“Scant” in this case means almost none, especially for any particular point other than just to riot. More than seven months after a mob stormed the US capitol, injured dozens of police officers, and sent members of Congress to flight, the FBI has found no particular conspiracy to overthrow the government or reverse the election. While a few groups organized to assault the Capitol, the FBI has concluded that they didn’t have any other coherent goal in mind:
The FBI has found scant evidence that the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the result of an organized plot to overturn the presidential election result, according to four current and former law enforcement officials.
Though federal officials have arrested more than 570 alleged participants, the FBI at this point believes the violence was not centrally coordinated by far-right groups or prominent supporters of then-President Donald Trump, according to the sources, who have been either directly involved in or briefed regularly on the wide-ranging investigations.
“Ninety to ninety-five percent of these are one-off cases,” said a former senior law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation. “Then you have five percent, maybe, of these militia groups that were more closely organized. But there was no grand scheme with Roger Stone and Alex Jones and all of these people to storm the Capitol and take hostages.”
And perhaps more to the point for many, there’s no evidence that Donald Trump plotted the riot either:
In public comments last month to the Democratic-led congressional committee formed to investigate the violence, police officers injured in the mayhem urged lawmakers to determine whether Trump helped instigate it. Some Democrats have said they want him to testify.
But the FBI has so far found no evidence that he or people directly around him were involved in organizing the violence, according to the four current and former law enforcement officials.
This explains why no one has been charged with insurrection. That charge would be difficult to sustain anyway, and it’s easier for prosecutors to stick to charges objectively supported by the evidence of their physical presence or activity.
This report from Reuters makes a stronger case for the lower-level charges. An insurrection would require a conspiracy; you can’t have an insurrection of one, after all. Not only can’t the FBI prove a conspiracy to insurrection, they’re sounding more convinced that the only conspiracy on tap that day was a conspiracy of a**holery:
Prosecutors have also not brought any charges alleging that any individual or group played a central role in organizing or leading the riot. Law-enforcement sources told Reuters no such charges appeared to be pending.
Conspiracy charges that have been filed allege that defendants discussed their plans in the weeks before the attack and worked together on the day itself. But prosecutors have not alleged that this activity was part of a broader plot.
That doesn’t let the rioters or those few conspirators off the hook for that a**holery, of course, and the FBI continues to identify them, thanks to their use of social media and post-riot bragging. And the guilty pleas keep coming, along with the regrets:
Jenna Ryan, a Texas real estate agent who boasted about storming the Capitol on January 6 before coming to regret her decision, on Thursday pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in connection with the riots.
Ryan pleaded guilty to a single federal misdemeanor charge of parading in the Capitol building, and is set to be sentenced on November 4 with a maximum penalty of six months in prison.
She will also pay $500 in restitution for the damage caused to the Capitol as part of the terms of her plea agreement. The government is seeking $2,000 in restitution from Capitol riot defendants who plead guilty to felonies and $500 from misdemeanor defendants. …
But Ryan eventually turned on Trump when he did not pardon her or any accused rioters before he left office as she publicly pleaded with him to do so. She told The Washington Post in February that she felt hoodwinked by Trump’s impassioned pleas to “stop the steal” and abandoned by her fellow “patriots.”
“I bought into a lie, and the lie is the lie, and it’s embarrassing,” she said. “I regret everything.”
“Not one patriot is standing up for me,” Ryan told The Post. “I’m a complete villain. I was down there based on what my president said: ‘Stop the steal.’ Now I see that it was all over nothing. He was just having us down there for an ego boost. I was there for him.”
The riot was an embarrassing blot on American politics. Thankfully, an investigation has shown no evidence that it was anything more than that, except perhaps an object lesson in the perils of cults of personality and a reminder that representative government still beats mob rule.
Exit question, of sorts: What impact would this finding have on Nancy Pelosi’s partisan commission on the riot? Presumably Pelosi will want to push forward, but if House Democrats try pushing findings unsupported by evidence from the FBI, that’ll make it look like a kangaroo court. Normally Pelosi might not care, but Biden’s utter incompetence in the Afghanistan crisis isn’t going to give them much room to use this as a distraction. Will people see the Pelosi panel as the House Select Committee on the Beating of Dead Horses?