WASHINGTON — FBI Director Christopher A. Wray called the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol an act of “domestic terrorism” and defended the bureau’s handling of intelligence in the days before a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed past police and threatened the lives of lawmakers.
“I was appalled that you, our country’s elected leaders, were victimized right here in these very halls. That attack, that siege, was criminal behavior. It is behavior that we, the FBI, view as domestic terrorism.”
Wray is facing questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing delving into the bureau’s handling of threats posed by domestic terrorists and right-wing extremists in advance of the Capitol siege.
The FBI had come under fire from lawmakers and former Capitol security officials who said it didn’t share enough or adequate intelligence to help them prepare for the insurrection.
In response to questions from Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the committee, Wray pushed back on such criticism, saying his agency acted appropriately in how it shared raw intelligence Jan. 5 warning that President Trump supporters were gearing up for “war” in Washington.
“Our folks made the judgment to get that information to the relevant people as quickly as possible,” Wray said, adding that agents sent the warning via email, verbally at a command post and added it to a database available to law enforcement.
However, Wray said, “I do not consider what happened on Jan. 6, to be an acceptable result. And that’s why we’re looking so hard at figuring out how can the process be improved.”
Last week, three former Capitol security officials, who all resigned in the wake of the attack, and the Washington, D.C., police chief testified that the FBI and other federal agencies provided them with no concrete warnings of what was to come.
“None of the intelligence we received predicated what actually occurred,” former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund testified Feb. 23 before a joint hearing of the Senate Rules and Homeland Security committees.
“We properly planned for a mass demonstration with possible violence,” Sund said. “What we got was a military-style, coordinated assault on my officers and a violent takeover of the Capitol building.”