Trump Extremists, Who Breached Capitol, Face Communities' Condemnation
TONYA MOSLEY, HOST:
Federal investigators say they expect hundreds of criminal cases to be filed after last week's deadly riot at the Capitol. The people who took part in that pro-Trump march and the violence that followed also face a fierce backlash from the public. Some have lost jobs. Others face condemnation in their communities. A few have even received death threats.
NPR's Brian Mann has been looking into this and joins us now. And first, Brian, we've been hearing details about some of the individuals, but give us a better sense of the people who took part in this riot.
BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: You know, it was a really wide range of pro-Trump supporters, Tonya, some clearly fully radicalized - militia groups, white supremacists. Those people came with firearms. One man brought Molotov cocktails. Others brought the kind of zip ties you use to handcuff people. And there's video of rioters, of course, assaulting police officers - really brutal and frightening. And the DOJ says those are the individuals who will face the most serious criminal charges. But we've also learned people were there - who broke into the Capitol, came from all kinds of backgrounds. NPR has identified business executives, an attorney, a stay-at-home mom, a local public official. Many of them were making really militant remarks as they marched toward the Capitol. Jenna Ryan is a Trump supporter who sells real estate in Texas. This is from a livestream she posted that day on Facebook.
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JENNA RYAN: And you know what? If it comes down to war, guess what? I'm going to be there. Yep. I'll be fighting on the frontlines because I'm that kind of girl.
MANN: And Ryan later posted a photo of herself on Twitter next to a smashed window at the Capitol. I should say, Ryan didn't respond to NPR's efforts to ask her questions. In fact, a lot of folks we tried to contact didn't respond. Others told us they wouldn't talk. And many of them, Tonya, have been busy scrubbing their social media feeds since last Wednesday, deleting Twitter and Facebook accounts.
MOSLEY: OK, scrubbing their social media feeds - is that likely to work? I mean, can these people just go home, delete what happened that day and put it behind them?
MANN: Yeah, not going to happen, says the FBI. A lot of these folks left clear digital trail showing what they were up to that day. And in response, many members of the public have been working together to identify rioters from clues on social media. Steve Dantonio, head of the FBI's Washington, D.C., field office, talked to reporters about this yesterday.
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STEPHEN DANTONIO: We have received more than 100,000 pieces of digital media, which is absolutely fantastic. And we are scouring every one for investigative and intelligence leads.
MANN: And with that much evidence out there, the Justice Department is encouraging people who were there at the Capitol that day to go ahead and turn themselves in. And some people have been doing just that.
MOSLEY: As I mentioned, some rioters have already faced some personal consequences for these actions. What can you tell us about that?
MANN: Yeah, some of it's pretty intense. The town of Troy, N.H., had to shut its government offices after the local police chief, who was at the Trump rally, started getting death threats. He says he didn't take part in the violence that day. Other people who were at the Capitol have lost their jobs. Brad Rukstales, who was president and CEO of a tech company in the Chicago area, his company has confirmed in a statement that he was fired after being arrested. Ruckstales put out a statement acknowledging he joined the pro-Trump crowd who went into the building. He called it, quote, "the single worst personal decision of my life." Other companies in Maryland and Texas have confirmed they, too, fired employees who entered the Capitol that day.
MOSLEY: Brian, so many people were there that day. I mean, a lot of people had this question - how does the FBI decide where to focus its resources and who's most dangerous?
MANN: Yeah, it's a really big challenge, Tonya, again, because so many people who were there that day were making such threatening and violent remarks. Again, here's the FBI's Steve Dantonio.
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DANTONIO: Which of the individuals saying despicable things on the Internet are just practicing keyboard bravado or they actually have the intent to do harm?
MANN: So the FBI is working to sort that out. But what is clear is that many Trump supporters crossed a very serious line when they breached the Capitol's defenses and could face very serious costs going forward.
MOSLEY: NPR's Brian Mann.
MANN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.