Feds briefed Biden’s interim DOJ leaders on Capitol attack probe

Federal investigators leading the probe into the January 6 Capitol riot briefed interim Biden administration leaders at the Justice Department on Wednesday — their first day on the job — as the sprawling nationwide hunt for suspects continues, an official briefed on the matter said.

Prosecutors have charged more than 120 people, as of Thursday, and have taken steps to bring more serious charges, including charging a group of alleged attackers with conspiracy. The charges range from unlawfully entering the US Capitol grounds to assaulting police — and a few defendants face more serious counts of conspiracy or threatening a public official.

The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Wednesday increased the reward to $75,000 for tips about the pipe bombs found near the Capitol on the day of the attacks — a sign that investigators are still struggling to identify the perpetrators.

That elusiveness may indicate the person or people behind the bombs were more sophisticated in their operation, a law enforcement official said. Investigators have looked through hours of surveillance video and combed through cellphone site data to try to find those responsible.

Acting US Attorney for DC Michael Sherwin has publicly outlined a push to bring sedition charges against some of those involved. The briefing Wednesday for top Justice Department officials included Sherwin and FBI officials.

The department quickly changed leadership hours before President Joe Biden’s inauguration Wednesday when acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen announced his resignation.

Later that day, Monty Wilkinson — a career Justice Department lawyer and deputy chief of staff to former Attorney General Eric Holder — was named acting attorney general until Judge Merrick Garland is confirmed by the Senate, people briefed on the matter said.

Wilkinson is deputy assistant attorney general for human resources and administration. For a few hours — until Biden signs an executive order appointing Wilkinson — John Demers, assistant attorney general for the national security division, will serve as acting attorney general.

John Carlin, who served as the top national security prosecutor during the Obama administration, was selected on Wednesday to serve as the acting deputy attorney general. Carlin will remain in the role until Biden’s pick, Lisa Monaco, is confirmed.

The rest of the department’s leadership team took shape on Thursday as they announced filling a critical role in the solicitor general’s office. After previously serving as an assistant in the office, Elizabeth Prelogar was named the acting solicitor general.

Her job will be to represent the government before the Supreme Court, and she will face an enormous workload both reversing Trump administration legal positions and developing a defense strategy as Biden’s executive actions come under inevitable legal challenge.

All the announced acting positions within the agency will remain in place until Garland’s confirmation, according to a memo obtained by CNN, written by Assistant Attorney General for Administration Lee J. Lofthus.

“Please be advised that the list of assignments will change as additional appointments or designations are made. Also, for your information, all remaining United States Attorneys and United States Marshals have been asked by the incoming administration to continue to serve for the time being,” the memo notes.

FBI Director Christopher Wray, Demers, Inspector General Michael Horowitz, Director of the Bureau of Prisons Michael Carvajal and Director of the US Marshals Service Donald Washington, all of whom have termed positions, will remain until further notice, the memo said.