court that filed Wednesday afternoon, citing restrictions in the Bail Reform Act that justified defendants being detained must be because they are flight risk, potentially obstructive or charged with crimes of violence, substance abuse or an offense that may deserve a life sentence or death.
Meredith’s lawyer argued that he should be released pending his trial.
Meredith has not yet been charged and was arrested last week on a criminal charge of illegally possessing weapons and making threats.
He is still being held and is expected to appear before Judge Michael Harvey in Washington, DC, on Thursday again, whether he should remain in custody.
CNN’s Marshall Cohen contributed to this report.