Rioters who stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday could face up to a decade in prison – because of an executive order signed by President Donald Trump during the Black Lives Matter protests last summer.
Addressing the violence in Washington, acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen vowed that the pro-Trump mob would “face the full consequences of their actions under the law” – and the Justice Department not rule out prosecuting the president himself.
Protestors who entered the Capitol building could face up to ten years in prison for “injury of federal property”, under an order signed by Trump himself during the anti-racism protests that gripped America throughout July.
“I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues – and combatting recent Criminal Violence,” Trump wrote on Twitter on 26 June, after people took to the streets following the murder of George Floyd. “Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country!”
Trump to be charged?
In his statement, Rosen said: “Our criminal prosecutors have been working throughout the night with special agents and investigators from the US Capitol Police, FBI, ATF, Metropolitan Police Department and the public to gather the evidence, identify perpetrators and charge federal crimes where warranted.
“Some participants in yesterday’s violence will be charged today, and we will continue to methodically assess evidence, charge crimes and make arrests in the coming days and weeks to ensure that those responsible are held accountable under the law.”
The Justice Department said on Thursday that it had not ruled out pursuing charges against Trump himself for his alleged role in inciting the mob that marched on the Capitol.
“We are looking at all actors, not only the people who went into the building,” Michael Sherwin, the US attorney in Washington, said.
Pardons for all
Asked whether such targets included President Trump, who told his supporters that they could never “take back our country with weakness” during a rally near the White House before the attack, Sherwin repeated that officials are “looking at all actors”.
“If the evidence fits the elements of a crime, they’re going to be charged,” he said. “All options are on the table.”
President Trump is believed to have discussed pardoning himself in the final days of his term, the New York Times reported – a move that would effectively place the office of the presidency above the law.
It was previously reported that Trump has considered a host of pre-emptive pardons for his family members – including his three oldest kids, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump – as well as son-in-law Jared Kushner and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.