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US Justice Department denies rumors of pardons for Capitol rioters

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CHICAGO: Claims circulating on social media that US President Donald Trump plans to pardon suspects arrested over the storming of Congress on Jan. 6 are false, the Justice Department said on Monday.

Officials said charges have already been filed against several individuals, including a man accused of breaking into the offices of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The offices were vandalized and a number of items were taken, including her official podium.

“Please be advised that the information circulating on social media claiming to be from Acting Pardon Attorney Rosalind Sargent-Burns is inauthentic and should not be taken seriously,” a Justice Department spokesperson said.

“The Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney does not have a social-media presence and is not involved in any efforts to pardon individuals or groups involved with the heinous acts that took place this week in and around the US Capitol.”

The latest person to be charged over last week’s riot in Washington is Richard Barnett, 60, of Gravette, Arkansas, who was arrested on Monday in Bentonville, Arkansas. Photographs widely circulated in the media and on social media showed a man said to be him sitting in Pelosi’s offices with his feet on a desk. He is due to appear in federal court on Tuesday and will be extradited to Washington this week.

“The shocking images of Mr. Barnett with his boots up on a desk in the speaker of the House’s office on Wednesday was repulsive,” said Jeffrey A. Rosen, acting attorney general of the United States. “Those who are proven to have committed criminal acts during the storming of the Capitol will face justice.”

Michael Sherwin, acting US attorney for the District of Columbia, said: “This case is just one in a number that demonstrate the brazen acts that were committed at the Capitol on Wednesday. My office is committed to prosecuting all individuals who participated in these abhorrent acts to the fullest extent of the law.”

Steven M. D’Antuono, assistant director in charge of the FBI Washington field office, said: “This arrest demonstrates to all individuals involved in the Jan. 6 incursion into the US Capitol that the FBI will find you and hold you accountable for your crimes, no matter your location. We thank the FBI Little Rock field office for their quick assistance in bringing this perpetrator to justice.”

Barnett is charged with knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, and theft of public money, property or records. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison, though actual penalties for federal crimes are typically less severe than the maximum available.

Meanwhile Parler bosses said on Monday they are taking legal action after Amazon removed the social-media site from its hosting service, Amazon Web Services, on Sunday night. The action effectively removes it from the internet, unless it can find an alternative host.

Parler, which markets itself as an alternative to mainstream social-media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, is popular among Trump supporters and other conservative groups. Google and Apple had already removed it from their app stores amid a public outcry over the alleged role of some of the site’s members in the unrest in the Capitol.

Parler filed its lawsuit against Amazon in federal court in Seattle. It describes the decision to remove the site from its hosting services as “the equivalent of pulling the plug on a hospital patient on life support,” and demands that Amazon Web Services immediately restores them.

Trump’s accounts on Twitter and Facebook were suspended indefinitely in the aftermath of the riot in Washington as he faced accusations that he played a part in inciting the violence. This prompted more of his supporters to switch to alternative social-media sites — such as Parler, MeWe and Idobbinate — that are considered more conservative and promote their opposition to the perceived censorship by mainstream social-media sites of right-wing views.
 



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