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Probe Examines Whether Organized Groups Spurred Violence At U.S. Capitol


Today, the House of Representatives will vote on a measure to remove President Trump through the 25th Amendment, declaring him unfit for office. The effort is expected to fail and is considered mostly symbolic. But it opens the door to another vote tomorrow, when the House is expected to vote on an impeachment article, impeaching the president for inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol last week. Several Capitol Police officers have now been suspended. And as many as 15 other officers are under investigation in connection to that riot. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas joins us now. Ryan, good morning. Let's start with those suspensions. What can you tell us?

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Well, two officers have been suspended so far. That is according to Representative Tim Ryan, who leads the House subcommittee that is investigating the attack on the Capitol. One of the suspended officers took a selfie with a rioter, another put on a MAGA hat and was seen directing folks inside the building. The acting Capitol police chief also says that several other officers have been suspended pending investigation.

MARTIN: And then there's the criminal investigation. Some of the people who were there at the Capitol last week or participated in these riots, they sort of have made it easy on investigators because they were so open on social media.

LUCAS: They really were open about it on social media. They took photos and videos of themselves, posted them online. Some of the rioters, though, have been harder to ID. But investigators are getting help. As of last night, the FBI had received 70,000 tips from the public to help investigators identify and track down these folks.

MARTIN: I understand that investigators are also trying to figure out if there was an actual organization of some kind behind the attack. What can you tell us there?

LUCAS: That's right. And officials say it's going to take time, weeks, if not months to figure that out. One of the keys to unlocking that question may lie in the two pipe bombs that were planted the day of the insurrection. They were found outside the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee headquarters, which are both on Capitol Hill near the Capitol. Those bombs didn't go off. So they haven't received a ton of attention since last week. I talked to Chris Swecker. He's a former head of the FBI's criminal division. And he said those bombs suggest someone at least had done some planning.

CHRIS SWECKER: You can surmise that this person took the time to learn how to build the pipe bombs, built the pipe bombs after buying all the materials and then transported them to the scene, you know, at the Capitol. So that certainly indicates some preplanning on that person's part.

LUCAS: Now, the challenge for the FBI, Swecker said, is going to be to build out from there whether that individual was working in tandem with others and how it's connected, if it's connected at all, to the violence that happened at the Capitol.

MARTIN: How do they go about doing that?

LUCAS: Well, first would be identifying who planted those bombs. The FBI has put out a grainy photo of a suspect. The individual was wearing a gray hoodie, a white mask, black pants and black-and-white shoes. The FBI actually released new photos of the suspect's shoes and backpack last night. They think the shoes may be special edition and could help identify the individual. Now, FBI agents have been canvassing the neighborhood on Capitol Hill where these two bombs were found asking residents for safe footage from their Ring doorbells or businesses for CCTV footage. The devices themselves, I'm told, are still being analyzed at the FBI lab. And those could yield a lot of information for investigators, according to former FBI agent Dave Gomez.

DAVE GOMEZ: There are signature aspects to bomb-building, type of case, type of device and a timer. And all those components are evidence. There is nothing better for an investigator than to find an intact device.

LUCAS: Now, investigators can pull fingerprints, say, from those devices. They can trace back the materials to where they were purchased. And all of that can help lead to the culprit.

MARTIN: And, of course, we're looking towards the inauguration on the 20. Washington, D.C., the mayor there telling people to avoid the city and calling in the National Guard. NPR's Ryan Lucas. Thanks, Ryan. We appreciate it.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ryan Lucas
Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.
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