MONTPELIER — Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan on Thursday called for a criminal investigation into Wednesday’s riots around the Capitol Building in the nation's capital, and the prosecution of anyone who may have contributed to them.
Including President Donald Trump.
“I am shocked, saddened, disgusted, and angry about the assault on our United States Capitol and our democracy yesterday. This was not a protest, but a brazen criminal insurrection. I am requesting that the Department of Justice immediately conduct a thorough criminal investigation and prosecute anyone, including President Donald Trump, for inciting and carrying out this riot,” Donovan wrote in the letter to Acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.
On Wednesday while legislators and Vice President Mike Pence were preparing to certify Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election, protesters gathered from across the country and ended up breaching the Capitol Buidling, resulting in Congress recessing due to safety concerns. Session later resumed in the evening, with the electoral votes certifying Joe Biden as the next president being certified early Thursday morning, acccording to media reports.
Donovan cited statute asserting that the DOJ is mandated to “protect our democracy, defend the rule of law, and hold accountable those who attempted to overturn the will of the American people.”
Donovan called for Rosen to fulfill his required duty in demonstrating that the United States is governed by and must adhere to the rule of law, “not mob rule.”
Donovan said he didn’t know the likelihood of an investigation or lawsuit.
“It is warranted,” Donovan said on a phone call Thursday. “What we saw yesterday, those were crimes.”
Donovan wasn't the only state or federal legal official to weigh in. According to a joint statement Thursday from U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald and FBI Special Agent In Charge Michael Paul, the FBI is currently actively seeking information to identify persons instigating violence in Washington D.C, and is accepting information and photos depicting rioting, unlawful actions and violence.
In a statement to the Associated Press, former United States Attorney General Bill Barr called the actions of the president "a betrayal of his office and supporters," and said "orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress is inexcusable."
Donovan said, given the level of anxiety and anger circulating the country along with the stressors of COVID-19, he supports the need for extra security at state and local levels.
“Vermont stands ready to assist you in any way necessary to investigate and prosecute the wrongdoers of this seditious act,” Donovan concluded in his release to Rosen.
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott issued a statement on Wednesday, calling the riots and violence “an unacceptable attack on our democracy.”
“The rioters have actively assaulted police officers, and they should immediately evacuate the Capitol Building or be removed,” Scott wrote. “Make no mistake, the President of the United States is responsible for this event.”
Scott accused Trump of organizing and inciting an insurrection of the United States government in order to overturn elections results which Scott called “free, fair and legal.”
“The fact is the results of this election have been validated by Republican governors, conservative judges and non-partisan election officials across the country,” Scott said. “There is no doubt that the President’s delusion, fabrication, self-interest, and ego have led us — step by step — to this very low, and very dangerous, moment in American history...Enough is enough. President Trump should resign or be removed from office by his Cabinet, or by the Congress.”
Local groups arranged for protesters to be transported to the grounds from around the country, and social media accounts showed video and photographs of large groups of people chanting phrases like “drain the swamp” while on their journey to the capital.
During the course of the riots, police say four people were killed and the D.C. National Guard was activated, according to media reports.
In videos shared online and posted to national broadcast outlets, protesters on scene could be heard shouting “four more years." The gathering turned violent when Capitol Police were forced back into the building as protesters broke windows and stormed the doors.
Once inside, video and photos shared widely online show protesters forcing their way into the Capitol chambers left vacant after legislators and Pence were evacuated for safety reasons. Photographs shared by news outlets pictured authorities and Capitol staff facing off with protesters through broken holes in the doors.
One protester was photographed in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office after he had presumably broken in.
On Thursday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted to social media that Trump's accounts on Facebook and Instagram have been blocked indefinitely and "for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete."
"Over the last few years, we have allowed President Trump to use our platform consistent with our own rules, ...we did this because we believe that the public has a right to the broadest access to political speech...But the current context is now fundamentally different, involving use of our platform to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government."