Sasse: Capitol rioters 'came dangerously close to starting a bloody constitutional crisis'

Sen. Ben SasseBen SasseToomey warns GOP colleagues to stay away from earmarks Bipartisan lawmakers signal support for Biden cybersecurity picks To encourage innovation, Congress should pass two bills protecting important R&D tax provision MORE (R-Neb.) on Friday urged "every American" to consider the seriousness of reports from the Department of Justice (DOJ) that some of the rioters who stormed the Capitol last week intended to capture and possibly kill elected officials.

In court documents filed on Thursday, federal prosecutors in Arizona alleged that some of the individuals who stormed the Capitol building intended to harm elected officials. The detail was part of a court filing submitted in a push to keep Jacob Anthony Chansley, known as “QAnon Shaman,” in detention. 

The prosecutors maintained that “strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States Government.”


However, federal officials later on Friday walked back claims in the Arizona filing that rioters wanted to harm elected officials. 

In a statement to The Hill, a spokesperson for the U.S. attorney's office in Arizona said that line about the rioters was struck from the memorandum at the request of the government during a court hearing. Acting U.S. Attorney for D.C. Michael Sherwin, said that there was "no direct evidence" to back up these claims. 

Sasse, in a statement obtained by The Hill on Friday, warned that "rage-peddlers" are going to try to "white wash" the events at the Capitol, adding that Americans should not accept that the attack was a result of the actions of "a few bad apples." 

"That’s wrong. Every American needs to understand what the Department of Justice has just made public: Investigators have strong evidence to suggest that some of the rioters who stormed the United States Capitol planned to kidnap and possibly assassinate the Vice President," Sasse said. 

A mob of pro-Trump rioters attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden administration still seizing land near border despite plans to stop building wall: report Olympics, climate on the agenda for Biden meeting with Japanese PM Boehner on Afghanistan: 'It's time to pull out the troops' MORE's Electoral College win. Rioters broke windows and vandalized lawmakers' offices, forcing members, staff and media to evacuate to undisclosed locations.


Rioters could be heard chanting about violence against Vice President Pence during the event, and a photojournalist reported on Twitter that he heard people in the mob talking about finding the vice president, The Guardian reported.

Pence, who was was overseeing Congress's certification of the electoral count, had faced mounting pressure from President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden administration still seizing land near border despite plans to stop building wall: report Illinois House passes bill that would mandate Asian-American history lessons in schools Overnight Defense: Administration says 'low to moderate confidence' Russia behind Afghanistan troop bounties | 'Low to medium risk' of Russia invading Ukraine in next few weeks | Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats he MORE to throw out election results. Pence emphasized in a letter before the riot that he did not believe he had the constitutional authority to reject Electoral College votes.

Sasse on Friday underscored that rioters who stormed the Capitol and sought to harm elected officials "weren’t drunks who got rowdy — they were terrorists attacking this country’s constitutionally-mandated transfer of power."

"They failed, but they came dangerously close to starting a bloody constitutional crisis," he added.

The Nebraska Republican called for each of the rioters to be prosecuted while appealing to all Americans to help "lower the temperature.”


Sasse's statement comes as the FBI has reported increased chatter online about potential violence in Washington, D.C., and at state Capitols across the country around Biden's inauguration. Security has been ramped up since the riots, and more than 20,000 National Guard members are expected to be in D.C. for the inauguration.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said Thursday that more than 100 people across the country have been arrested in connection to the Jan. 6 riot, with dozens more expected to face charges.

Updated: 7:50 p.m.