Donald Trump could face criminal charges over his role in encouraging riots at the US Capitol building, federal investigators have indicated.
Prosecutors say they are looking at ‘all actors’ involved in the unrest, which saw a violent mob attempt to stop lawmakers certifying the result of November’s election.
The shocking scenes – which led to five deaths and the discovery of two pipe bombs – came just hours after the president held a rally nearby at which he told supporters to ‘walk down to the Capitol’.
He said: ‘You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.’
When asked on Thursday whether prosecutors are investigating Trump’s possible role in inciting the clashes that followed, acting US Attorney in Washington DC Michael Sherwin did not rule it out.
He said: ‘I don’t want to sound like a broken record. We’re looking at all actors here.
‘Anyone who had a role and where the evidence fits a crime. ‘
According to the New York Times, White House counsel Pat Cipollone had warned Trump that he could face legal exposure for the riot because of his remarks at the rally.
The paper also reported that Trump has told advisors that he is considering pardoning himself for any crimes, and has asked whether he should do so.
Trump has spent the last two months refusing to concede the election and making baseless allegations of mass voter fraud that have been rejected by dozens of courts and Republican officials, including his former attorney general.
On Wednesday he turned his attention to the joint session of Congress, where Vice President Mike Pence was set to preside over the certification of the presidential election result.
Trump falsely claimed Pence had the power to refuse to accept a state’s ballots and turned on his deputy when he said he had no such authority.
At the rally, Trump told the crowd: ‘We are going to have to fight much harder.
‘And Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us, and if he doesn’t, that will be a sad day for our country. Because you’re sworn to uphold our Constitution.’
After telling people to ‘walk to the Capitol’, chaos quickly descended as rioters charged past security, broke into the building and clashed with police.
Trump failed to condemn the rioters’ actions at the time and even appeared to excuse their actions.
In a message that was later deleted by Twitter he wrote: ‘These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,’
He also sent a self-pitying video message urging ‘very special’ protesters to ‘go home’ adding: ‘We love you.’
After being locked out of his Twitter account for 12 hours, he made another statement today calling the riots ‘heinous’.
A total of 68 people were arrested in the immediate aftermath of the incident, and police have released images of other wanted people.
Prosecutors in Washington have filed 55 criminal cases in the past 36 hours, including 15 federal cases.
Sherwin said it was a ‘good start’ but ‘just the beginning’, indicating many more people would be charged.
He added that authorities will interview members of the Capitol police, who have been criticised for the apparent ease with which the complex was breached.
He said that if any Capitol police officers were complicit with the rioters, they will also be charged.
It comes as a federal murder investigation is launched into the death of a police officer who was killed in the Capitol Hill riots.
Brian D Sicknick, 42, is thought to have died after being hit over the head with a fire extinguisher as law enforcement clashed with the mob on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, a growing number of politicians are calling on Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office before the end of his term on January 20.
Reports have suggested he is opposed to the move, which could prompt Democrats in Congress to begin the process of impeaching Trump.
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