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STORY BY ALEXANDER MALLIN AND LUKE BARR

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Published on March 3, 2021 11:53 PM

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Mandel Ngan/Getty Images FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, on Capitol Hill on March 2, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Testifying in front of Congress for the first time since the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers Tuesday he was "appalled" about the violent attack while defending the bureau's handling of the rising domestic terror threat in recent years.

"I was appalled that you, our country's elected leaders were victimized right here in these very halls," Wray said in his opening statement. "That attack, that siege was criminal behavior, plain and simple and his behavior that we, the FBI view as domestic terrorism. It's got no place in our democracy and tolerating it would make a mockery of our nation's rule of law."

Wray testified as the bureau faces scrutiny over whether it properly shared intelligence leading up to the assault as well as its broader role in addressing the nation's domestic terror crisis.

Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee the bureau has arrested more than 270 suspects involved in the violent insurrection with more than 300 facing federal charges and more being identified every day. He called the American public the FBI's "greatest partner" in the investigation with more than 270,000 digital media tips sent to agents so far. More broadly, the FBI director said that there are 2,000 domestic terrorism investigations, up from almost 1,000 when he first started in 2017. Pressed by Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin whether the Capitol attack involved white supremacists, Wray said the majority of the people arrested could be categorized as militia extremists.

"We at the FBI don't tend to think of violent extremism in terms of right, left, that's not a spectrum that we look at. What I would say is that it is clear .... a large and growing number of the people that we have arrested so far in the connection with the 6th are what we would call militia violent extremists ... and some already who emerged that I would have been in the racially motivated extremist bucket," he explained.

The director said it is getting harder and harder to identify the motives of domestic extremists, but added that racially motivated extremist cases are "the biggest chunk of our domestic terrorism caseload overall."

"And the most lethality over the last decade has been from these same extremists. The things that drive these people, I think range. One of the things that we struggle with in particular is that more and more the ideologies, if you will, that are motivating some of these violent extremists are less and less coherent, less and less linear, less and less easy to kind of pin down," adding it could be "a little bit of this and a little bit of that" with some personal grievance added in.