By Aram Roston
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee chair is pressing the Federal Bureau of Investigation to explain how it failed to anticipate the violence of Jan. 6, despite having contact with several members of the far right Proud Boys in the months before the insurrection.
On Monday, the committee chair, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, wrote to FBI director Christopher Wray asking whether the agency had adequately pushed its sources in the extremist group to understand their plans before the Capitol attack that sought to block the certification of Joe Biden’s election as president.
Durbin’s letter came after Reuters reported last week that the FBI had received information from at least four sources in the Proud Boys over the years since 2019. The Judiciary Committee has oversight of the FBI.
“Given the FBI’s apparent relationship with Proud Boys sources,” the Illinois senator asked Wray, “why did the FBI fail to detect the threat that the Proud Boys and other similar militia violent extremists posed to the Capitol on January 6?”
The FBI did not immediately respond Monday to questions about the letter.
In court filings, prosecutors have described the Proud Boys as among the instigators of the fatal riot on Jan. 6, in which extremists sought to keep Donald Trump in office despite his electoral defeat. At least 18 Proud Boys have been arrested on charges ranging from conspiracy to assaulting police officers. At least six others associated with or accompanying the group have been charged.
As Reuters reported last week, Proud Boys leader Joseph Biggs declined to discuss his plans for Jan. 6 when the news agency interviewed him two days before the Capitol riot. But he said he would have told an FBI agent he knew, if he’d been asked.
Citing that report, Durbin asked Wray: “Did the FBI ask its Proud Boys sources for their plans for January 6? If not, why not?”
Biggs has said in court filings that he frequently reported information to the FBI about “Antifa,” a left-wing movement criticized by Trump and his followers. Biggs is now charged with conspiracy in the riot. He is appealing a judge’s ruling that he be detained until trial.
Proud Boys leaders maintain they never spoke with the FBI about the group itself. Instead, they say, they often shared information about Antifa members or, in other cases, told the federal agency about routes for planned marches.
Even before Jan. 6, the Proud Boys had become a well-known right-wing group that calls itself “Western chauvinist” and often engages in street fighting and violence.
(Reporting by Aram Roston in Washington. Editing by Ronnie Greene)