There is no evidence that “fake Trump supporters” or leftists in disguise took part in the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, FBI director Christopher Wray testified during a hearing Tuesday, directly pushing back on a popular narrative among conservatives who deny former President Donald Trump‘s role in the siege.
“That siege was criminal behavior, plain and simple, and it was behavior that we, the FBI, view as domestic terrorism,” Wray told senators in his first testimony on Capitol Hill since thousands of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the certification of President Joe Biden‘s election.
Recent polls have shown that at least half of Republicans believe that Trump supporters were not the driving force behind the riots.
“We have not seen evidence of that at this stage,” Wray said.
Wray said the FBI has received nearly 300,000 tips that have led to hundreds of arrests. He said white supremacists and militia extremists were the most prominent groups identified so far. Investigations continue.
A January poll from the American Enterprise Institute’s Survey Center on American Life found half of Republican voters believe antifa, or the anti-fascist movement, was “mostly responsible” and not Trump.
A separate Washington Post/ABC News poll from January found 56 percent of Republican respondents believe that Trump bears no responsibility in the riots.
Wray said intelligence, so far, suggests the rioters fell into three categories of people—some who were peaceful or possibly rowdy but didn’t break the law, some who got swept up in the attack and committed low-level, non-violent offenses and a smaller group of people who came to the Capitol with plans to violently stop the election certification.
Trump had urged his supporters to come to Washington on January 6 for a “wild” protest. During a speech near the White House, less than two miles from the Capitol, Trump told supporters that he would join them at the Capitol, but he did not go. Trump waited for several hours before tweeting to his supporters that they should “go home” and “remember this day forever.” Videos from outside the Capitol showed rioters reading his tweets during the attack.
The claim that the attack was driven by left-wing or anarchist activists also has been picked up by prominent GOP lawmakers and brought up during hearings on the Capitol riots.
During a hearing with law enforcement last month, Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, read from an essay published on the conservative The Federalist website that suggested “fake Trump supporters” and “provocateurs” possibly connected to antifa were in the crowd that stormed the Capitol. Other Republicans and close allies of Trump have also questioned whether leftists were behind the riot.
Several Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have chided Johnson and others for spreading unfounded conspiracy theories.
Johnson has defended his line of questioning.
“We can’t just exclude it. And that’s what it seems like everybody’s trying to cancel out, particularly certain eyewitness accounts that maybe don’t fit their narrative. I don’t have a narrative. I’m trying to figure out what exactly happened,” he told reporters at the Capitol last week.
FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol on Capitol Hill on March 2. Wray is being questioned about the FBI’s preparation for and response to the riot that left five people dead and more than 140 injured. Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty