Congressional Republicans are reportedly freaking out after Federal investigators announced are examining records of communications between members of Congress and the pro-Trump mob that attacked the US Capitol.
The announcement came as the investigation moves closer to exploring whether lawmakers wittingly or unwittingly helped the insurrectionists, CNN reported Thursday, citing US officials briefed on the matter.
The data gathered so far includes indications of contact with lawmakers in the days around January 6, as well as communications between alleged rioters discussing their associations with members of Congress, the official said.
As noted in the report, “should investigators find probable cause that lawmakers or their staffs possibly aided the insurrectionists, they could seek warrants to obtain the content of the communications.”
With about 300 people facing charges, the investigation has shifted from the roundup of what law enforcement officials consider low-hanging fruit arrests of people accused of participating in the riot to those who allegedly conspired and planned the assault to disrupt the constitutional process of congressional certification of the election results.
A US official revealed to CNN that justice Department officials have assigned more than two dozen prosecutors, including some from outside Washington, to delve into more complex questions, including possible funding of insurrectionists and whether political figures, including lawmakers and staff, aided the attack.
FBI collection of phone metadata and geolocator data — permissible under federal law — was the subject of multiple lines of questions this week by some senators who pressed FBI Director Christopher Wray to reveal what investigators were doing with communications and financial data. Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Josh Hawley of Missouri suggested at a hearing Tuesday that the FBI could be overstepping its authority by scooping up communications data.
Hawley, who helped lead the effort to block congressional certification of the election results during the riot, expressed frustration: “How are we going to know what you’re doing with it and how are we going to evaluate the bureau’s conduct if we don’t know what authorities you’re invoking, what precisely you’re doing, what you’re retaining?” Hawley said. “You’re basically saying ‘just trust us.'”