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FBI Director Testifies On Capitol Insurrection

NOEL KING, HOST:

Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, is testifying before Congress about the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. He's taking questions from a committee chaired by Democrat Dick Durbin.

(SOUNDBITE OF HEARING)

DICK DURBIN: The trauma of the tragic, harrowing day lingers on. This timeless symbol of our democracy still bears the scars of that attack.

KING: Capitol Police were overrun on that day by a larger and more violent crowd than they had expected. NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales is watching today's hearing. Good morning, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.

KING: What has Wray been saying thus far?

GRISALES: He told senators on the Judiciary Committee he was appalled at the Capitol attack and that members themselves were victimized right here in these hallways. Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF HEARING)

CHRISTOPHER WRAY: That siege was criminal behavior, plain and simple. And it's behavior that we, the FBI, viewed as domestic terrorism. It's got no place in our democracy and tolerating it would make a mockery of our nation's rule of law.

GRISALES: He noted the FBI has played a large role in charging these rioters. At least 270 people have been arrested, more than 300 charged. He also said the FBI approached some who planned to travel to D.C. that day and persuaded them not to come. And he said there was no evidence of, quote, "fake Trump supporters" or antifa playing a role here.

WRAY: OK.

GRISALES: But he's still facing some tough questions, such as, what did the FBI know? What did they share before the insurrection? And whether some former and current Capitol security officials have testified that an intelligence failure is what contributed here. Wray defended his agency's role there today and said on verified intelligence from the Norfolk, Va., office was shared with the Capitol Police. But, of course, there's still some outstanding cases, such as who planted the pipe bombs close to the Capitol that day and the assailant behind the death of U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick.

KING: Let me bring up something that you mentioned there offhandedly - domestic terrorism, right? It was very clear that he was going to take some questions about that today, not just about what happened on the 6 but how much of a problem this is in this country, you know, prior to the 6, as well. What has he said about it?

GRISALES: Yes, he's touched on that. He said he's been sounding the alarm on domestic terrorism since he joined the FBI in 2017. He compared it to a cancer. Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF HEARING)

WRAY: The problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country for a long time now. And it's not going away anytime soon.

GRISALES: This is an increasing focus for congressional Democrats who are investigating the Capitol attack. And Durbin pointed to this at the start of today's hearing on whether the FBI has a blind spot when it comes to these extremist groups. Last week, the committee's Democrats sent a letter to Wray raising concerns the FBI minimized the threat of white supremacists and other far-right extremist. Judiciary's also conducting a larger probe on domestic terrorism. And Durbin wants to know if resources are in the right place to defend against these groups. Today, Durbin noted that the rioters were part of a long line of domestic terrorists in this country that began with the KKK. Wray defended the FBI's approach, however, and said domestic terrorism threats of all stripes are being investigated, that the bureau investigates violence, not ideology. And he said he has seen the caseload of domestic terrorism case double from when he started from a thousand cases to 2,000 today. Also, arrests of white supremacists during that time has tripled.

KING: There are more hearings this week. Who else are we going to hear from?

GRISALES: Right. The Senate Homeland Security Committee will hold its second hearing on its insurrection probe tomorrow, focused on the military's role that day. And a House panel will hold a hearing later this week to expand on Capitol security budget measures. And by week's end, we could hear about a review led by retired Lieutenant General Russel Honore that should be completed.

KING: NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales. Thanks for this, Claudia.

GRISALES: Thank you much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.