Intelligence report: Capitol riot has emboldened domestic extremists who now pose 'greatest domestic terrorism threats in 2021'

Crystal Hill
·Reporter

The insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week will likely spur domestic extremists to carry out more violent attacks, according to a government intelligence bulletin obtained by Yahoo News.

The Joint Intelligence Bulletin, a product of the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and National Counterterrorism Center, uses stark language not previously seen in similar government warnings, such as blaming violence on “false narratives” that the 2020 presidential election “was illegitimate, or fraudulent, and the subsequent belief its results should be contested or unrecognized.”

The document details the range of “domestic violent extremists” at the Capitol on Jan. 6, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the building while Congress counted Electoral College votes, forcing the legislators to evacuate the building. Rioters smashed windows, assaulted Capitol Police officers and trespassed in lawmakers’ offices, including the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The attack left at least five people dead. Law enforcement found multiple explosive devices in the area.

The attack, the report said, is likely part of an ongoing trend in which extremists use demonstrations to carry out ideologically motivated violence.

Federal authorities also believe it will “likely serve as a significant driver of violence for a diverse set of [domestic violent extremists]” motivated by racially motivated bigotry, QAnon conspiracies, and other fringe views, according to the report. These extremists “will very likely pose the greatest domestic terrorism threats in 2021.”

“These [extremists] and others may also perceive the event as a step toward achieving their initiatives, and consider the death of a perceived like-minded individual as an act of martyrdom,” the report said.

The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump supporters
Trump supporters trying to break through a police barrier on Jan. 6, 2021. (Julio Cortez/AP)

The National Counterterrorism Center declined to comment on the report, but said in a statement to Yahoo News that its role concerning domestic terrorism “is one of support to the FBI and DHS, and includes ensuring that primary federal agencies and state, local and tribal partners have access to and receive all-source intelligence support needed to execute their CT plans or perform independent, alternative analysis.”

The FBI also declined to comment on the bulletin, but told Yahoo News that the agency is “supporting our state, local, and federal law enforcement partners with maintaining public safety in the communities we serve.”

“Our efforts are focused on identifying, investigating, and disrupting individuals that are inciting violence and engaging in criminal activity,” the statement said. “As we do in the normal course of business, we are gathering information to identify any potential threats and are sharing that information with our partners. The FBI respects the rights of individuals to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights. Our focus is not on peaceful protesters, but on those threatening their safety and the safety of other citizens with violence and destruction of property.”

Although the Capitol attack has led to criminal charges for more than 70 individuals involved, the intelligence bulletin said that some extremists view the riot as a success, a belief that could inspire others to commit “more sporadic, lone actor or small cell violence” against common targets of extremist violence, such as racial, ethnic or religious minorities and institutions like government buildings.

“Criminal activity by rioters targeting members of the media is also indicative of an increased and prolonged threat of targeted violence against members of the press due to perceived complicity in a system hostile to their beliefs,” the report said.

National Guard troops
Hundreds of National Guard troops hold inside the Capitol Visitor's Center to reinforce security at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Authorities note in the report that some of the rioters displayed symbols that are associated with violent extremists, such as the Confederate flag, neo-Nazi and QAnon symbolism and nooses; journalists were harassed and threatened at the scene, and the phrase “Murder the media” was found scratched onto a door inside the Capitol.

The report said that “amplified perceptions” of fraudulent activity during the presidential election, coupled with perceived government or law enforcement overreach could lead to an increase in violence from extremists.

President Trump wasn’t directly blamed in the report but he’s been widely maligned by House and Senate lawmakers this past week for allegedly inciting the Capitol riot last week with his false allegations of voter fraud. Trump had given a speech before the riot at a rally on the National Mall, where he repeated false claims about the election being stolen from him and urged his supporters to fight back.

Trump denounced the violence in a video released Wednesday evening, about a week after he told the rioters he loved them and that they were “very special.”

Members of the National Guard
Members of the National Guard stand with riot gear laid out near Capitol Hill on Wednesday. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Earlier Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump on charges of “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the Jan. 6 siege, making him the only U.S president to be impeached twice.

The Capitol attack has raised safety concerns regarding the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20. Federal authorities said in the DHS report that since the Jan. 6 riot, “violent online rhetoric” about the inauguration has increased, with some calling for “justice” for the death of Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran who was fatally shot by a U.S. Capitol Police employee during the riot.

Without naming Babbitt, the report described her as “an alleged QAnon supporter who traveled to [Washington], engaged in lawful protests, entered the U.S. Capitol illegally, and was shot by law enforcement as she attempted to gain access to a restricted area, subsequently succumbing to her injuries, according to open source reporting.”

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