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Capitol Police Knew Trump’s Mob Would Attack Congress But Were Unprepared Anyway

Though an internal assessment found that the mob was targeting Congress, Capitol Police leaders downplayed the threat.

Pro-Trump protesters seen on and around the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021.

Capitol Police knew ahead of January 6 that Congress itself was the target of the Donald Trump-fueled mob that violently breached the Capitol, but the police department’s leaders ignored warnings and were thoroughly unprepared for the mob, a new report from the department’s watchdog has found.

Michael A. Bolton, the Capitol Police inspector general, excoriates the Capitol Police department in the 104-page document reviewed by The New York Times and not yet available to the public. The department’s intelligence unit, Bolton finds, warned staff three days ahead of January 6 that the pro-Trump mob was targeting Congress and had the potential to be violent.

“Unlike previous postelection protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counterprotesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th,” read an internal assessment of threats from January 3, reports The New York Times.

“Stop the Steal’s propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members and others who actively promote violence may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike,” the report continued. Bolton is expected to testify on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

The threat assessment also found that some people had even posted about preparing for the attack in much detail online. On one pro-Trump online forum, one person had posted a map of the Capitol complex’s tunnel system. Previous reporting has shown that plans for the attack were telegraphed widely online, and the mob’s plans should have been no secret to the Capitol Police.

But department leaders ignored the assessment from their own staff — and warnings from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security — and said there were “no specific known threats related to the joint session of Congress” in their preparations for the day of the Electoral College vote certification. Bolton says in his report that department dysfunction is to blame for that lapse in judgment.

After the attack, officials attempted to shift the blame and say they were unaware of the extent of the violence and unrest that the mob had planned. “None of the intelligence we received predicted what actually occurred,” former Capitol Police Chief Steven A. Sund told the Senate in February, The New York Times notes. Findings from Bolton’s report contradict Sund’s statements, though Sund told Congress that he never saw the aforementioned threat assessment.

The report also finds that the Capitol Police were instructed to hold back on using their most forceful and aggressive tactics — often used liberally against Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters — on the pro-Trump mob ahead of January 6. This bolsters research showing that police are three times more likely to use force against left-wing protesters than against right-wing protesters, something that many left-wing protesters had already noted after witnessing brutal police crackdowns against last year’s BLM uprisings and the movements that preceded it.

Capitol Police downplayed the threat of the Trump mob, whose members had threatened to kill Democratic members of Congress. While the mob was breaching the Capitol, officers treated some of the members of the mob as friends, with one even taking a selfie with them.

In stark contrast, as participants in the movement for Black lives have organized protests and marches across the country, cities have repressed them with military-style responses, and their police forces have broken the law to use cruel and violent tactics, such as rubber bullets and tear gas, which have injured and killed protesters in the past, to rapidly disperse crowds and terrorize protesters. Activists have pointed out that police even described right-wing militias who showed up to intimidate, harass and even kill BLM protesters as “heavily armed friendlies.”

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