Evidence suggests Pence was in grave danger during Capitol riot

Mob came dangerously close to encountering the vice president, reports say

Federal prosecutors said there was “strong evidence” the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol last week aimed to “capture and assassinate elected officials,” but the head of the investigation cautioned Friday that the probe is still in its early stages and there was no “direct evidence” of such intentions.

Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, backed away from those claims later Friday, saying they have “no direct evidence at this point of kill, capture teams.”

Sherwin said there appears to have been confusion among some prosecutors in part because of the complexity of the investigation and number of people involved.

Reports earlier in the day said Vice President Mike Pence may have been in grave danger during the assault, according to the Washington Post, which reported that the vice president was not evacuated from the Senate chamber until 14 minutes after the Capitol was breached.

Several reports said Pence was hustled out of the Senate chamber with his wife and daughter only moments before the angry mob forced its way in, barely avoiding a face-to-face confrontation with Trump supporters who earlier chanted “Hang Mike Pence.”

Previously, Jim Bourg — a Reuters journalist among the raucous crowd — said he “heard at least three different rioters at the Capitol say that they hoped to find Vice-President Mike Pence and execute him by hanging him from a Capitol Hill tree as a traitor. It was a common line being repeated. Many more were just talking about how the VP should be executed.”

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The FBI has previously said it is actively investigating whether some rioters planned to kidnap members of Congress and hold them hostage.

The alleged capture-and-kill plans were first alleged in a Thursday legal filing urging an Arizona judge not to grant bail to Jacob Anthony Chansley, the man who calls himself the “QAnon Shaman” and who was seen wearing a Viking headdress during the uprising.

“Strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol and rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States government,” government prosecutors wrote, according to CNN.

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Elsewhere, a retired Air Force commander seen wielding zip-tie handcuffs during the riot planned “to take hostages,” a prosecutor alleged in a Texas court Thursday before a judge released the man to home confinement.

Lt. Col. Larry Rendall Brock Jr. was arrested in Texas Sunday after photographs from the scene showed him on the Senate floor wearing a helmet and tactical vest.

The 53-year-old man was also carrying plastic flex cuffs, which he claimed he found discarded on the floor and had planned to hand them over to authorities, reports said.

“I wish I had not picked those up,” he told The New Yorker magazine in an interview in the days following the insurrection.

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But Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Weimer disagreed with that explanation at a detention hearing Thursday, saying Brock came to the Capitol with diabolical intentions.

“He means to take hostages. He means to kidnap, restrain, perhaps try, perhaps execute members of the U.S. government,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Weimer said without providing details of the charges.

During testimony, an FBI agent did acknowledge it was possible that Brock had just picked up the cuffs as rioters stormed in and ransacked the chamber.

Weimer, however, noted that Brock’s “prior experience and training make him all the more dangerous.”

The prosecutor read social media statements made by Brock, including one posted the very day of the Capitol riot which said: “Patriots on the Capitol. Patriots storming. Men with guns need to shoot their way in.”

Weimer also read a termination letter from Brock’s former employer that said he had talked in the workplace about killing people of a “particular religion and or race.” Weimer also read social media posts in which Brock referred to a coming civil war and the election being stolen from President Donald Trump.

Weimer said Brock’s posts also referenced the far-right and anti-government Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters, a loose anti-government network that’s part of the militia movement. The Oath Keepers claim to count thousands of current and former law enforcement officials and military veterans as members.

There was no evidence that Brock carried a firearm during the siege, reports said.

Chansley, meanwhile, is scheduled to appear Friday for a detention hearing in Arizona court.

His lawyer revealed that Chansley, also known as Jake Angeli, is hoping for a pardon before President Trump leaves office next week.

“He loved Trump, every word. He listened to him. He felt like he was answering the call of our president,” Chansley’s attorney Al Watkins said in an appearance on CNN Thursday night. " My client wasn’t violent. He didn’t cross over any police lines. He didn’t assault anyone.”

Numerous photographs from the riot scene show Chansley bare-chested and decked out in face pant and pelts while wielding a spear with an American flag attached.

One image shows him standing at the dais where Pence had stood only minutes earlier as confirmation of Joe Biden’s electoral college victory got under way.

There, on a stack of papers left behind by lawmakers as they scrambled to flee the mob, Chansley wrote a note saying “it’s only a matter of time, justice is coming,” prosecutors alleged in the memo.

Chansley, however, told the FBI the note was not meant as a threat and went on to call Vice President Mike Pence a “child-trafficking traitor.”

Back in Texas, Magistrate Judge Jeffrey L. Cureton released Brock to home confinement, but also ordered him to surrender his firearms.

The judge also curtailed Brock’s internet access.

“I need to put you on a very short rope,” Cureton said, according to The Associated Press. “These are strange times for our country and the concerns raised by the government do not fall on deaf ears.”

Brock’s attorney, Brook Antonio II, said there was no direct evidence of Brock breaking doors or windows to get into the Capitol, or doing anything violent once he was inside.

“It’s all talk. It’s all speculation and conjecture,” said Antonio, who noted Brock’s long service in the military, including being reactivated after Sept. 11 and his four tours in Afghanistan.

After his arrest, Brock was charged with knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, but he is likely face additional charges once all the evidence is sorted out from a chaotic day in the nation’s capital.

President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed Congress in an attempt to overthrow confirmation of Joe Biden’s election win after Trump and others in the GOP for months spread the false notion that widespread voter fraud got Biden elected and cheated the incumbent out of a second term.

Dozens of judges across the country, including some nominated by Trump, have dismissed cases challenging the election results citing no evidence of malfeasance, and former Attorney General William Barr also said there was no sign of widespread fraud.

As Congressional offices and chambers were ransacked on Jan. 6, lawmakers hid the Electoral College ballots from the angry mob. Five people died, including a Capitol Police officer. A Georgia man who participated in the insurrection later committed suicide.

Federal agents have fanned out around the country and more than 100 people have been arrested so far.

Many suspects face a variety of misdemeanor charges like unlawful entry, disorderly conduct and theft. Those charges, however, are likely to be upgraded to federal felonies with lengthy prison terms as the investigation continues to uncover the full scale and depth of the attack, reports said.

A team of federal prosecutors is seeking to file more serious charges including sedition and conspiracy, according to Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

Information provided by The Associated Press was used to compile this report.

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