tv Justice Dept. Officials Testify on Threat of Domestic Terrorism CSPAN January 31, 2022 2:02pm-4:04pm EST
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supremacist murdered seven sikh worshippers in wisconsin. today, 10 years later the threat is worse and that's why i convened the senate judiciary committee's first hearing of this year to consider this subject. the american people have an opportunity to learn more about the justice department's investigation into one of the worst domestic terrorism attacks in years. the january 6th insurrection on the capitol. i'd like to start with a video on the aftermath of january 6th and the threat of domestic terrorism in america. >> multiple capitol injuries. >> multiple capitol injuries. >> january 6th was a disgrace. there's no question. president trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. >> violence is never a legitimate form of protest.
>> the president bears responsibility for wednesday's attack on congress by mob rioters. >> a year after january 6th, are the guardrails that protect democracy real or illusionary? >> january 6th laid bare the threat of white nationalism, served as a wakeup call to the intelligence community and the country. >> january 6th is at symptom of a deeper problem. >> across the country, election officials and election worker, airline flight crews, school personnel, journalists, u.s. senators, and representatives, and judges, prosecutors, and police officers, have been threatened and/or attacked. >> federal prosecutors have charged a member of the boogaloo boys. >> fired 13 rounds into the third precinct building. >> according to a classified summary of the intelligence summit the two most lethal elements of the domestic violence are racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists and militia violent
extremists. >> instigating and beating some of the most pivotal rush into the historic building. >> oath keepers in battle gear. in a stacked military formation. the thought of them working through the crowd, up the capitol steps. >> the department of homeland security itself and their annual threat assessment, in october, 2020, declared domestic violence extremism in general and white supremacist extremist in particular to be the most persistent and lethal threat addressing the nation. >> the oklahoma city bombing, meant to be politically and ideological actions that bring other activists into the movement. >> i think it's time to take a hard look at where we're putting our resources. >> we can never again allow our democracy to be put in peril. steps should be taken to prevent such an attack on our democracy from ever happening again. >> those of white house were here will never forget the horrifying images of january 6th, 2021. a noose and gallows erected on
the capitol lawn. rioters attacking police officers with flag poles bearing the american flag. a confederate battle flag, confederate battle flag waving in the temple of our democracy, a sight unimaginable even in the darkest days of the civil war. the insurrection should be a wakeup call. a reminder that america is still confronted with the age-old menace that has taken on a new life in the 21st century. terror from white supremacist, militia members and other extremists who use violence to further their twisted agenda. last march, the fbi director wray told this committee that the threat of domestic terrorism is quote metastasizing across the country. and not going away any time soon. in the hours immediately following the insurrection, i was hopeful. when the mob had disbursed and the senate returned to the capitol to certify the results of the 2020 election, we, republicans and democrats,
alike, were united, we were determined to show that mob that they had lost and democracy had won. all of us were well aware of who was behind the insurrection. as we saw in the video, republican congressional leaders like senator, congressman mccarthy joined democrats in acknowledging that president trump was quote practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day. but days turned into weeks and this solid bipartisan rhetoric was shaken. our efforts to investigate the insurrection and the former president's attempts to overturn the election were stonewalled. last may, last may, senate republicans filibustered a plan to create an independent bipartisan commission to investigate what happened on january 6th, and to make sure it never happened again. and a number of elected republicans who either refused to repudiate the big lie or outright endorsed it is growing. whether the boosters of the big
lie know it or not, they're playing with fire. by supporting the false narratives that the 2020 election was somehow stolen or rigged, they rationalized the worst assault on our capital since the war of 1812. and in turn, they are normalizing the use of violence to achieve political goals. the intelligence community warns us, narratives of fraud in the recent general election will almost certainly spur domestic violence extremists to try to engage in violence. congress, this is how democracies die. today, more than half of republican voters, more than half, believe the insurrectionists were quote protecting democracy. in a recent study from the university of chicago, professor robert pate found that nearly one in ten americans believe that quote the use of force is justified to restore donald j. trump to the presidency. one in ten.
these radical viewpoints don't appear out of thin air. donald trump continues to spew these divisive dangerous ideas from his exile in mar-a-lago. and his calls have been echoed by a vocal faction of republican lawmakers. lawmakers who are actively encouraging their supporters to treat political opponents as hostile adversaries. other republican lawmakers have remained silent, refusing to condemn them. for example, last year, a republican congressman tweeted out an animated video showing himself murdering one of his democratic colleagues. another house republicans has expressed support for quote national divorce. national divorce between red and blue states. i might remind this congressman that the last national divorce, our civil war, cost more american lives than any conflict before or since. some may weigh this for political office or political buster or just a bad joke but
the reality is more troubling. these tacit and even explicit endorsements of violence have taken a tragic toll. over the past two years, our nation's public servants have faced a wave of violence. one survey found in nearly one in five local elected official has been threatened with violence because of their work in the 2020 election cycle. we've seen the polling rise in violent outbursts on airplanes, in school board meetings, and in other spheres of public life, we've seen unacceptable even deadly cases of violence towards law enforcement officers. don't tell me that you stand for law and order and turn your back on the threats that law enforcement officers are facing every single day. so at the outset of today's hearing, i would like to respectfully request that every member of this committee use this hearing to explicitly condemn the use or threat of violence to advance political goals. it's a simple request, but sadly a necessary one. this committee should speak with
a unified voice in saying violence is unacceptable. this is not an issue of where you stand on the political spectrum. violent extremist exists on both ends, and whether an act of violence is being committed by a white supremacist in the capitol or a far left extremist in portland, it is unacceptable and inexcusable, period. we also need to understand the nature of the threat. as senior law enforcement and intelligence officials have warned us, the biggest domestic terrorism threat today stems from white supremacists and violent militia extremists, some of whom are working in america to topple our democracy. for them, january 6th was a test trial. and in the year following the insurrection, there have been far too many instances of violent extremist. for example, last month, one domestic terrorist who espoused a variety of far right fringe and misogynistic views on social media committed a mass shooting in colorado. the attacker had been on the
radar of local law enforcement for years. even listed the names of the victims in self-published book but unfortunately no action was taken. he ended up killing five people. before we he had a chance to kill more, a heroic police officer, agent ashley ferris, came to the rescue, she arrived on the scene, and ordered the attacker to drop his respond, he responded by shooting her in the stomach. while wounded and bleeding on ground, agent ferris returned fire and brought the attack to an end. officers like agent ferris put their lives on the line every day to defend us. and as we saw on january 6th at the capitol, and in streets of american cities, in 2020, they are too often themselves the target of violent extremism. they cannot take on the biggest threat of the national security alone. they need our help at the federal level. analyzing and acting on intelligence on domestic terrorist sources. that's why i've prosed the
domestic terrorism prevention act. introduced it in 2017. it ensures state and local law enforcement have the resources and data to prevent acts of domestic terror and white supremacist violence, make sure that law enforcement officials have the resources they need. during today's hearing, i hope we'll learn what steps the justice department and fbi are taking to keep our communities, our country, and officers like agent ferris safe. i hope this committee will be unekwisk cal, unequivocal in condemning violence wherever its source on the political spectrum. no more cowering before any mob. our democracy is in the cross hairs of domestic terrorism. it's time to take a stand. the only way to prevent a recurrence of the deadly insurrection like january 6th is by joining together, in defense of our constitution and the rule of law. with that, i'll turn to my friend ranking member chuck grassley for his opening statement. >> thank you very much.
a year ago, i gave a speech on the senate floor. in that speech, i asked all my colleagues to join me in condemning all political violence. that obviously included the terrible attack on the capitol, but it also referred to nearly 600 riots that came before january 6th violence, and i learned something from my colleagues, i have a video i would like to have you watch. >> i want to be clear in how i characterize this. this is a protest, it is not generally speaking unruly. >> peaceful protests. [explosion]
>> these anti-police riots rocked our nation for seven full months just like the janua >> these anti-police riots rocked our nation for seven full months just like the january 6th assault on the capitol rocked the nation. the riots caused terrible damage. we saw in the video $2 million with. you saw on the video, hundreds
of people were charged federally. the fbi opened over 500 domestic terrorism investigations. over 14,000 were arrested by the states. in just the first few weeks. at least 25 died. 2000 police officers were injured. this included well over 100 officers defending the federal courthouse in portland. it included 60 secret service officers defending the white house. the judicial conference reported that 50 federal courthouses were damaged during this time. throughout a time that was incredibly difficult for our peace officers, we had some democrats pile on. they called police things like
stormtroopers. to this day, attacks continue on good rumors of the police, or the good names of police who dealt with an impossible situation in the 100-night siege on portland courthouse. is it any wonder then that when it came time to secure the capitol, on january 6th, some were too concerned about optics, or about the image of national guardsmen at the capitol. mayor bowser of dc even said that when federal police force, like those police forces, like those that came to defend the portland courthouse, that they would be welcomed here. from the time anti-police riots broke out over 18 months ago,
the police have retreated from the streets. and the results have been very predictable. beginning june, 2020, our country has experienced an unprecedented 30% hike in murders. that spike has continued all the way to the present day. no 2021, more than a dozen cities set all-time homicide records. street crime from assaults to carjackings to also what we call flash mob style smash and grab robberies have become a way of life in many cities. you saw it just last night, in san jose, california, on television, as an example. new york mayor eric adams has
announced he will revive a plain clothes anti-crime unit to combat the violence. san francisco mayor london breed has declared a state of emergency over crime in her city. mayor lightfoot has asked for federal resources to help fight crime in chicago. sadly, anti-police sentiment extends to the rise of murder of police, dozens were killed in 2021, fbi analysis showed that many of them were targeted because they were just simply police officers, not because of any private contact with an attacker. the federal order for criminal order of police, that data shows that ambush attacks on officers have been more than double.
the police aren't just heroes, because of january 6th, when they defended us here at the capitol. these police officers, federal, state, local, are heroes all the time. if we don't treat them as heroes, i fear the violent crime and attacks on police officers will only get worse. it won't get any better. i started by saying that i gave a speech, a year ago, asking my colleagues to join me in condemning all political violence. i heard senator durbin say exactly that same thing in his opening remarks today. i'm sorry to say that the situation hasn't gotten worse -- the situation has gotten worse, since i gave my speech. it has not gotten better.
last summer, president biden released a domestic terrorism strategy that made no mention whatsoever of the 2020 riots, though they comprise about a fifth to a quarter of the fbi's current domestic terrorism cases. there was almost no mention of lassoing terrorism at all. thanks to senator durbin for mentioning left wing terrorism. further, the president's strategy suggested that partisan policies of gun control and teaching critical race theory are part of the solution, using violent attacks to try to advance unrelated policy goals is a shameful tactic. it undermines what our law enforcement officers are trying to do, to stem the violence in this country.
it undermines the universal nonpartisan indictment that we should all bring to bear against extremist violence, right or left. there can't be exceptions. that means that we have to deal with the 2020 riots, and january 6th when we look over fbi domestic terrorism programs. we in congress have an oversight role to perform. this committee is doing that today. and there is room for improvement. needed room for improvement. director wray, over ten months ago, testified to us that there were weaknesses in the left wing domestic terrorism program that had prevented the fbi from getting the visibility they needed into the 2020 riots.
from that time, to now, we have received next to no information in response to our inquiries about how the fbi intends to cure those deficiencies. the time has come to change that. thank you, mr. chairman and my colleagues. >> thanks, senator grassley. today, we welcome assistant attorney general matthew olsen and fbi executive assistant director joe sanborn to testify before the committee. they will each have five minutes for opening statements and questions where senators will have five minutes as well. so i ask remotely, virtually if mr. olsen, mr. sanborn, would please stand to be sworn in. please raise your right hand. do you affirm the testimony you about to give before the committee will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you god. >> yes. >> i do. >> let the record reflect that both witnesses have answered in
the affirmative and we will turn first to mr. olsen. please proceed. >> thank you, chairman. thank you mr. grassley, members of the committee, i appreciate this opportunity to testify today about the work with the department. the breadth of this domestic terrorism is on the rise. a number of fbi investigations over the past two years since march of 2020 have more than doubled. communities across the country have been the victims of acts of domestic terror and hate in recent years. in el paso, 23 people most of whom were latino, were killed at a shopping center. in pittsburgh, 11 worshippers were killed at their synagogue. in alexandria, virginia, a lone gunman wounded four people at a congressional baseball practice. and in charleston, nine people were killed by a white supremacist in their church. last week, we marked the one-year anniversary of the
attack on the capitol on january 6th. in the wake of that attack, the department of justice has undertaken an effort unprecedented in its scope and complexity. to hold accountable all of those who engaged in criminal acts. as the attorney general testified or discussed last week, we have arrested and charged more than 725 individuals for their role in that attack, including more than 325 defendants charged with felonies. we continue to methodically gather and review the evidence and we will follow the facts wherever they lead. the attacks in recent years underscore the threat that domestic terrorism continues to pose to our citizens, to law enforcement officers, to public officials, and to our democratic institutions. based on the assessment of the intelligence community, we face an elevated threat from domestic
violent extremists. that is individuals in the united states who seek to commit violent criminal acts and furtherance of domestic, social or political goals. domesticic extremists are often motivated by a mix of ideologies and personal grievances. we've seen a growing threat from those who are moats vated by racial animus, as well as those who extremist, anti-government, and anti-authority ideology. . at the same time, we remain vigilant to the persistent and dynamic threat from international terrorist groups such as isis and al qaeda. the attorney general has observed combatting the threat of domestic terrorism has been a core mission for the department of justice since its founding more than 150 years ago, when the newly formed department pursued the kkk, to protect the rights of black americans under the constitution. today, investigating and
prosecuting domestic violence extremists is one of our top priorities. on the front lines of this effort are our 94 united states attorneys offices. these federal prosecutors work in close partnership with the fbi joint terrorism task forces, which have been leading all terrorism investigations. in the national security division which i lead was created in 2006 to integrate the department's national security work across the country. in any case, with the nexus to domestic terrorism, we provide support to manage, coordinate, and assist in those prosecutions. within the national security division, we have a team of taunter terrorism attorneys, all of whom are equipped to work on both domestic and international terrorism prosecutions. in addition, i have decided to establish a domestic terrorism unit to augment our existing
approach. this group of dedicated attorneys will focus on the domestic terrorism threat, helping to ensure that these cases are handled properly, and effectively, coordinated across the department of justice, and across the country. the national security division also works closely with other components of d.o.j., especially the civil rights division which has led the prosecution of some of the most heinous attacks in recent years, under our federal hate crimes statutes. similar to our efforts to combat international terrorism, the department uses all of the legal tools in our arsenal to prevent, disrupt, and prosecute acts of domestic terrorism. and in cases where state charges are more appropriate, we support our state and local law enforcement partners. while there is no single federal crime that's labeled domestic terrorism, the criminal code does define domestic terrorism and this definition provides us with expanded authority, including enhanced sentencing for terrorism offenses.
finally, in all of our efforts to combat domestic terrorism, the justice department is bound by our commitment to protecting civil liberties and our duty to ensure equal and impartial justice. we prosecute individuals for engaging in violent behavior. not for their beliefs or associations. but we will not hesitate to prosecute those who commit acts of violence in violation of the federal law. i appreciate the opportunity to discuss these issues with you today and i look forward to answering your questions. >> thank you. mr. olsen. ms. sanborn, you may proceed. >> good morning, chairman durbin, ranking member grassley and distinguished members of the committee. i'm honored to be here with you today, representing the men and women of the fbi. i always enjoy being back in front of senate where i began my career in possibly senate as a senate page many years ago. i appreciate the opportunity to be with you to discuss the
current domestic threat landscape and our efforts to advance our domestic terrorism program since january 6th of 2021. in that vein, i would be remiss to not discuss the january 6th attack this morning. i know many of you were present in the u.s. capitol and experienced the events of that day firsthand. the fbi investigation of the attack on the capitol began immediately, and continues to this day. it goes without saying that the threat posed by domestic violent extremists is persistent and evolving. but this does not mean we have forgot been the threat from foreign terrorist organizations such as isis and al qaeda. today, the united states faces a complex threat landscape driven by a broad set of violent extremist ideologies. as you are aware, preventing all acts of terrorism is the fbi's number one priority. and the greatest terrorism threat facing the united states today remains that posed by lone
actors or small cells who typically radicalize online and look to use easily accessible weapons to attack soft targets. this includes both homegrown violent extremists, inspired primarily by foreign terrorist organizations, as well as domestic violent extremism. in describing the domestic terrorism threat landscape, we intentionally use words violent extremism because the underlying political or social position and the advocacy of such beliefs, no matter how vial, are not in and of themselves prohibited by u.s. law. it is important to remember the fbi cannot and will not open an investigation based solely on first amendment protected activity. in fact, it is our mission to protect the american people and defend the constitution. neither is more important than the other, but rather, these aspects of our mission are dual and simultaneous. the fbi divides the domestic
terrorism threat into five broad categories. today, based on the topic of this hearing, i am confining my remarks to the two most prevalent categories. racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism and anti-government or anti-authority violent extremism. when evaluates the current domestic terrorism threat we assess that racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists advocating for the superiority of the white race and anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists, specifically militia violent supreme efforts present the most lethal threats. racially and ethnically violent extremists are most likely to have mass casualty attacks against civilians and militia violent extremists typically target law enforcement and government personnel and facilities. in 2021, domestic violent extremists conducted four attacks which resulted in the deaths of 13 individuals. many domestic violent extremists
also plotted to conduct attacks due to personalized greerchs including anger at government responses to covid-19, immigration policies, and perceived election fraud. looking forward, we adomestic violence extremist reactions to socio political events and continue to drive the threat of violence am 2022. additionally as we head into 202 we assess racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists and anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists will continue to pose the most serious threats and as such, the fbi has prioritized anti-government or anti-authority violent extremism to be commensurate with the threat posed by homegrown violent extremism, isis, and racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism. this prioritization ensures all fbi field offices are postured to comprehensibly respond and combat the threat posed by these individuals in 2022.
we want to assure the kplt and the american people that the fbi focuses all of its efforts against the threat of terrorism, both international and domestic. we apply resources and rigor to address the ever-evolving threats. by evidenced by the hundreds of arrests made by the joint terrorism task forces in your state and around the country in 2021. the fbi holds sacred the rights of individuals to peacefully exercise their first amendment freedoms. but make no mistake when protected free speech turns into criminal threats or actions, the fbi will actively pursue the individuals behind them. in the fight against domestic violent extremists, as with all of our other threat, the fbi is grateful for the support and assistance of all of our partners including this committee. thank you for inviting me today to be a part of this important discussion. >> thank you, ms. sanborn. and so we each have five minutes to ask questions and i want to start and a question to both of you, either of you can respond
to. i think it's important if we're going to learn from these hearings, and from life experience, that we try to have an open mind. we, many of us personally witnessed and were victimized by the events of january 6th. but we need to take an honest look at what happened that day, and who was guilty of wrong doing. the most comprehensive look i've seen that has been published was by professor pape at the university of chicago and it has been widely publicized and noted. he took a look at the actual people who were arrested for january 6th, and asked why they were there, and who they were. and he came up with some startling information as far as i'm concerned. first, and this is not a surprise, the attack was unmistakably, he says an act of political violence, not just an exercise of trespassing or vandalism. the overwhelming reason for action on january 6th, going after those who were actually
arrested and taking a look at their testimony, the overwhelming reason was they believed they were following president trump's orders. seconds, a large majority of suspects in the capitol had no connection to existing far right militias, white nationalist gangs. one-tenth, only one out of ten could be classified as supporters of these militia groups. 89% had no apparent affiliation. third, the demographic profile of these suspected rioters is different from past right wing extremism. average age, 40. two-thirds, 35 or older. 40% of those arrested are business owners or own white collar jobs, ceos, shop owners, doctors, lawyers, i.t. specialists, only 9% are unemployed. fourth, most of them did not come from deep right strongholds. they came from areas that were carried by joe biden in the election. and finally, he concluded what's
clear is that the capitol riot revealed a new force in american politics, and not merely a mix of right wing organizations, but a broader mass political movement that has violence at its core and draws strength even from places where trump supporters are in the minority. so i want to ask each of you, from the department of justice, and fbi, as you are envisioning what needs to be done to keep america safe in the future, what do these conclusions tell you? mr. olsen? >> thank you very much, chairman durbin. i would start, if i may, with your comments at the very beginning of this hearing. what that tells me, and hearing those statistics from the university of chicago professor, that we must speak with one voice. and condemning violence as what we saw again, on january 6th as unacceptable. for our part, at the department of justice, and in partnership with the fbi, and sanborn, and
agents with the fbi, our commitment is to investigate and prosecute all of these acts, any violence, any unlawful acts. >> so mr. olsen -- >> that is our -- >> mr. olsen, thank you very much for that, but the point i'm getting to is this. i'm not an expert in this area, i'm read and many members of the committee have read enough to know how you investigate organizations and infiltrate them and try to break them down, it happened with the ku klux klan, it's happened with others. but the point that is being made by the pate study is if you just went to the organizations themselves, you will have missed the brunt of the attacks on the capitol on january 6th. these people were not affiliated members of these organizations. by and large, almost 90% of them had no connection whatsoever. and yet, they engaged in violence that day, sometimes with unprecedented opportunity they've never shown in their life before. i'm asking each of you, as you
look forward, to try to keep us safe, are you going beyond the traditional means of the suspects, and people involved in this activity? >> maybe ms. olsen, would you like to respond to that? >> to ms. san born -- >> sorry. >> yes. >> hello, thank you for the question. i think you highlight a couple of things why we focus so much on the violence and two things that i would pull out of your comments that i think are congruent with themes that we're seeing, and trends, is a very personalized mobilization is often behind what pushes somebody to go out and conduct whatever act they're about ready to undertake, and so that personalized nature obviously is very challenging, but to get ahead of that, one of the things that we have focused on and we just recently published jointly is indicators of mobilization,
we want to teach people to pay attention to human behavior, and become alarmed and alerted when it looks like somebody is mobilizing. we have found that very successful on the i.t. side, and believe that educating people on those mobilization indicators will help us stay ahead of the violent threats that are out there. >> so i would conclude by saying, i believe that these extremist organizations are still dangerous, and keeping an eye on them and suppressing them is necessary, but maybe not be sufficient. this analysis of the january 6th insurrectionists and riters telling us that the reach of these extremists go far beyond these organizations. senator grassley. >> mr. olsen, your division has a very big job keeping track of both domestic and terrorism, and international terrorism, so i was sprid to see the attorney
general think that your division should redirect time from those threats to policing matters of local school boards. i was even more surprised to learn that the fbi's counter-terrorism division is tagging school board cases. involving the federal national security programs, on local school board matters has a chilling effect, on freedom of speech, and freedom to petition your government. in this case, the nation's parents going to the school board. the entire republican side of this committee has asked garland to withdraw his memo, federalizing school board cases. to date, we haven't received that happening. so mr. olsen, garland said that your division is going to be working on school board cases, and in a press release, we read that, that accompanied his memo.
what is the division doing with regard to local school boards, and for ms. sanborn, is it true that the counter-terrorism division is tracking school board cases? if it is, will you stop that practice? that has a chilling effect on school board meetings. fir of first of all, mr. olsen. >> thank you very much, ranking member grassley. i can assure you that nothing is deterring or interfering or otherwise making it more difficult to put the focus on our core responsibilities in the division of investigating and prosecuting international and domestic terrorism. this remains the top priority for our division, it remains the top priority for the department of justice, and we remain committed to that priority. as the attorney's memo indicated, there has been an increase in violence against
individuals who serve in positions of public trust, school board member, teachers, other public officials, and this is a series concern. it's a concern that i share. the national security division for its part is playing an advisory role in supporting the work of the department, making sure that when they're making a case that would rise to the level of one where we have some role to play, that we're there to support the rest of the department, but certainly not a particular focus for the national security division, nor do i have any anticipation that it would be. it is i think an important role, however for the justice department as a whole, largely run by the criminal definition, -- criminal definition, the civil rights division, other components of the justice department oons. >> ms. san born, your response? >> yes, sir, i would echo that this is not a particular focus for the counter-terrorism
division and nothing has changed in our authorities, in our policies or how we go about investigating our cases. i would just add to the tagged question that you asked and first of all, it would have to rise to either an allegation of violating federal law or have already violated federal law for the fbi to even be involved in investigating that, and the tagging is simply an administrative process to be able to better analyze trends, et cetera. but again, the key here is this has not changed our authorities, and a violation of federal law would have to be at the heart here for us to be involved. >> ms. san born, you were the assistant director of the division during the 2020 riots, i understand that this was an extremely difficult time for the fbi. i've heard, i heard it may have been the only time in history where the command posts of every fbi field office were activated
at the same time. every day, there were reports of multiple riots. more cases to be opened. domestic terrorism agents dispatched to places like portland, to help rein in the violence. my question, in june of this past year, our committee was briefed that the fbi had opened more than 500 domestic terrorism investigations as a result of the 2020 riots. of those, where the ideology could be identified, 75% were anarchist extremists, an anarchist extremist is the fbi term for teefrz, and the fbi told us then that they were trying to hold other subjects accountable for acts during the summer riots. haz the number of domestic terrorism investigations opened as a result of the 2020 riots grown or changed since june of that year? and my second question -- my
second question is i think it's fair to say that the fbi was surprised by a lot of the riots that happened in 2020, and the capitol riot as well on january 6th, how is the fbi improving its visibility into the improvements that it has previously not tracked well, like the anarchists extremists? i'll wait for your answer. >> thank you, sir. i appreciate the opportunity to quickly talk about the investigations as it relates to 2020 and the violence that we all saw around the peaceful protests, and it's hard to understand the aggregate of that, so i appreciate the opportunity. we have opened about slightly more than 800 cases, so yes, more than when you were last briefed on that, and our arrests in those cases are just a little bit north of 250. so still making progress on those cases. to the second part of your
question, i would say some of the things that we're asking ourselves to do better, not only as a result of 2020, but as a result of january 6th, is how do we collect better and more information, right, pushing collection, working source, et cetera, and i think you heard me say previously, you've never met an analyst that didn't want more intel, and so we are definitely trying to do better and collecting and gathering information from sources. sharing information quickly. and as broadly as possible is another area that we're continuing to try to improve. >> thank you, ms. sanborn. senator grassley? senator hirono? >> thank you, mr. chairman. i think it's really important for us to be clear about what happened on january 6th. which was an armed militia, who attacked the capitol in an attempt to overturn the fair and free presidential election. while many on the right continue to downplay what happened on that day, the former president claims it was just quote a day
of protesting, end quote. and is now actually bragging about the crowd size on that day. one congressional republican compared it to a quote normal terrorist visit and another went on fox news to apologize for calling january 6th a violent terrorist attack. they define domestic terrorism as violent criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences such as those of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature. a mob of armed rioters used force in an attempt to overthrow the united states government. that is domestic terrorism. i would like to ask both of you, is what happened on january 6th domestic terrorism? mr. olson?
>> thank you. the department of justice and the fbi have been clear that the tact, the events that occurred on january 6th are being investigated as an act of domestic terrorism. you quoted from the acts dafrpg trous human life, violent to the criminal law and are intended to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion. so i think it is entirely appropriate that january 6th events are generally being investigated as acts of dme terrorism. it will depend on the facts and circumstances in that case which are ungoing. >> i would consider that in that definition the term acts is very
critical. we're not talking about peaceful protesting. there have to be actual acts, violent acts being committed. isn't that right? >> yes. it focuses on acts that violate criminal law. not peaceful protest, not assembling, free speech or the other type of activities protected under the constitution in the first amendment. >> i think it's really important to focus on the fact that there have to be actual criminal acts occurring. this is not talking about a bunch of people touring the capitol or people engaging in peaceful protest. there is a tendency to mix that up. that's why she said we have to be careful about not interfering with one's first amendment rights. that is not what was happening to a great extent.
now that you acknowledged we were witnessing domestic terrorism on january 6th, i'd like to understand the department's approach to prosecuting the perpetrators. my understanding is that prosecutors have not been pushing for the sentencing enhancements available for acts of domestic terrorism. to the action qualify for sentencing enhancement? mr. olson? >> senator, the attorney general asked me in a speech here at the department of justice talked about the scope and complexity of the january 6th investigation and talked about the more than 700 individuals that have been arrested, more than 325 individuals charged with felonies. those cases are on going and
pending. each case will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of those individuals. >> i'm running out of time. i understand it is individual act. but if that individual committed a crime such as attacking a police officer woshgs that person be subject to enhanced sentencing? >> it depends on the circumstances of the case, senator. >> and if applicable with the department pursuit enhanced sentencing? >> it certainly is true as a general matter that department pursued enhanced sentencing in terrorism cases over the past several years where it's appropriate. >> so as you -- can i ask one more question? >> as you proceed with all the
trials and already, i think, engaged and had settlementes with a number of the defendants and could we see the potential for trials happening where there will be enhanced sentencing? >> again, it depends on the facts in the case. >> thank you. do you have the resources, the people and money you need to protect the nation? mr. olson? >> thank you, senator. we do from my vantage point, we are -- we have resources to carry out our priority missions. obviously january 6th is a singular he stlaent is stretching the resources of our office and the attorney's office in d.c. which is handling that case. there are a number of people detailed aren't country. >> do you need more money, any
changes in the law to do your job? >> at this time i don't have the request for any more money. >> the vice president equated january 6th to pearl harbor and 9/11. do you agree with that? >> i would say senator durbin and senator grassley, it was a day to be horrifically involved in and i think it was a singular event. i'm reluctant to compare it to any prior events in our history because i think it is unique and singular. >> the courthouse in portland was tacked 100 nights in a row. would you consider those people candidate for domestic terrorism
charges? >> i don't have any evidence that any case is subject to -- >> they said they used violence for whatever purpose to attack a courthouse for 100 nights in a row. how many people have been charged with the portland incident, do you know? >> i defer to miss samuel. >> miss samuel? >> i don't know the number. >> do you know? >> no, sir, i don't have portland specifically in front of me. what i was referring to is the 250 arrests over the summer. >> here's my point. january 6th was a bad day. it was a terrible day. people being prosecuted and i encourage you to have a full force and weight of law against those who defiled the capitol. the protests went foreign a year. you can see the photo behind me, they were throwing molotov
cocktails trying to kill police officers. i didn't hear from anyone on our other side for an entire year. i guess that's what gets me more than anything else. i understand the scope of january 6th. i hope people are brought to justice. this has to be a two-way street. >> is the takeover of ataliban, does that pose threats to our homeland, mr. olson? >> i think from my vantage point, international terrorism remains a priority. if i may broaden my answer a bit just to say that we continue to be very concerned about -- >> here's my question. >> isis and afghanistan. >> here's my question. the country is now in the hands of the taliban. are al qaeda elements present in afghanistan? >> we do see -- i would say that
we continue to see -- we continue to have concerns about isis and al qaeda. >> what capability do we have available to us to detect terrorism activity on the ground in afghanistan? >> it may not be appropriate for me to go into detail. >> is it fair to say we lost a lot of capability? >> i would not characterize our capability. >> you can't tell this committee that a lot of the assets we have available to us have been lost because the taliban takeover. you can't say that? >> again, i'm reluctant to characterize the level of our untell jens capabilities in afghanistan. >> you have been to the u.s. border, southern border? >> not -- well, two, three years ago. i did go to the southern border. >> i would urge you to go back. a lot changed since alast two or three years.
how many people have come across the border, our southern border from special interests countries? >> i don't know that information. >> how many people have come across our southern border in the last year from special interest countries? sir, i don't have that data. >> have you been to the border? >> not in a very long time, sir. >> i appreciate both of your service. but it's been 3,000 to 4,000, we've had dozens of people on the terrorist watch list coming across the southern border. here's the advice, if you need more resources, you'll get it from me. if i were you, i'd go to the bored eastern check out what is going on. it's a matter of time in my humble opinion that broken southern border is going to be an entryway toint national terrorist that's are going to come here and change americans if we don't change policy.
i urge you quickly to go to the border. get a handle on what is happening at the border. understand the relationship between the takeover the taliban in afghanistan and the opportunity for more terrorist attacks coming through the border. >> thank you. we are cleared to i have ahearing about the january 6th threat. in my view, today we're gathered because just last week we commemorated the an verse riff -- anniversary of one of the darkest days in american history. on january 6th, i noted and i want to repeat today, just how grateful i am for law enforcement officers, capitol police, the metropolitan police, members of the national guard from the region and country and others who protected all who
work and serve in the capitol. the d.c. u.s. attorneys office reports that angry mob that broke into and assaulted the capitol, assaulted more than 140 law enforcement officers during that day. during that terrible day. during that insurrection. there were five officers who lost their lives as a result of that day. that day, and they and their families remain in my prayers to this day a year later. those officers didn't come to work that day as republicans or democrats, as people from this state or that state, but simply as americans responsible for working to keep all of us and our democracy safe. they did their jobs. so later that night congress could reconvene in the chamber and do ours and certify the results of the 2020 election. i think we owe it to the officers and their families to commit to making sure everyone involved in the violence that
day is prosecuted. we need to ensure and correct the challenges, the resources, planning, that led to january 6 and we owe to them to take seriously the ongoing threat we face from domestic violent extremists domestic violent extremism also threatens our allies abroad. i went to more than a dozen countries around the world. democracy is under threat from nations all around the world, and these are nations that have long looked to us or whose human rights advocates or democracy advocates or journalists have long looked at us as a model. as i've engaged with leaders around the world, i've heard firsthand how the visible symbol of the storming of our capitol on january 6 made foreign leaders doubt the durability of our democracy. our adversaries have trumpeted january 6 as a sign of weakness and disarray, and our allies have seen it as a troubling sign of the frame and society of our democratic system.
that's why it's so important for every senator to join our chairman today in continuing to condemn all violence and threats of violence used to advance political goals. today's hearing is an important step in moving forward on the work to strengthen and heal our democracy. so mr. olsen, if i might just first ask you, i was encouraged to hear your testimony about establishing a new unit that will combat domestic terrorism. as a leader of the department's mission to combat terrorism, whether foreign or domestic, espionage, cybercrime, other threats to our national security, would you agree that
the violent assault on our capitol on january 6th has undermined our standing abroad? >> i would certainly say, senator, that what happened on january 6 has posed challenges and in terms of our status as a democracy. if you look across the country, i've had that conversation with foreign leaders in the national security space. that said, i think how we responded to it and how we address domestic terrorism, pursuing acts of violence stands as an example to the rest of the world. >> so you would agree that a failure to adequately respond to that with prosecution, that would further undermine or standing as a democracy and therefore continue to weaken our standing in the world? >> i think the world is watching how we respond to this threat, and it can potentially affect
our standing in the world, i would agree. >> if i might, mrs. sanborn, one last question. i think -- look, it's gravely concerning to me that there are some colleagues of mine here in the capitol, in the house, as well as in the senate that suggests that the mob that attacked the building on january 6 didn't include domestic violent extremists. but i think the facts are fairly clear. the u.s. attorney's office for d.c. published a snapshot of the investigation. there were more than 75 individuals charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily harm to a police officer. and the 140 officers assaulted included 80 capitol police, 60 metropolitan police department members. mrs. sanborn, attacking police at the capitol in order to prevent the certification of an election for an explicit
political end pretty squarely fits within the definition of domestic violent extremism, doesn't it? >> yes, sir. yes, sir. >> thank you. and i see i'm out of time. let me just say i'm hopeful that all of us in this body can put aside rhetoric and speak with one voice and unequivocally condemn politically motivated violence and threats of violence going forward. thank you, mr. chair. >> senator lee? >> i would like to clarify, has anyone been charged with the crime of insurrection following january 6? >> i am not aware that anyone has been charged with that particular offense, if it even is an offense. i'm not aware of that. it would be inappropriate for me to speak about any particular investigation at this point, but i'm not aware of anyone being charged with that offense. >> i'm not, either. i just heard different things
and i've heard different charges, but not that one. on june 27, 2021, i signed on to a letter with a bunch of my colleagues. the letter was signed by senator johnson. the purpose of the letter was to ask a number of questions about the individuals alleged to have committed crimes in connection with the 2020 riots, and those who elected to commit crimes on january 6. despite the best efforts of my staff to work with the department of justice to narrow the scope and prioritize certain questions, we didn't receive any answer until october 22nd, over four and a half months after we sent the letter. now, ordinarily you would think when you've got more than four and a half months to respond that you would submit a response that was at least good or thorough, but to my great astonishment and dismay, the letter failed to answer a single
question that we asked, not one. it was a statement of platitudes and cited publicly available resources about general policies. there was not one answer to a single one of our questions. it's a little bit troubling when you've got members of the united states senate charged with an oversight responsibility over the department of justice. to have a four and a half month delay followed by a complete refusal to engage. so i'd like to ask some questions based on that letter, and happy that i get the chance to do here where i don't have to wait four and a half months to get an unresponsive answer. first of all, did law enforcement utilize data from cell phones of protesters in the unrest in the spring of 2020? >> sir, if that question is directed to me, i don't have any
information to that question that would be responsive. >> i would be happy to receive some from any of you. ma'am, do you have any? >> without going into specifics on a specific case, we do often use geospecific data. >> i understand that you do. i'm asking if you did on the riots that occurred in 2020. and what about january 6? i'd like to know the number of times and locations. >> sir, i don't have that in front of me, but happy to take that back. i wasn't aware of your questions until today, so i'm happy to take your question and try to see what we can do to be responsive. >> okay. now, how many individuals who may have committed crimes
associated with the riots in the spring and summer of 2020 were either arrested by law enforcement for pre-dawn raids or with s.w.a.t. teams or had warrants served on them through those means? >> sir, i don't have the particular numbers of arrests and/or the specific nature of the plan that might have been around that in front of me. >> okay. i'd also like to know were alleged to have committed crimes were alleged to have been witnesses to what happened on january 6th were people who had been arrested or had warrants served on them using pre-dawn raids and s.w.a.t. teams.
can you tell me at least an approximate number or whether it's a comparable number to those who had those executed or arrested in connection with the spring and summer riots of 2020? >> sir, i don't have either of those in front of me, and i would just, as a little preamble, would explain that the mechanics going behind time of day and when an arrest and how an arrest is done is very specific to each individual case and what potential threat they may or may not pose, but i don't have answers in front of me at this time. >> do you mind telling me how many individuals who were arrested in connection with the spring and summer riots of 2020 were placed in solitary confinement? >> i don't have that and i'm not exactly sure that the fbi would house that data, but i definitely don't have that and i'm not sure we would have that. we could probably figure out how to direct you to the right organization for that.
>> mr. olsen, do you have any idea how many of these individuals were offered deferred resolution agreements? that is, the individuals arrested in connection with offenses in the spring and summer of 2020? >> i do not, senator, have that specific information. some of those cases, of course, are still ongoing of that time period. i don't have any information about how many have been resolved. the plea offers or plea agreements versus going to trial. >> i see my time has expired. i'm going to ask the two of you to answer these questions and other questions i will submit for the record. i understand you've got big jobs to do, but i don't want four and a half months to elapse again, and i certainly don't want a response that is non-responsive. thank you.
>> thank you, senator lee. senator blumenthal. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you for having this hearing which gives us the opportunity to join my colleagues in saying violence of any kind is unacceptable, any kind of physical coercion or violence should be condemned no matter who does it, no matter what the purpose is politically, and i hope that we share that view. let me ask you about the role of social media platforms in the promotion and organization of the stop the steal groups, indisputably facebook, twitter and other social media platforms played a specific role in the organization and promotion of those groups that organized the assault on the capitol.
these platforms fueled the rise of groups such as the bugaloo boys and the adams division who are responsible for several hate murders. facebook promised to stop these organizations and ban their groups. instead, according to facebook's own researchers, the company refused to recognize the magnitude of the threat and take appropriate action and take down those stop the steal groups that incited, encouraged and organized the violence that occurred on january 6. and this problem remains. in fact, last week the tech transparency project released a
report showing that facebook continues to host and promote violent extremists and militia organizations that were involved in the capitol attack. facebook has even allowed successionist militias to fund and place recruitment ads, ads that say, quote, we are prepared for war, end quote. would you join me in the view that social media platforms have failed, utterly failed, to do as much as they can and should do to stop groups and individuals that promote and propagate violence? >> senator, i can begin and then defer to my colleague, ms. sanborn. if i may just make a couple of points. i know you're fully aware of this. hate crimes is protected by the first amendment. generally speaking, the department does not investigate anyone for amended, protected activities when that is the sole basis for their actions.
the intelligence committee -- to your point, the intelligence committee has assessed that social media has increased the way that information is spread, the speed, dissemination, the accessibility of violent extremist conduct and content. it has also facilitated the decentralization of that information among violent extremist supporters. so social media can be identified as a source of some of the problem of the way this information is spread and how it can fuel violence. i think that's -- the third one i would make is that's why it's very important that the national strategy that was issued last year is clear on this point, that it's critical to address the information environment and
that we need to work in the government with the private sector, with social media platforms to help ensure that proper steps are taken that this information is not as widely available. >> let me ask you, because i've heard some law enforcement officials say that when these groups are deplatformed, sometimes they're harder to track. you have other means of tracking them. you don't need them to be on social media to track them, correct? >> again, i would defer to ms. sanborn, but as a larger proposition, that is correct. there are multiple ways to collect information on individuals who are involved in violent extremist activities. >> do you have under investigation cases involving threat and violence against members of school boards, election workers? in other words, some of the
targets -- not here in the capitol but at the local and state level? do you have under investigations those kinds of threats of violence? >> as a general matter, it would not be appropriate to talk about any particular case. as a general matter, the national security division is not involved in any of those types of investigations. >> why not? >> -- that might include threats of violence against school board members. senator, the only reason where we might get involved -- it's twofold -- where a particular threat might rise to a level of a national security threat, for
example, if it's serious enough to rise to the level of domestic terrorism. i have not seen that. the other way in which we get involved actually is to ensure that threats of violence and violence that might be criminal are not improperly branded as domestic terrorism or domestic violent extremism. again, as i understand the whole point of the attorney general's memo is to protect both the first amendment rights of people who are there to speak and participate in the political process as well as the safety of public officials. >> let me ask you finally, because my time is expired, why has the department of justice not sought enhanced penalties in the cases involving the january 6th insurrection based on the terrorism element here under the 1993 law enhanced terrorism penalties and punishment can be sought? why has the department of justice not used that statute that clearly applies to domestic as well as international terrorism? >> senator, it is my understanding, again, i'm not going to talk about any
particular investigation. of course, that statute is available in the context of the investigations and prosecutions of the july 6 defendants, but each case just defends on the specific facts and circumstances of that case, and as the attorney general described last week, that case is being built like all large department of justice investigations from the ground up, starting with those who are potentially at the lower end of culpability. so as a general matter, that's where we are in the investigation, and whether that might apply to any future case remains to be seen. >> i'm not asking about individual cases, but as a general matter, none of these cases has involved any requests
for enhanced penalties based on its involving terrorism. and i would like to know the answer to that question. i'm out of time, but if you could respond in writing, i would appreciate it. >> i will. thank you. >> thank you, senator blumenthal. senator cruz? >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. olsen, how many people have been charged with crimes of violence in connection with the events on january 6? >> senator, i'm not sure exactly how many have been charged with crimes of violence. i know that there are -- >> how many have been charged with non-violent crimes? >> i don't have the numbers of people charged whether at the state or federal level -- >> how many people are currently incarcerated concerning the events of january 6th? >> i don't know the number of people incarcerated. again, i know that -- >> let me ask you -- look, i have limited time, so i don't want you to filibuster. you either know the answer or you don't. how many people have been placed in solitary confinement concerning the events the january 6th? >> i don't have any information about that, sir. >> it was sad, senator lee just asked you about this.
back in june of 2021, senator leon and i and two other senators sent a letter to the department of justice asking these questions, asking about the differential prosecutions. let me ask you, during 2020, black lives matter and antifa riots all across the country, there were over 700 police officers injured by black lives matter and antifa riots. how many people have been charged with crimes of violence concerning those riots all across the country? >> i would say hundreds of people have been charged. >> you would say but you don't know. when we asked you why the biden department of justice has such wildly disparate standards, going after january 6th, targeting some who committed crimes of violence, and anyone who commit crimes of violence should be prosecuted, but also targeting a lot of non-violent individuals, we asked you why you won't target the rioters or terrorists that hit parts of
this country. the answer we got back was shameful. you wrote back and said, quote, the department's prosecutorial offenses commiserate with these events. i guess that means the white house, and i can tell you people are very concerned about the politicization under president biden. the doj refused to answer the letter today when you were asked about it. every answer was i don't know, i don't know, i don't know. you're under oath. you may believe to the department of justice you're unaccountable to the american people, but that is not the case, and the wildly disparate standards are unacceptable. ms. sanborn, i want to turn to the fbi. how many fbi agents or confidential informants actively participated in the events of january 6th? >> sir, i'm sure you can appreciate that i can't go into the specifics of sources and methods. >> did any fbi agents or confidential informants actively participate in the events of january 6th, yes or no? >> sir, i can't answer that.
>> did any fbi agents or confidential informants commit crimes of violence on january 6th? >> i can't answer that. >> did fbi informants actively incite crimes of violence on january 6th. >> i can't answer that. >> who is ray epps? >> i'm aware of the individual, sir. i don't have the specific background of him. >> well, there are a lot of people who are understandably very concerned about mr. epps. on the night of january 5th, 2021, epps wandered around the crowd that had gathered, and
there's video out there of him chanting, tomorrow we need to get into the capitol, into the capitol. this was strange behavior. so strange that the crowd began chanting, fed, fed, fed, fed, fed! ms. sanborn, is ray epps a fed? >> sir, i cannot answer that question. >> the next day, on january 6th, mr. epps is seen whispering to a person, and five seconds later, five seconds after he's whispering to a person, that same person begins to forcibly
tear down the barricades. did mr. epps urge them to tear down the barricades? >> sir, similar to the other answers, i cannot answer that. >> shortly thereafter, the fbi put out a public post seeking information on individuals connected with violent crimes on january 6th. among those individuals on the bottom there is mr. epps. the fbi publicly asked for information identifying, offering cash rewards for information leading to the arrest. this was posted, and then sometime later, magically mr. epps disappeared from the public posting. according to public records, mr. epps has not been charged with anything. no one has explained why a person videoed urging people to go to the capitol, a person whose conduct was so suspect, the crowd believed he was a fed
would magically disappear from the list of people the fbi was looking at. ms. sanborn, a lot of people are concerned that the federal government deliberately encouraged illegal and violent conduct on january 6th. my question to you, and this is not an ordinary law enforcement question, this is a question of a public accountability. did federal agents or those in service of federal agents actively encourage violent and criminal conduct on january 6th? >> not to my knowledge, sir. >> thank you. >> senator leahy? >> thank you, mr. chairman. i'm sure the witnesses can hear me well enough that i won't have to shout. sometimes, you know, there are two sides to a story. but that just doesn't hold true for the events of january 6 and the threat of domestic terrorism we face today.
the violent attack of january 6 was perpetrated in significant part by domestic violent extremists, with white supremacist and idealogic idealogies. that is the most lethal threat we face as a democracy today. as a prosecutor, i can tell you i feel violent extremism in any form is unacceptable and i so prosecute that way. but to downplay the most clear and present danger we have facing all americans creates a real danger to the united states. last week -- we have to come together as members of this senate and face reality and the truth. last week i asked you what would happen if capitol police were held to last year's fiscal
funding levels and did not receive increased funding as part of the a fiscal year 2022 funding package. he told me it would seriously undermine the capitol police in protecting the capitol. addressing extreme terrorism is a job of the fbi department. in the budget request, the appropriations committee has released a bill that would dramatically increase that funding to respond to the dangers. so i'd ask this question. mr. olsen, if congress fails to enact these funding increases for fiscal year '22, how would it impact the department's ability to comprehensively respond to the terrorism we face? >> i know the department of justice and the administration has submitted a budget request
asking for additional resources, and obviously those resources are being requested because we've viewed those as essential to being able to carry out our mission, so i would suggest to you the submissions on our budget request with respect to those appropriations. >> thank you. ms. sanborn, it's good to see you again. i'm one of the ones who have been here long enough to remember when you were a senate page, and i appreciate the things you've accomplished since then. but can you answer the same question i asked mr. olsen about these funding increases from the
fbi's perspective? >> yes, sir, i am aware that we have requested a budget enhancement. right now we use the resources we have, but as alluded to by mr. olsen, we have requested an enhancement specifically for violent extremism. >> thank you. your testimony discusses the concrete steps that the justice department addresses first to mr. olsen, but -- and then, ms. sanborn, you talked about the steps the justice department has taken for countering domestic terrorism, finding ways to counter domestic conspiracy theories online. we know that domestic violent extremists pay attention to the rhetoric of political leaders. that includes, for example, the
rhetoric of calling the january 6th rioters political prisoners, sending a signal they did nothing illegal. that frightens me, so mr. olsen and ms. san southern, how does this impact the thinking and action of violent extremists? does it make recruitment of this action? that's what i'm asking. >> i would defer to ms. sanborn, but there is no doubt that misinformation, disinformation, false narratives at the intelligence community are available online to violent extremists. whether that's domestic violent extremists or those who may be influenced by international terrorist groups and the
availability of social media being an accelerant to an individual's movement, as you mentioned, senator, from simply being susceptible to those movements to being radicalized and eventually being mobilized to violence. we've seen this same pattern occur in both the international terrorism context when it comes to isis and their propaganda as we've seen on the domestic violent extremist side with regard to domestic, political and social influences. so it's a significant problem. >> ms. sanborn? >> i would agree with that. bottom line is violent extremist material on the internet reaches those vulnerable to recruitment, so we're concerned about that on, quote, unquote, misinformation. we know our adversaries would do everything they could to include information to sow discord. >> i yield. >> thank you, senator lee. senator cotton? >> you signed a letter for
keeping the courthouse safe. it said, marked cars should only be used in certain circumstances. crowd control is not among those circumstances. mr. olsen, on january 6, 2021, did the department of justice or the fbi have any plainclothes officers among the crowd at the capitol? >> senator, i'm not aware of whether or not there were plainclothes officers among the crowd at the capitol on january 6. >> did any plainclothes officers enter the capitol on january 6th? >> i don't know the answer to that, senator.
>> mr. olsen, i've got to say your answers to many questions today are disappointing because they boil down to essentially "i don't know." did you prepare for this hearing? did you know this hearing was happening before this morning? >> the direct answer, yes, i prepared extensively, senator. many of the questions are about specific information that i don't have available. the most important points that i would emphasize is as a general matter, it's not appropriate to comment on ongoing investigations -- >> i didn't ask you about an ongoing investigation. i just flipped to the cover of my binder and it says the title of this hearing is the domestic terrorism threat one year after
january 6. the attorney general has repeatedly said this is one of the department's highest priorities. you're testifying at a hearing about the domestic terrorism threat one year after january 6 and you can't answer questions about how many people have been charged for events rising out of january 6. would you go into a briefing with the attorney general, your boss, and not be able to answer such basic questions? >> on the last question you asked, senator, over 700 people have been charged in connection with january 6. about 325 have been charged with serious felonies in connection with the attacks. >> ten minutes ago senator cruz asked you this series of questions and you didn't have the answer. you didn't have the answer about how many people were charged with violent offenses, non-violent offenses? have you been given the answer in the last ten minutes? >> i'm sorry if i misunderstood,
senator, but i believe senator cruz was asking me about other events, not the january 6 event. >> let's turn to another issue that came up earlier today, ray epps. during the january 6 riots last year, mr. epps was caught on video several times. he seemed to encourage people to enter the capitol, to break down police barriers. video from the rally down the national mall earlier that day shows him doing the same thing. video, even, from the night before shows him encouraging people to enter the capitol. ray epps lives in arizona. he didn't exactly go underground after january 6. he even gave an interview to local media and he was well known to the department of justice. he was on the fbi's capitol riot most wanted page just days after january 6. in fact, he was one of the first 16 suspects added to that most wanted page on your website. it doesn't appear he's been arrested or charged with any offense. in july, without explanation, he was removed from the fbi's most wanted page. mr. olsen, who is ray epps, and why was he removed from the fbi's most wanted list?
>> senator, i don't have any information about that individual. i would defer to ms. sanborn for anything additional. >> this gets back to what i meant earlier, asking if you prepared for this hearing. you're the assistant attorney general for national security. you run the national security division. the department has said that these january 6 prosecutions are one of their highest priorities. this is a man who was on the most wanted page for six months. do you really expect us to believe that you've never heard of the name ray epps, you don't know anything about him? >> i simply don't have any information at all, senator, about that individual. >> what other suspects on the most wanted page do you know nothing about? >> senator -- >> can you name anyone else on
the department of justice's most wanted page? >> i'm sorry, i didn't hear your question. >> can you name anyone else on the department of justice's most wanted page from the january 6 riots? >> i'm not familiar with the most wanted page. >> i guess we'll have to seek our answers elsewhere, but has not been a stellar performance today. >> senator whitehouse, are you online? >> i am. >> please proceed. >> thank you. mr. olsen, as a legal matter, are violent acts and threats of violence protected by the first amendment? >> senator, no. violent acts and threats of violence are not protected. >> are they crimes, indeed, sometimes federal crimes? >> they can be both state and federal crimes, senator, yes. >> and if violence or threats of violence occur at a school board
meeting, is there any difference there from other locations? >> not from the perspective of whether or not those acts would be considered crimes under either state or federal law. >> it's the conduct itself, not the location of the conduct that determines the offense, correct? >> that's correct. as a general matter, that's correct. >> ms. sanborn, how long has the fbi coordinated with local communities regarding terrorism threats? >> sir, i don't have the specifics for you, but the jttf, for example, was stood up in 1980, so talking with communities and partners for years, yes, sir. >> and that includes domestic terrorism threats? >> absolutely.
as i said, jttf was created out of a domestic terrorism threat issue we were dealing with. >> and all 94 of the attorneys' offices were tasked with setting up a local group to gather situational awareness regarding terrorist threats, correct? years ago. >> my understanding, yes. i defer to mr. olsen to confirm whether i'm correct or not. >> tell me what predication is required to open an investigation of a domestic organization as a domestic terrorist group? >> sir, we do not open cases on organizations, we open cases on individuals. obviously we would build out if they were conspiring or
coordinating with others as we went throughout the course of our investigation, but we do not open cases on domestic groups. >> so if you wanted to send a confidential informant or an undercover fbi agent into a domestic terrorist organization, you would not be able to proceed unless you had specific evidence giving you predication as to specific individuals in that organization? >> correct, and i would add to it that the bottom line is we have to have an authorized purpose to collect the data we're seeking to collect, and that stems from being tied to allegations of a federal crime or interest in national security. >> and, mr. olsen, with respect to the january 6th assault, will the department of justice follow the evidence upstream to funders, organizers and instigators not present at the capitol assault if justified?
or put another way, does the department of justice have any policy or reticence not to follow the evidence regarding upstream funders, organizers and investigators? >> senator, as the attorney general discussed last week in his speech, the department will follow the evidence wherever it leads, and that's consistent with the direction that i have in my role as head of the national security division. >> and it's not uncommon in looking at a organized or multi-defendant event for the department to begin with prosecutions as attorney general garland suggested of low-level
people, whether it's street dealers and a narcotics organization or rioters or trespassers in the january 6 assault, correct? >> correct. in fact, i began my career as a federal prosecutor here in washington, d.c. and that is the standard approach that's taken in all manner of large conspiracy cases. >> and it's customary to do that first in order to obtain further evidence against upstream organizers or kingpins, correct? >> correct. and that work can be painstaking and requires a degree of patience and hard work to follow the evidence wherever it goes. >> the department is following that standard with respect to the january 6 investigation? >> that's correct. >> thanks very much. my time is up. >> thank you, senator whitehouse. there was reference in this hearing from senator cruz and
senator cotton about an individual named ray epps. i've never heard the name before. my staff has given me an article from "politifact" which i'm going to ask to be entered into the record. it notes that this individual and the circumstances of his being in washington on january 6 was raised by something known as revolver news, a website which is run by a former trump white house speech writer named darren beatty who was dismissed from the white house after appearing on the panel with a white nationalist. fox news host tucker carlson amplified his claim in a conspiratorial documentary series that attempted to recast the events of january 6. i know nothing further beyond that. i'm asking that this be entered into the record because it apparently has caught the
attention of senator cruz and senator cotton. at this point, senator hawley is recognized. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. mr. olsen, let me start with you. how many personnel in your national security division are working on cases or other issues surrounding the events of january 6? >> senator, that investigation is being led by the u.s. attorney's office in washington, d.c. there they have dozens of individuals, including people who have been -- prosecutors who have sent from around the country for that investigation. we have a main justice system to support that investigation. >> but from your division, how many? none? >> from my division i know there are at least three or four who have been working at least part-time on that case. >> how many people in your division have been working on the case involving garland's memorandum entitled "tribal and
territorial law enforcement on threats of violence by school board members, teachers and staff"? >> senator, with regard to that memo and that work, the national security division plays an informal advisory role. there's no one dedicated to that on any sort of full-time or even part-time basis. i think we're available to consult with if the facts warrant that level of confrontation with the national level. >> what have you done to date? this is the school board memo, for those following along here. what is it your division has done today so far with regard to memorandum and the department's effort here to track parents at school board meetings? >> with regard to the school board memo which, again, i understand is an effort to protect school board members, other public servants, teachers from acts of violence or threats
of violence, but from the perspective of the national security division, i don't think we've had any particular role or done anything in particular with regard to that effort. >> so you're not coordinating with local officials? >> i'm not aware, senator, that the national security division has played any role in any matter up to this date. i've been in the role for two and a half months, but i've not heard of anyone in my division having any role to play there yet. >> you responded to some questions from senator whitehouse just a moment ago about parents at school board meetings. the gist of the questions was it doesn't really matter if it's a school board meeting or elsewhere, if you commit acts of terrorism anywhere, then it's terrorism. is it your view that parents speaking out at school board meetings can be or are domestic terrorists? >> absolutely not. and my understanding of the attorney general's memo on this is that it is not about people
speaking out at school boards, it's not about people voicing their opinions, exercising their first amendment rights, it's about protecting, whether it's teachers, or for that matter, law enforcement officers or other public officials from threats of violence, criminal contacts. my understanding of senator whitehouse's question was really just about the location of various federal crimes, not necessarily domestic terrorism which are federal crimes, being beside the point when it comes to federal law enforcement. >> are department of justice law official still drawing up laws about whether parents can be prosecuted at school board meetings? >> i'm not aware that's ever happened. >> really? you're not aware that it's ever happened? did you watch the attorney general's testimony when he was here last when we read into the record a list of crimes that prosecutors and employees had prepared, had sent to local officials talking about crimes that parents could potentially be charged with?
a list which, by the way, was incorrect. it listed crimes that don't exist but that had been sent to local partners in at least one state, all of the local partners in one state. are you familiar with his testimony in that regard? did you watch that hearing? >> i am generally familiar with the attorney general's testimony, and in my understanding of both his testimony and his direction for the department of justice is to take the necessary steps that we can take whether it's enforcing federal law and working with state and local partners to protect individuals who both are serving in public service roles such as school board members and teachers and to protect first amendment rights of people who attend or speak at school board or other public meetings. >> well, here's my issue with that, is that what we have found consistently out of the department of justice is we can't get a straight answer as to why your division would be
involved at all with regard to school board meetings. the attorney general told us you wouldn't be whatsoever. it appears from subsequent reporting that you have been. we were told the parents wouldn't be charged with federal crimes, so we know the department of justice prosecutors have drawn up lists of federal crimes and disseminated them. the attorney general toll us that hadn't happened. we know from whistle-blowers that it has happened, and we can't get a straight answer as to why parents should ever be treated as domestic terrorists. i have other questions i would like to ask you. my time has expired so i'll give those to you and i'll ask you your knowledge of what the division is doing or not with regard to school boards. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator hawley. i believe senator booker is virtually available. >> yes, mr. chairman. >> senator booker, take it away. >> first and foremost, i think
your call to members on both sides of this committee is important and, unfortunately so, in terms of the necessary thing that i'm going with senator durbin condemning all types of political violence in our country. we are a nation that must firmly adhere the ideals of nonviolence and condemn those actors and they should be held accountable when it does happen. and i'm grateful for you calling on all of us to reaffirm that point. i want to start by talking about firearms on the day of january 6th. extensive video and photographic evidence shows that rioters on january 6th repeatedly acted violently towards u.s. capitol police and d.c. police officers. the rioters carried a variety of different types of weapons, including flagpoles, clubs, hockey sticks, crowbars, fire extinguishers, knives, bats,
stun guns, police gear and more. a pipe bomb was also discovered next to the democratic national committee's headquarters and it's been reported that vice president-elect harris was inside the building at the time. the justice department charges so far indicates dozens of individuals were carrying weapons of some kind. the rioters that day injured 140 officers, some of whom are still dealing with the impact of those injuries and potentially lifetime permanent damage to their bodies. one of the officers on that day, a new jerseyan, brian sicknick, died from the injuries he suffered. and, mr. sanborn, i understand you previously testified last year that the fbi did not recover any firearms. however, you stated that you were not aware whether the u.s. capitol police or the d.c. police confiscated any guns. based on the provisional review
of the justice department's filings, it appears that at least five individuals so far have been charged with firearm offenses. these include people who carried a gun onto the capitol grounds and others who brought a gun with them to washington. i would like to offer you the opportunity, mr. sanborn, to update your prior testimony. are you aware of approximately how many firearms were confiscated in connection to january 6th in total, or how many people we know now have had actual firearms, and can you describe the nature of the firearm charges that the justice department has filed so far? >> sir, yes, i'll start and i'll probably defer to mr. olsen on the charges, and i appreciate the opportunity. as i sit here today and i think that's important because as we
investigate, facts change. i'm aware of five individuals that had a charge related to a firearm. one of which was arrested by our state and local partners, not within the restricted area, however, on the day of january 6th. there was one other individual who was arrested, by our state and local partners in the restricted area on the day of. as a result of our investigation, we uncovered after the fact that three others, possibly, had been in the restricted area with a firearm. so we had evidence suggesting that they came in the restricted area and had on their possession a weapon. so i am aware of all five of those and hope that helps clarify, again, as we continue to follow the facts, some of that could change. >> i don't know if mr. olsen wants to add anything to that. >> only, again, senator, i'm aware, obviously, of the information you cited about how the -- those involved in the attack on the capitol did bring other weapons, in addition to the ones you're talking about,
firearms, other weapons, be bats, poles, pepper spray and the like. and then just the general point, senator, one of the lessons we learned from international terrorism is take an all authorities approach. when you look at the kinds of charges that may be brought, it may include firearms. in a domestic terrorism case, we look at all of the available federal charges that would be supported by the evidence. >> and mrshgs olsen, very quickly, in your written testimony that you said we face these obvious domestic violence extremists, some are motivated by ethnic animus, religiously so. i'm concerned about sheriffs who call themselves constitutional sheriffs. these are law enforcement officials who believe they are the an ri biter of what the law is in any given county, in their view, that power supersedes that
of other elected officials. this is deeply alarming, and it has white supremacist roots. and clear anti-government underpinnings. the founder of the constitutional sheriffs and peace officer's association who was a board member of the far right extremist group known as the oath keepers, called the federal government the greatest threat we face today. really quickly, my time is expiring, what kind of threat do these individuals who call themselves constitutional sheriffs, many whom are elected officials, really pose to our system of government and when looking at the threats from domestic violence extremists, does the department of justice see movements like the constitutional sheriffs as playing a key role in the radicalization of those who sympathize with antigovernmental views? >> senator, i am familiar with that group from public reporting.
i would say as a general matter, what we do know is that there has been, particularly of the last year, a significant rise in the threat from antigovernment, antiauthority violent extremists. again, focused on actions and violence, not on speech, not on ideology, but we have seen a rise in that type of domestic violent extremism over the past year, so it is an area that we are focused on along with our partners at the fbi. >> and the rise is a relative term. what kind of increase are we seeing? >> i don't have specifics on numbers of cases. but it was a marked increase in my conversations with ms. sanborn in preparation for this hearing, this has been something that's been reinforced that this is a threat that's been elevated over the past year.
>> thank you, thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator booker. and i want to thank our witnesses for appearing before the committee today to testify. i would like to make one or two comments. first, i would like to address this issue of school board activity. i believe that mr. olsen was explicit, and i would invite him to restate it if necessary, that the ordinary appearance before a school board in a peaceful manner expressing your point of view is not a crime either by state or federal standards and that it -- many instances, if not all, it is protected speech. is that your testimony, mr. olsen? >> it is, chairman. if -- i don't know if i can be any clearer, but the attorney general said spirited debate is protected by the first constitution. this effort is protecting our public servants from acts of violence and threats of violence. >> and that is an important point. there are more and more public
servants even at the congressional level who are being threatened in ways they'd never seen before. and many of them, i've sadly have reached a point where they walked away from public service. rather than to endanger themselves or their family. and that is a reality. and i don't care whether it's a school board member or member of a city council or a member of a legislature or congress. whoever it may be, in public life, including law enforcement officials, deserve our best efforts to keep them safe. and i hope that the department of justice, when it reaches the appropriate level, if it does, will engage in that activity and i think that's what the attorney general is setting out to do. i might also add parenthetically, i personally know of no defense to domestic terrorism that you or a parent of a child in school. that does not absolve you from your legal responsibility to be nonviolent in your activity. i'm not going to ask you to
comment on that. that's my own personal point of view. that's the way i feel. when i listen to these comments about inhibiting parents from testifying at school boards, i don't see that at all in terms of the policies of the administration. it is only when it crosses that unacceptable line of violence that should be the province of the federal government to interject itself. thank you for your testimony. today's hearing made it clear that we're facing ongoing threats posed by violent white supremacists, militia violent extremists, other domestic terrorism sources, that it is violence on the right and on the left that we are mindful of and will set out to do everything we can to protect the american public from that. last week, we remembered one of the darkest days in american history. as we look forward, i hope that the committee and it's been stated, i want to say in all fairness by republicans and
democrats today, is that we are opposed to violence, whatever the source may be. it has no place in our democracy and the free expression of a person's political point of views. thank you to the witnesses and this meeting -- of the senate judiciary committee will stand adjourned. thank you. a new mobile video app from c-span, c-span now. download today. now a hearing on changes
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