The former top prosecutor for the US Capitol riot said former President Donald Trump might be “culpable” for the January 6 insurrection and federal investigators are “looking at everything,” according to an interview airing on CBS Sunday night.
Michael Sherwin, the former acting DC US attorney, also said he believes sedition could be a charge made against some Capitol riot defendants.
“It’s unequivocal that Trump was the magnet that brought the people to DC on the 6th,” Sherwin said in response to a question from “60 Minutes” about whether Trump is part of the investigation. “We have soccer moms from Ohio that were arrested saying, ‘Well, I did this because my president said I had to take back our house.’ That moves the needle towards that direction. Maybe the President is culpable for those actions.”
Sherwin noted that other rioters have acknowledged they went further than the President’s speech.
Sherwin’s candid comments come as he leaves his Justice Department post leading the Washington, DC prosecutors’ office and its sprawling investigation into violence at the Capitol. He was appointed to the job during the Trump administration. Attorney General Merrick Garland and Sherwin’s successor, acting US Attorney for DC Channing Phillips, have not directly addressed whether Trump will be investigated.
When CBS’ Scott Pelley followed up to ask Sherwin if investigators were looking into Trump’s role, Sherwin responded, “We have people looking at everything, correct. Everything’s being looked at.”
No public officials have been charged with crimes related to the Capitol riot investigation, and prosecutors have focused so far on bringing criminal cases against rioters who breached the Capitol grounds and against members of extremist groups who are alleged to have coordinated before the attack. Several of the defendants have pointed fingers in court at the former President, saying they believed his accusations of election fraud and responded to his call to come to Washington and march to the Capitol to oppose Congress’ certification of the election results.
There’s no indication a formal criminal investigation has been opened against Trump.
The ex-President, through a spokesman, has denied responsibility.
Sherwin didn’t answer when asked why sedition isn’t alleged yet in any of the more than 300 federal criminal cases.
“I personally believe the evidence is trending towards that, and probably meets those elements,” Sherwin said. “I believe the facts do support those charges. And I think that, as we go forward, more facts will support that.”
Sherwin has been saying for weeks that federal investigators were looking at bringing possible conspiracy and sedition cases.
CNN previously reported federal prosecutors have recommended sedition charges, but the move is awaiting approval from senior officials at Justice Department headquarters.
Some of the riot defendants already face conspiracy indictments approved by a federal grand jury.
While conspiracy charges in court would allege coordination between defendants, sedition is a more specific criminal law – similar to treason or rebellion – that is meant to respond to attempts to overthrow the US government. It carries a longer maximum possible sentence than conspiracy.
This story has been updated with additional details from the interview.