October 16, 2021

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Official backs away from claims that Capitol mob aimed to ‘capture and assassinate’ elected officials – STLtoday.com

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After excusing violence, Trump acknowledges Biden transition

Police in riot gear walk out of the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. As Congress prepares to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, thousands of people have gathered to show their support for President Donald Trump and his claims of election fraud. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

PHOENIX (AP) — Federal prosecutors said there was “strong evidence” the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol last week aimed to “capture and assassinate elected officials,” but the head of the investigation cautioned Friday that the probe is still in its early stages and there was no “direct evidence” of such intentions.

The accusation came in a motion prosecutors filed late Thursday in Phoenix in the case against Jacob Chansley, the Arizona man who took part in the insurrection while sporting face paint, no shirt and a furry hat with horns.

“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,” prosecutors wrote in their memo urging the judge to keep Chansley behind bars.

But Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, backed away from those claims later Friday, saying they have “no direct evidence at this point of kill, capture teams.”

Sherwin said there appears to have been confusion among some prosecutors in part because of the complexity of the investigation and number of people involved. Prosecutors raised a similar prospect Thursday in the case of a former Air Force officer who they alleged carried plastic zip-tie handcuffs because he intended “to take hostages.”

The sprawling investigation involves multiple cities and jurisdictions, in part because so many of the rioters simply went home; only 13 were arrested in the moments after the building was cleared.

The FBI has been investigating whether any of the rioters had plotted to kidnap members of Congress and hold them hostage, focusing particularly on the men seen carrying plastic zip-tie handcuffs and pepper spray.

The prosecutor in that case against Chansley said when he climbed up to the dais where Vice President Mike Pence had been presiding moments earlier, Chansley wrote a threatening note to Pence that said: “It’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.”

Pence and congressional leaders had been ushered out of the chamber by the Secret Service and U.S. Capitol Police before the rioters stormed into the room.

Gerald Williams, Chansley’s attorney, didn’t return a phone call or respond to email Friday morning seeking comment. A detention hearing is scheduled in his case for later Friday.

Chansley, who calls himself the “QAnon Shaman” and has long been a fixture at Trump rallies, surrendered to the FBI field office in Phoenix on Saturday.

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