FBI Predicted Extremists Were 'Very Willing To Take Action' Over 2020 Election

The FBI's analysis of possible outcomes was prepared months before the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The FBI predicted ahead of the 2020 presidential election that domestic extremists were “very willing to take action” over what they believed to be fraudulent election results, according to a redacted document obtained by NBC News.

The FBI report, obtained by the network through a Freedom of Information Act request, was prepared one week before the election and months before Donald Trump-supporting extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, urged on by Trump’s baseless claims that he’d defeated Democrat Joe Biden.

The analysis of possible outcomes following the election found that the “most likely” scenario was that extremists would be willing to take violent action if the election results were disputed but that “their capabilities to do so remain low, largely due to disorganization and law enforcement pressure.”

The exercise concluded that extremists’ “capabilities and willingness to take action likely would drive their reactions to a disputed election result, compounded with underlying grievances related to COVID-19 mitigation measures and racial justice tensions.”

Ethan Nordean, a member of the Proud Boys, walks toward the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Ethan Nordean, a member of the Proud Boys, walks toward the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

The report raises further questions about why law enforcement didn’t do more to prepare for a potential attack given the gathered intelligence. Though the House select committee’s investigation into the Jan. 6 attack largely laid blame on former president Trump for inciting the riot, the committee’s investigators also pointed to a lack of police preparedness.

“What happened at the Capitol was also affected by law enforcement failures to operationalize the ample intelligence that was present before Jan. 6, about the threats of violence,” former federal prosecutor Tim Heaphy, the committee’s chief investigative counsel, told NBC News earlier this year.

However, those judgments about law enforcement failures were ultimately left out of the select committee’s final report.

More than 1,000 people have been charged in the Jan. 6 attack, and hundreds have been sentenced to time behind bars so far. Earlier this month, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, former leader of the right-wing extremist group Proud Boys, was sentenced to 22 years behind bars ― the longest prison sentence handed down to any Jan. 6 rioter so far.

Trump has also been indicted on federal charges for his role in the attack. His trial, one of four he’s facing, is scheduled to begin in March.

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