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Senators to grill FBI Director Chris Wray over security failures during January 6 insurrection

FBI Director Chris Wray will finally have to answer questions about the January 6 insurrection when he appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, his first public testimony since the deadly riot occurred nearly two months ago.

The hearing will also mark Wray’s first public appearance since the White House announced in January that he will not be replaced as FBI director after serving in the same role under former President Donald Trump.

Wray’s team of federal investigators is currently chasing thousands of leads in twin efforts to prosecute people involved in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol and to try to prevent feared follow-up attacks in Washington and around the country.

While federal law enforcement officials have sought to reassure the American public in the months since the riot that they are up to the task on both fronts, their public remarks also lay bare the enormity of the challenge they face in tracking potential threats to not only the nation’s capital, but across the country.

Law enforcement officials have indicated to CNN that authorities missed key signs ahead of the siege, which left five dead and the Capitol ransacked, and the FBI’s preparations leading up to the day of the attack have come under scrutiny.

“There are threats to America today that we need to put in as a priority,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin told reporters Monday. “I think domestic terrorism, religious and racial based hate groups have become a major threat in America. I want to know if our intelligence operations have taken this into consideration in establishing their priorities.”

The Illinois Democrat said other January 6-related questions he thinks are important to get answered include: “What did he know? And when did he know it? And who did he tell? Those are questions that have been raised in other hearings. But he is the man of the hour. As head of the FBI, I think he has a special position, place, to answer the question.”

More than 267 individuals are facing federal charges in connection with the January 6 riot and the Justice Department continues to announce new arrests and charges.

Will Wray be grilled on ‘Norfolk memo’?

Wray is expected be grilled about allegations that the FBI did not provide any warnings beforehand that there would be a coordinated assault — a consistent theme during last week’s testimony from former officials who were responsible for security at the US Capitol yet deflected much of the blame for the failures that occurred that day.

Former US Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund told House lawmakers he only learned days before last week’s hearing about a bombshell FBI memo sent to his department on the eve of the insurrection with an explicit warning about potential violence.

The much-discussed “Norfolk memo,” named for the FBI office in Virginia where it originated, was a key point of contention at Tuesday’s Senate hearing as Sund revealed that the report reached his department before the attack but that he and other leaders did not see it.

“This is a report that I am just learning about within the last, they informed me yesterday of the report,” Sund said last Tuesday when asked about the memo, which was first made public by The Washington Post on January 12. It is unclear why it took six weeks for Sund to learn about that memo.

Questions about domestic terrorism

Charging documents continue to reveal new information about the extremists who took part in the US Capitol attack, including members of right-wing militant groups who prosecutors have charged with conspiracy-related crimes.

Yet lawmakers have indicated they remain less clear on the threat these types of individuals continue to pose and have unsuccessfully pressed law enforcement officials to justify the heightened security posture on Capitol Hill.

A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson told CNN last month that officials are not currently tracking any “credible or specific threats,” but continue to constantly monitor online chatter about potential violence in Washington, DC, and against members of Congress.

Wray is expected to be pressed for details about these threats, particularly after acting US Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman warned last week that militia groups involved in the January 6 insurrection want to “blow up the Capitol” and “kill as many members as possible” when President Joe Biden addresses Congress.

Article Topic Follows: National Politics

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