Justice Dept. Walks Back Claim that Capitol Rioters Sought to 'Capture and Assassinate' Politicians

The Justice Department has walked back a previous claim that rioters sought "to capture and assassinate" lawmakers when they violently breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

"We don't have any direct evidence of kill capture teams," Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., told reporters during a Friday press conference, according to Reuters. 

Sherwin's statement contradicted a previous court filing regarding Jacob Chansley, the Arizona man photographed inside the Capitol wearing a headdress with buffalo horns. Chansley, 33, has been referred to publicly as the "QAnon Shaman" in a reference to the baseless and far-fetched conspiracy theory he believes in.

In the Thursday filing, which was obtained by PEOPLE, prosecutors wrote that "strong evidence, including Chansley's own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States government."

Following Sherwin's statements on Friday, however, Arizona federal prosecutor Todd Allison requested that a judge strike the line about rioters wanting "to capture and assassinate" politicians, CNN reported.  

Allison added in court that the assertion of an assassination plot "may very well be appropriate at a trial" but struck the line from the record for the time being, according to The Washington Post.  

"We do not want to mislead the court by discussing the strength of any specific evidence," he said. 

Chansley, who will remain in jail as he awaits trial, is described in the filing as "a self-proclaimed leader of the QAnon" and drug user who "demonstrates scattered and fanciful thoughts, and is unable to appreciate reality. 

"He is the shaman of a dangerous extremist group, putting his beliefs into action by attempting to violently overthrow the United States government," the filing states. 

Chansley was among the thousands of rioters motivated by President Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol building in a violent insurrection that led to five deaths, including a police officer.

The rioters forced members of Congress to evacuate and led to the pause of a joint session, which had been called to certify the Electoral College votes cast in the 2020 presidential election.

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