February 6, 2023


Two years after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, the Justice Department has shifted its legal pursuit of riot participants to a new, more serious level.

Since it began the investigation of the Capitol insurrection and the prosecution of those involved, the Department of Justice has characterized it as the largest such law enforcement action in the nation’s history. The scale is enormous: Thousands of people were allegedly involved in the melee, ranging from the many demonstrators who merely followed the crowd to a core group that had allegedly prepared for and facilitated illegal entry.

Why We Wrote This

On the second anniversary of the storming of the Capitol, the legal landscape is reaching a new, more intense level. Here’s a snapshot.

But in terms of trying to address the larger problem of extremism in America – the sort of force that drove a crowd of Americans into the Capitol – perhaps law enforcement needs to look down, not up.

Much of the domestic extremist violence in America is driven by individuals who self-radicalize, seizing on conspiracy theories as explanations for their problems, says Jon Lewis of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University.

Addressing that might require a broader approach than prosecuting and dismantling extremist groups.

“The lights on the dash are still red,” says Mr. Lewis. “You’re still seeing these false narratives spread.”

Two years after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, the Justice Department has shifted its legal pursuit of riot participants to a new, more intensive level.

Federal prosecutors have not yet given any indication of when, or if, they will charge former President Donald Trump and top aides in connection with the attack. Most of the charges brought against the 950 or so defendants, at least the nonviolent ones, have been for minor offenses such as entering a restricted building or illegally demonstrating in the Capitol.

But in November Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers extremist group, and one of his subordinates were convicted of seditious conspiracy. It was the first time a jury had found that group planning was involved in the disruption of the certification of President Joe Biden’s Electoral College votes.

Why We Wrote This

On the second anniversary of the storming of the Capitol, the legal landscape is reaching a new, more intense level. Here’s a snapshot.

Now the Justice Department is beginning another ambitious, multipart Jan. 6 prosecution, a seditious conspiracy trial against Enrique Tarrio, former Proud Boys national chairman, and four others from the far-right group.

Some Proud Boys played central roles in breaching the Capitol perimeter and the building itself. At the height of the battle one member texted Mr. Tarrio, asking, “Are we a militia yet?”



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