Trump supporters outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Alex Edelman/Getty Images

Let's dive into the aftermath of the Capitol riots, a moment that shook America to its core. The footage from that day showed minimal arrests, despite the chaos. The Capitol Police were caught off guard, focusing on crowd control and clearing the building. Initial reports indicated a handful of arrests, but we're on the brink of a significant legal crackdown.

The rioters, many unmasked, left behind a digital trail on camera, making it easier for authorities to identify them. Legal experts predict a range of charges, from misdemeanors to felonies. Destruction of property, assault, and weapons offenses are on the table, with potential outcomes ranging from fines to serious jail time.

For those who forced their way into the Capitol, the legal consequences will be harsher, especially for those who attacked police officers. The legal system is gearing up to use these initial charges as a way to bring suspects into the fold, assessing who might face more severe penalties as investigations continue.

But this isn't just about minor infractions. The scale of the threat to democracy means prosecutors could bring out seldom-used laws, including those against seditious conspiracy, which involves attempts to overthrow or undermine the government. Such charges could lead to two decades behind bars.

This event wasn't just a protest gone wrong; it was an attack on the very fabric of American democracy. And with that, the legal response will be monumental. Some rioters might even face federal terrorism charges, significantly elevating the severity of their potential sentences.

As the legal proceedings unfold, the key question will be how the Department of Justice chooses to handle these cases. They might opt for a mix of strategies, targeting some with hefty charges while issuing lesser charges to others.

Leaders of the riot face long sentences, particularly if linked to more serious crimes like the reported pipe bombs. The presence of fatalities, including a woman shot during the turmoil, adds another layer of gravity to the charges.

The challenge for prosecutors will be significant, distinguishing between those exercising their First Amendment rights and those veering into seditious territory. Previous protests have shown that authorities are willing to put in the effort to pinpoint individual actions, a task they're prepared to undertake here as well.

In the final days of his presidency, Trump might consider pardoning the rioters, adding another twist to this unprecedented situation. But without such pardons, D.C. prosecutors are navigating uncharted waters, dealing with crimes driven by the intent to disrupt the lawful transfer of power.

This situation isn't just another chapter in America's legal history; it's a critical moment that will test the resilience of the country's democratic institutions and the rule of law.

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