WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday blasted what he described as an “intelligence failure” in how the FBI handled threat information before the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, but he didn’t draw an immediate direct response from the bureau’s director.
Opening an oversight hearing featuring FBI Director Christopher Wray, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D.-N.Y., noted that the Jan. 6 attack “was planned in the open on popular social media platforms. Right-wing militia groups trained for it. Maps of the Capitol grounds circulated online long before the crowds arrived in Washington. And, of course, President Trump and his allies had been whipping his supporters into a frenzy for weeks.”
Nadler said that while he knew Wray took the matter seriously, “the FBI’s inaction in the weeks leading up to January 6 is simply baffling. It is hard to tell whether FBI Headquarters merely missed the evidence — which had been flagged by your field offices and was available online for all the world to see — or whether the Bureau saw the intelligence, underestimated the threat, and simply failed to act. Neither is acceptable. We need your help to get to the bottom of it.”
Wray did not initially answer directly. He noted that none of the more than 500 people charged so far had been under FBI investigation previously, suggesting that it would have been hard to have tracked them in advance.
“You can be darn sure that we are going to be looking hard at how we can do better, how we can do more, how we can do things differently in terms of collecting and disseminating” intelligence on domestic extremism, he said.
Wray did not address references by Nadler and others to the threats to the Capitol that were circulating on social media.
Wray was asked by two different Democrats whether the FBI was investigating the role of former President Trump and whether he incited the Jan. 6 riot.
He first said, “I’m not aware of any investigation that specifically goes to that but we have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of investigations related to January 6 involving lots and lots of different pieces of it and I want to be careful…”
But then, asked whether the FBI was investigating Trump — or any of his aides, or any members of Congress — Wray said he could neither confirm nor deny any FBI investigation.