Michael Sherwin, the federal prosecutor tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, told “60 Minutes” in an interview that aired Sunday night evidence collected thus far likely meets the threshold to charge some suspects with sedition.
Any person charged with sedition is effectively accused of attempting to overthrow the U.S. government and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Scott Pelley, the correspondent, pointed out that the U.S. government has not charged anyone tied to the riot with sedition, but he quoted the statute and said that it seems like a “very low bar” to bring the charge.
“But I will tell you this,” he said. “I personally believe the evidence is trending towards that, and probably meets those elements.”
He said he believes that the facts in some of the cases “do support those charges. And I think that, as we go forward, more facts will support that, Scott.”
Five people died as a result of the attack at the Capitol, including a woman shot by police and a police officer who succumbed later from injuries.
The political fallout from the riot has likely yet to have been realized. Former President Trump was impeached for a second time but not convicted in the Senate, and Republican politicians have criticized the military presence that they have compared to the Green Zone in Baghdad.
The New York Times reported that the last time that the government leveled sedition charges was in 2010. Alleged members of a Michigan militia were accused of plotting to instigate a conflict with the government, but a judge said the U.S. failed to prove the charge.
Sherwin, who is 49, was recently moved to a new assignment in the Justice Department but credited his team for bringing over 400 criminal cases since January. He estimated that 10% of the cases involved “more complex conspiracy cases” involving militia groups, including the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and Three Percenters.
“The most significant charge is obstruction,” he said. “That’s a 20-year felony. They breached the Capitol with the intent, the goal to obstruct official proceedings, the counts, the Electoral College count.”
“60 Minutes” pointed out that lawyers for some members of these groups proclaimed their clients’ innocence.
Sherwin said that he observed former President Trump’s rally to get a sense of the crowd’s temperature. He compared it to a carnival-like environment. He said that as the event progressed, he noticed some people in tactical gear who left the speeches early.
He said it was “unequivocal that Trump was the magnet that brought the people to D.C. on the 6th,” and asked out loud if Trump is “criminally culpable for everything that happened during the siege.”
He said the department has teams “looking at everything.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report