A joint report from the Senate Rules and Administration Committee and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee outlines how United States Capitol Police and other intelligence agencies had information in hand about the plans to attack the Capitol on January 6. However, they failed to relay that information to the proper channels ahead of that date to prepare for what eventually happened.
Hundreds of loyalists to former President Donald Trump, wrongly believing that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent because Trump and his supporters in Congress promoted that lie, violently forced their way into the Capitol on January 6 in order to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College results. As a result, five individuals lost their lives that day.
Though the attack surprised millions across the country, intelligence agencies were fully aware that it was a possibility but did not take the threat seriously. According to the report issued by the two bipartisan committees, “the federal Intelligence Community — led by FBI and DHS — did not issue a threat assessment warning of potential violence targeting the Capitol on January 6.”
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Capitol Police, too, “failed to convey the full scope of threat information they possessed,” the report further concluded.
The intelligence arm of the Capitol Police had labeled potential threats on that date as “remote” and “improbable,” in spite of the fact that their intelligence demonstrated that the pro-Trump loyalists were planning to “bring guns” and other weapons to the Capitol that day. Intelligence on the imminent attack had been gathered for at least two weeks prior, but information about those potential threats was not shared throughout the department, only with command officers.
Online communications among Trump loyalists leading up to the attack were indeed disturbing, and according to the report, indicated that they intended to disrupt and overturn the election’s outcome and name Trump despite his losing to President Joe Biden. Trump loyalists had planned to pressure lawmakers into changing the election result, and, if the lawmakers weren’t present, to do so on their own.
“If they don’t show up, we enter the Capitol as the Third Continental Congress and certify the Trump Electors,” one post from a Trump loyalist read.
“Bring guns. It’s now or never,” another said.
The Democratic chairs of the two committees blasted the inability of intelligence officials to adequately share information regarding the potential threats.
“The failure to adequately assess the threat of violence on that day contributed significantly to the breach of the Capitol. The attack was, quite frankly, planned in plain sight,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-Michigan) said.
“The failures are obvious,” added Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota). “To me, it was all summed up by one of the officers who was heard on the radio that day asking a tragically simple question: ‘Does anybody have a plan?’ Sadly, no one did.”
Previous reports have shown that Capitol Police took minimal and questionable steps to prepare for the January 6 breach of the building complex. Officers were instructed to hold back on using forceful or aggressive tactics that are routinely utilized against unarmed and peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrators, for example. In stark contrast to social justice protests, police officers at the Capitol were seen treating the mob in a friendly manner, with one officer even posing for a selfie with Trump loyalists during the attack. One Capitol Police officer also radioed his units outside the building that day, telling them not to look “for any pro-Trump [individuals] in the crowd,” but rather be “only looking for any anti-Trump” people who were there.
While the findings of the two committees showcase failures at the ground level, they fail to discuss what role Trump himself may have had in convening his mob of loyalists in Washington, D.C. that day, or in motivating them to attack the Capitol. In an attempt to be bipartisan, questions asked by lawmakers of law enforcement and intelligence agencies were limited to the response to the attack without going into what might have sparked it, which will likely renew calls for a broader January 6 commission to be created.
A bipartisan commission to examine the events of that day was agreed upon in the House of Representatives earlier this year, with every Democratic member of the House and 35 Republican members voting in favor of its establishment. However, even though four GOP senators agreed to the creation of a January 6 Commission, it was blocked by a Senate filibuster in late May.