FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday refused to tell senators the cause of death for Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, whose death heavily influenced coverage of the Capitol riot.
Reports after Jan. 6 originally said Sicknick died after being bludgeoned by a fire extinguisher while fighting off then-President Donald Trump’s supporters, which authorities didn’t deny at the time. The claim became part of the impeachment trial case against Trump for allegedly inciting the riot — though his family now says it’s untrue.
Wray cited an “ongoing” investigation into Sicknick’s death.
“I certainly understand and respect and appreciate the keen interest in what happened to him — after all he was here protecting all of you. And as soon as there is information that we can appropriately share, we want to be able to do that. But at the moment the investigation is still ongoing,” Wray said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked if that meant the FBI “have not determined” the cause of Sicknick’s death.
“That means we can’t yet disclose a cause of death at this stage,” Wray said.
Grassley pressed on, asking Wray to confirm the FBI has determined a cause of death.
“I didn’t say that. We’re not at a point where we can disclose or confirm the cause of death,” Wray said.
Sicknick’s cremated remains had the rare distinction of lying in honor last month in the Capitol Rotunda.
Recent news reports say that the FBI believes that a capsaicin-based “bear spray” may have caused Sicknick’s death, though those reports also have not been confirmed on the record by authorities.
The officer’s mother said in a recent interview that the family also remained in the dark, though believed that being bludgeoned was not the cause of death.
“He wasn’t hit on the head, no. We think he had a stroke, but we don’t know anything for sure. We’d love to know what happened,” Sicknick’s mother, Gladys Sicknick, said.
Sicknick’s family previously said that he voted for Trump.
Four pro-Trump activists died on Jan. 6 during the Capitol riot and two police officers and at least one alleged rioter died by suicide afterward.
Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that he believed Democrats were pushing a double standard by focusing on right-wing members of the pro-Trump crowd while ignoring left-wing violence last year following the killing of George Floyd by Minnesota police.
“Yes, white supremacy movements may be considered the most dangerous at a given time, but somehow it wasn’t last summer,” Grassley said.
“It hardly registered in the media when Marshals and Secret Service Officers defended courthouses and the White House. That’s not Sen. Durbin’s fault, that’s the media’s fault. They were called ‘Stormtroopers’ by the Speaker of the House, like they aren’t even human beings. Vice President Harris, when she was a senator, supported the Minnesota Freedom Fund an organization that helped bail out violent rioters in Minnesota.”
Grassley said that the Capitol riot shouldn’t be used as a reason to redirect funds away from focusing on left-wing extremists.
“We aren’t going to defund the anarchistic extremism program, or any other domestic terrorism,” Grassley said.
“It can’t be that the FBI needs a fully funded art theft program, but can’t afford to fight both right-wing and left-wing extremism.”