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Pro-Trump State Lawmaker Among Rioters Charged with Storming US Capitol


Trump supporters storm U.S Capitol Hill

A pro-Trump state lawmaker who filmed himself storming the U.S. Capitol and an Arkansas man who was photographed with his foot on the desk of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are among more than a dozen rioters charged so far by federal prosecutors as part of a far-ranging investigation into Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol, federal officials announced Friday.

Derrick Evans, a Republican member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, was charged with entering a restricted area on the Capitol grounds. Evans broadcast a Facebook Live video of himself breaking into the building with a crowd of rioters, at one point saying, “We’re in, we’re in, baby.” In an earlier video posted on Facebook, Evans warned that the rioters would storm the building.

The West Virginia lawmaker’s participation in the riots has prompted calls for his resignation and drew criticism from the state governor.

Evans could not be immediately reached. But his lawyer, John Bryan, said in a statement to CNN on Thursday that "it wasn't apparent to Mr. Evans that he wasn't allowed to follow the crowd into this public area of the Capitol, inside which members of the public were already located."

Arkansas resident Richard Barnett’s photograph, showing him smirking and seated at Pelosi’s desk, became an iconic image of the rioting, the first mass attack on the U.S. Capitol in more than two centuries.

Barnett, 60, was arrested in Little Rock, Arkansas, Friday morning and charged with entering the speaker’s office where he took some of Pelosi’s mail and left behind a note, federal officials said. He faces three counts: knowingly entering and remaining in restricted grounds; violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds; and theft of public money or public property, according to court documents released on Friday.

Barnett told a local television outlet in Arkansas that he was looking for a bathroom when he entered the speaker’s office. He claimed that he bled on an envelope on Pelosi’s desk and took it while leaving a quarter as compensation.

The two men are among 13 people charged so far in federal court in the District of Columbia in connection with the rioting. The charges were filed on Thursday and unsealed on Friday. In addition, about 40 others were charged in the D.C. superior court, the majority of them for illegal entry and curfew violations.

Among those charged in federal court, Lonnie Coffman, a 70-year-old Alabama resident, was charged with possession of an unregistered firearm and carrying a pistol without a license. Inside his pickup truck parked behind the Capitol, police on Wednesday found 11 Molotov cocktails that an official said “would essentially constitute homemade napalm.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray stressed that the charges announced so far “are just the beginning of the FBI’s ongoing efforts to hold those responsible” for Wednesday’s riots.

“We will continue to aggressively investigate each and every individual who chose to ignore the law and instead incite violence, destroy property and injure others,” Wray said in a statement.

Ken Cole, the first assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, said that the Justice Department assigned hundreds of prosecutors and agents to what is a fluid, 24/7 operation to identify and arrest the perpetrators.

“The department will spare no resources in our efforts to hold all of these people accountable, and it's going to be something that we'll be continuing to work on, in the coming hours, days and weeks as we pursue this investigation,” Cole told reporters on a press call.

The rioting and looting erupted Wednesday afternoon as hundreds of supporters of President Donald Trump, angry over Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in the November 3 election, stormed the Capitol that contains the House and Senate while lawmakers were meeting in a joint session to certify Biden’s victory.

Trump for weeks has falsely claimed that he won the election in a landslide but was robbed of his victory – a claim believed by many of his followers. During a rally near the White House on Wednesday, Trump urged thousands of his supporters to march to the Capitol to protest the election results.

The subsequent violence, which left five dead, including a police officer, temporarily halted the certification process, but lawmakers returned to the chambers later in the evening to certify Biden as the next president of the United States and Kamala Harris as the next vice president.

Trump was widely condemned for inciting the violence by encouraging his supporters to march on the Capitol. In a rare rebuke, former Attorney General William Barr, a staunch Trump ally while in office, said in a statement that the president's conduct "was a betrayal to his office and supporters."

Asked if federal prosecutors were examining Trump's role in inciting the violent assault on the Capitol, U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin told reporters Thursday, "We're looking at all actors here and anyone that had a role and the evidence fits the elements of a crime, they're going to be charged."

Just how many people will ultimately face charges remains uncertain. Capitol Police has said “thousands of individuals” were involved in “riotous” acts, with hundreds storming the building. With Capitol police letting nearly everyone walk free, federal investigators are now facing the daunting task of tracking them down around the country.

Cole said investigators have yet to determine how many people traveled to Washington to take part in the attack on the Capitol and the extent to which it was a coordinated act.

“We're not going to know that until we get to the end of the investigation,” he said.

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