When President Trump signed an executive order to protect national monuments and memorials last summer he intended it to dissuade "anarchists and left-wing extremists" from defacing and destroying revered public property as violent uprisings broke out across the country — but now some of his most ardent supporters may be subject to its tough penalties.
In a statement issued on Thursday, acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen vowed that individuals involved in breaching security perimeters and storming the U.S. Capitol Wednesday while Congress met to certify the Electoral College votes in the 2020 election would "face the full consequences of their actions under the law."
Under the executive order, signed by Trump in June, "any person or any entity that destroys, damages, vandalizes, or desecrates a monument, memorial, or statue within the United States or otherwise vandalizes government property" is subject to a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
"Our criminal prosecutors have been working throughout the night with special agents and investigators from the U.S. Capitol Police, FBI, ATF, Metropolitan Police Department and the public to gather the evidence, identify perpetrators, and charge federal crimes where warranted," Rosen added in the statement.
"Some participants in yesterday's violence will be charged today, and we will continue to methodically assess evidence, charge crimes and make arrests in the coming days and weeks to ensure that those responsible are held accountable under the law," he continued.
While Rosen did not specifically mention utilizing the executive order, its punishment of up to 10 years in prison for the "willful injury of federal property" almost certainly constitutes the harshest penalty that the federal government can dole out.
In the weeks and months after its signing, the president frequently touted the new harsh penalty as a successful measure in preventing violence against such structures.
But on Wednesday, several Trump supporters paid no mind to the potential charges awaiting them as they brazenly smashed windows, invaded legislative offices, and damaged furniture inside the Capitol Building — one rioter even made away with a podium.
Justice Department sources reportedly told Fox News that federal investigators are now using facial recognition technology and other tools to identify rioters from the numerous pictures and videos posted on social media.