On Saturday, The Washington Post reported that the Justice Department is considering charging only the Capitol rioters who were engaged in specific acts of violence, vandalism, or threats — a decision which would potentially let walk hundreds of people who illegally entered the Capitol but are not accused of any additional crimes while inside.
"Justice Department officials have promised a relentless effort to identify and arrest those who stormed the Capitol that day, but internally there is robust back-and-forth about whether charging them all is the best course of action," reported Devlin Barrett and Spencer Hsu. "That debate comes at a time when officials are keenly sensitive that the credibility of the Justice Department and the FBI are at stake in such decisions, given the apparent security and intelligence failures that preceded the riot, these people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss legal deliberations."
"Federal officials estimate that roughly 800 people surged into the building," said the report. "Among those roughly 800 people, FBI agents and prosecutors have so far seen a broad mix of behavior — from people dressed for military battle, moving in formation, to wanton vandalism, to simply going with the crowd into the building. Due to the wide variety of behavior, some federal officials have argued internally that those people who are known only to have committed unlawful entry — and were not engaged in violent, threatening or destructive behavior — should not be charged, according to people familiar with the discussions."
Also potentially driving the proposal, said the report, is the fact that charging hundreds of people at the D.C. courthouse could put a huge strain on the justice system, as each trial takes an enormous amount of time and money.
No official decision has been made on the matter yet, according to the report, and some prosecutors are strongly opposed to it, "arguing that it is important to send a forceful message that the kind of political violence and mayhem on display Jan. 6 needs to be punished to the full extent of the law, so as to discourage similar conduct in the future."
Already numerous rioters have been arrested by state and federal authorities, including the man accused of throwing a fire extinguisher at Capitol Police.