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What consequences have rioters faced for the Capitol attack?

One month ago this Saturday, a mob of Americans stormed the U.S. Capitol in a failed attempt to deny Joe Biden's presidential victory in the November election. Since then, the Department of Justice has arrested and charged more than 180 rioters, and the Biden administration has launched a review of what it calls domestic violent extremism. Nick Schifrin reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    One month ago this Saturday, a mob of Americans stormed the Capitol in a failed attempt to deny Joe Biden's victory in the November election.

    The Department of Justice has arrested and charged rioters, and the Biden administration has launched a review of what it calls domestic violent extremism.

    Nick Schifrin provides an update on the criminal consequences so far and the threat that remains persistent. And then Yamiche Alcindor has a conversation on the country's seemingly cavernous political divide.

    Let's begin with Nick's report.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    They broke through barricades, assaulted police, shattered windows, and, once inside, destroyed and stole property. Over the past month, the Justice Department charged more than 180 rioters.

  • Michael Sherwin:

    The scope and scale of this investigation and these cases are really unprecedented.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Michael Sherwin is acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

  • Michael Sherwin:

    This is not going to be solved overnight. It's not going to be solved within the coming weeks. It's not going to be solved within the coming months.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    With each new charge, there's a clearer picture of the diverse groups who attacked the Capitol, longtime conspiracy theorists, like self-proclaimed QAnon Shaman, who goes by Jake Angeli, as seen in "New Yorker" video.

  • Larry Rendall Brock Jr.:

    I understand it's an I.O. war.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Military veterans and law enforcement, including retired Lieutenant Colonel Larry Rendall Brock Jr., who used a military term referring to information operations.

    Trump supporters who say they were swept into the crowd, a 22-year-old care worker, Riley June Williams, seen here before she allegedly stole a laptop from Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office.

  • Man:

    Proud Boys.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And law enforcement says, playing a key role, right-wing extremists. Video shows members of the militia the Oath Keepers, and four January 6 indictments are for members of the Proud Boys, recently designated a terrorist group by Canada.

    They face charges including conspiracy, disorderly conduct, and obstructing or impeding an official proceeding, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years.

  • Michael German:

    Many of these groups were very explicit about their violent intentions.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Since the '90s, retired FBI Special Agent Michael German has tracked white supremacists and right-wing militias.

  • Michael German:

    There is tremendous amount of public evidence that can be used even today to target the most violent actors.

    I am concerned that the FBI in particular and the Department of Justice are focusing on January 6 as if it a sui generis event, and not recognizing that many of these people had been engaging in violence around the country for months or years.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    In Charlottesville in 2017, a neo-Nazi plowed his car into an anti-white supremacy protest, killing one woman. Most recently, at the Million MAGA March in Washington, D.C., in November, Proud Boys members brawled with counter protesters. One man was stabbed.

    And another D.C. rally in December resulted in more clashes, multiple stabbings, and a couple dozen arrested.

  • Jane Holl Lute:

    All the signs were there that some of the supporters of Donald Trump were serious, they were dangerous.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Jane Holl Lute was deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under President Obama. She says, even a decade ago, federal reports voicing concern about right-wing extremism were disparaged, and their authors punished.

    Lute says that accelerated under President Trump.

  • Jane Holl Lute:

    People were reluctant to put out reports of the factors that we knew were coalescing to cause us to great concern on January 6.

    But no formal statement was issued. And the feeling that we hear is that it was not issued because, when such things were stated publicly, that individuals paid with their careers.

  • Michael German:

    This was repeated activity that was not being addressed by law enforcement, which conditioned these groups to believe that this was OK, this was something they could do, which attracts more violent people who just want to commit violence.

    And here's a place they can do it and actually get a pat on the back, rather than handcuffs.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    What consequences have rioters paid? Many lost jobs. Most face charges of entering a restricted building and disorderly conduct. Far fewer have been charged with more serious crimes.

    No one has yet to be charged for the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who lied in honor at the Capitol this week.

  • Jane Holl Lute:

    There is a definition of domestic terrorism, but, perhaps surprisingly to many of us, it doesn't carry any criminal penalties.

    And so if you're charging individuals who are intent on violence, law enforcement is having to use, as you say, other statutes and other provisions. But you know the old saying, the wheels of justice grind slowly. But they grind. And that's what's happening here.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    German says the FBI doesn't need to wait for Congress to act.

  • Michael German:

    There's no new legislation that's required. The FBI has ample authority in its domestic terrorism portfolio. It's just a matter of focusing their attention and making sure that they have the direction to actually investigate these crimes.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    After the attack, social media tried to stop the spread of the kind of misinformation that incited the rioters. Twitter suspended tens of thousands of accounts. The right-wing-friendly social media Parler was taken down. And multiple social media platforms suspended former President Donald Trump.

    As the FBI continues its investigation, the nation's capital is slowly returning to normal. But 5,000 National Guard troops will remain in D.C. through mid-March, and, last week, the Department of Homeland Security issued a nationwide domestic terrorism bulletin, warning that extremists could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence.

    Is there still an ongoing threat moving forward?

  • Michael German:

    It's the same as the threat that existed on January 5, 2021, or 10 years before that or 10 years before that. These groups are persistently violent against communities that don't have the kind of public platform that members of Congress have, right?

    So it's important, now that their attention is focused on it, that we actually understand how this impacts all segments of our society, not just the powerful.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And so, today, the concern is not if, but when extremists will plan for another violent event, and if law enforcement can prevent it.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.

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