US lawmakers grill FBI director over 'inaction' ahead of Capitol attack
FBI Director Chris Wray

By Jan Wolfe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday questioned FBI Director Chris Wray over what they said were intelligence failures in the weeks before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler told Wray during the oversight hearing that the FBI needs to reckon with "intelligence failures" that left law enforcement ill-prepared for the deadly attack by Donald Trump's supporters.

"The FBI's inaction in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6 is simply baffling," Nadler said. "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."

Wray responded that on Jan. 5 an FBI field office in Virginia issued an explicit warning, sent to U.S. Capitol Police, that extremists were preparing to travel to Washington to commit violence.

Wray added that "almost none" of the 500 people charged so far with participating in the attack had been under FBI investigation previously, suggesting it would have been difficult for the FBI to have monitored 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, Wray said.

Asked whether the FBI was investigating Trump or his associate Roger Stone, Wray said he could neither confirm nor deny any FBI investigation.

"I'm talking about Mr. Big, Number One," said Tennessee Democrat Steve Cohen, referring to Trump. "Have you gone after the people who incited the riot?"

Wray responded: "I don't think it would be appropriate for me to be discussing whether or not we are or aren't investigating specific individuals."

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Scott Malone and Daniel Wallis)