Justice Department officials have formally walked back the outlandish assertion that claimed protesters sought to “capture and assassinate elected officials” during the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.
Michael Sherwin, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, told reporters during a press conference on Friday that there is no “direct evidence of efforts to capture or assassinate lawmakers” during the riot.
“We don’t have any direct evidence of kill capture teams,” said Sherwin.
During a hearing in Arizona Friday, a federal prosecutor reportedly asked a magistrate judge to strike that line in a court filing regarding defendant Jacob Anthony Chansley, the “Q-Anon Shaman” who allegedly led Trump supporters into the Capitol while carrying a spear and wearing a horned fur headdress.
The entire line the prosecutors want to omit from their court filing is: “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.”
Chansley will remain in jail as he awaits trial, a judge decided on Friday, after the Justice Department portrayed him as a particularly belligerent leader among the rioters. Chansley’s case eventually will move to the federal court in DC.
The line was a chilling description yet of rioters who seized the Capitol last week, writing in a court filing that the intention was “to capture and assassinate elected officials.”
Before the overwrought language was walked back, Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) rushed out a statement condemning the MAGA rioters as domestic terrorists.
“Every American needs to understand what the Department of Justice has just made public: Investigators have strong evidence to suggest that some of the rioters who stormed the United States Capitol planned to kidnap and possibly assassinate the Vice President,” the Nebraska Republican said in a statement promoted on Twitter by CNN’s Jim Acosta.
“These men weren’t drunks who got rowdy—they were terrorists attacking this country’s constitutionally-mandated transfer of power,” Sasse added. “They must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Sasse statement: “Every American needs to understand what the Department of Justice has just made public: Investigators have strong evidence to suggest that some of the rioters who stormed the United States Capitol planned to kidnap and possibly assassinate the Vice President.” pic.twitter.com/BiHuxHMRy5
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) January 15, 2021
Seasoned politicos however instinctively suspected that the language was designed to politically damage Trump supporters.
“This is almost surely more fake FBI/DOJ info ops, feeding bullsh-t to credulous senators rather than putting evidence on the table,” tweeted national security expert David Reaboi.
After the last four years, it was a painfully easy call.