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FBI investigators are tracking a significant volume of “concerning” internet buzz surrounding the Jan. 20 inauguration of Joe Biden, the agency’s director said Thursday.
The troubling statement, made during a televised briefing chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, comes as the FBI is simultaneously tasked with heading off threats to the inauguration and apprehending the hordes of rioters who stormed the US Capitol on Jan. 6 in an attempt to prevent Biden’s victory from being certified by Congress.
“We are seeing an extensive amount of concerning online chatter … about a number of events surrounding the inauguration,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray.
“Right now we’re tracking calls for potential armed protests and activity leading up to the inauguration,” he continued. “The reason I use the word ‘potential’ is because one of the real challenges in this space is trying to distinguish what’s aspirational versus what’s intentional.”
The FBI previously issued a memo to authorities in all 50 states warning of potential armed demonstrations at state capitols and federal buildings, an alert since extended to some local police departments including the NYPD.
“We’re concerned about the potential for violence at multiple protests and rallies planned here in DC and at state capitol buildings around the country in the days to come that could bring armed individuals within close proximity to government buildings and officials,” said Wray.
A crush of National Guard troops has descended on the Beltway since the Capitol riot, a figure now expected to hit 21,000 by Inauguration Day, officials said during the briefing.
Meanwhile, the nationwide manhunt for participants in the uprising — which left five people dead, including a US Capitol police officer — continues, Wray said.
“We and our partners have already arrested more than 100 individuals for their criminal activities in last week’s siege of the Capitol, and continue to pursue countless other related investigations,” said Wray. “Those help not only prevent those individuals from any effort to repeat that kind of activity, but also should serve as a very stern warning to anybody else who might be inclined to try to engage in that activity.
“From Jan. 6 alone, we’ve already identified over 200 suspects,” Wray continued. “We know who you are … and FBI agents are coming to find you.”
Pence — who was in the Capitol when the riot hit and forced to evacuate — voiced gratitude to Wray and other officials for their efforts in tracking down those responsible.
“Thank you for the FBI’s aggressive posture on bringing to justice those who desecrated the seat of our democracy last week,” he said.
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