Director defends FBI actions ahead of US Capitol riot

The FBI director on Tuesday defended his bureau's role in providing intelligence ahead of the January 6 US Capitol riot, as he faced a grilling from lawmakers over whether agents underestimated the danger.

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the January 6th insurrection, in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on March 2, 2021. Leah Millis / POOL / AFP
Christopher Wray, in his first testimony since the deadly insurrection by supporters of then-president Donald Trump, also said the Federal Bureau of Investigation has dramatically increased its probes of domestic extremist groups including those advocating white supremacy.

And he stressed there was no evidence that Antifa members were part of the violence, which the FBI has branded domestic terrorism.

He stood by his agency's handling of raw intelligence gathered on the eve of the Capitol unrest, after law enforcement personnel testified to Congress last month that they were not sufficiently briefed by the intelligence community of the January 6 threat.

"The way in which it was handled at least as I understand it strikes me as consistent with our normal process," Wray told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Wray was referring to a report of raw, unverified intelligence compiled by the FBI's Norfolk, Virginia field office on January 5 and emailed to US Capitol Police and other security offices.

The intelligence report cited social media chatter warning that Trump supporters were planning to storm the Capitol, with extremists "ready for war."

Wray said police were also verbally briefed about the threat, and it was posted on a portal made available to law enforcement personnel in the national capital region and around the country.

He said the email went to multiple US Capitol Police task force officers.

When asked why the report did not flow up to police leadership ahead of the riot, "I don't have a good answer for that," Wray said, acknowledging that he himself did not see the report until days after January 6.

"We are focused very, very hard on how can we get better sources, better information, better analysis, so that we can make sure that something like what happened on January 6 never happens again," he said.

Wray assumed the top FBI job in August 2017. He had a challenging relationship with Trump, who chastized Wray's approach to election security and the bureau's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Several Republicans have insinuated that it was not Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol, but left-wing groups including Antifa.

Wray shot that theory down. "We have not to date seen any evidence of anarchist violent extremists or people subscribing to Antifa in connection with the 6th," he said.

Militant violent extremism, Wray stressed, has grown in the United States, and "racially motivated violent extremism is the biggest chunk of our domestic terrorism portfolio overall."

Domestic terrorism investigations have doubled from 1,000 when he took over as FBI director to 2,000 today, he said.

Topics: Christopher Wray , US Capitol Police , Donald Trump , FBI
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