Takeaways: Senate report on ‘absolutely brutal’ Jan. 6 siege
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Senate report examining the security failures surrounding the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol says missed intelligence, poor planning and multiple layers of bureaucracy led to the violent siege. It does not fault former President Donald Trump, who told his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat just before hundreds of them stormed the building.
In an effort to be bipartisan — and to find quick agreement on security improvements to the Capitol — Senate Democrats wrote the report with their Republican counterparts and largely steered clear of addressing the former president’s role. The investigation by the two panels, the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Rules Committee, makes 20 recommendations for immediate security changes, including legislation to give the Capitol Police chief more authority, better training and equipment for law enforcement and an overhaul of the way intelligence is collected ahead of major events in Congress.
The report also details the violence of the day. Senate investigators collected statements from more than 50 police officers who fought the insurrectionists in brutal hand-to-hand combat. Those officers described injuries, verbal abuse from Trump’s supporters and fear as the police command structure broke down. Some thought they would die.
“It’s our duty to have immediate responses to what happened,” and to do it on a bipartisan basis, said Senate Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
Here are some takeaways from the report:
The Senate investigators revealed that the Capitol Police had intelligence in the weeks before the insurrection that some Trump supporters were openly planning a siege to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory. An internal report on Dec. 21 referenced a blog with a map of the Capitol campus and comments threatening armed violence. “Bring guns,” wrote one poster. “It’s now or never.”
Separately, private citizens contacted the department and warned of people organizing on Twitter to storm the Capitol. The FBI emailed a memo around that warned of “war.”
But most of that intelligence never reached senior leaders, and it wasn’t briefed in key security meetings hours before the event. At a Jan. 5 meeting with Capitol Police, Secret Service, FBI and D.C. National Guard, no entity “provided any intelligence indicating that there would be a coordinated violent attack on the United States Capitol by thousands of well-equipped armed insurrectionists,” the report said.
The senators recommended that Capitol Police consolidate its intelligence operations into one bureau to “improve the timely sharing of relevant intelligence up the chain of command” and improve coordination with other agencies.
NATIONAL GUARD DELAYS
The committee interviewed multiple officials from the Defense Department and the National Guard in an attempt to make sense of the hourslong delay in deploying the National Guard as the rioters were overwhelming the Capitol Police and breaking into the building. They found that the officials described many of the events of the day differently, continuing a pattern of finger-pointing since the attack.
The investigators found that military officials were “mission planning” and seeking layers of approval as they discussed deploying the Guard, and that better preparation on all sides would have sped the process. They recommend that the Defense Department implement more contingency plans in case a quick reaction is needed again.
As Capitol Police begged for National Guard assistance, military officials “spent the afternoon assessing the situation, determining how best to provide assistance, instructing personnel on the mission, and ensuring personnel were properly equipped,” the report said.
In the end, the senators write, the D.C. National Guard did not arrive at the Capitol until 5:20 p.m., “after both the House and Senate chambers had already been declared secure.”
LACK OF POLICE AUTHORITY
The slowed deployment of National Guard troops is also pinned on the Capitol Police Board, an arcane panel of three voting members — the heads of House and Senate security and the Architect of the Capitol — who must approve the Capitol Police chief’s requests. The chief at the time, Steven Sund, never submitted a formal request for the troops ahead of Jan. 6, and the members of the board did not understand their own authority and could not detail the statutory requirements for requesting National Guard assistance.
Klobuchar and Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, the top Republican on the Senate Rules Committee, said they will introduce legislation soon to give the police chief more authority. Change needs to happen “immediately,” Klobuchar said.
NEED FOR A COMMISSION
While praising the report, Democrats have said it also shows that a deeper look into the insurrection is necessary. Republican senators last week blocked legislation that would have formed a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate the attack, including Trump’s role, his lies about the election being stolen from him and what led the rioters to lay siege to the Capitol.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that such a commission is “crucial,” and he held out the possibility of another vote. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged the Senate to try again to advance the legislation, which passed the House with the support of almost three dozen Republicans.
To win bipartisan support, the Senate investigators left almost all political references out of the report — even though Trump’s election defeat was very much a part of the attack. The document does not use the word insurrection, even though it was one. It includes Trump’s speech ahead of the siege only as an appendix, with staff saying they did so rather than assert “editorial judgement” on his words. The staff spoke on condition of anonymity to candidly discuss the process.
The report includes more than 50 interviews with police, who described how unprepared they were as they were beaten and dragged by the Trump supporters who broke into the building. They described being left with no guidance as the force’s incident command system broke down.
“Throughout the seven hours of the riot on the Capitol grounds, law enforcement officers faced verbal and ‘absolutely brutal,’ violent physical abuse,” the investigators wrote.
One officer told the investigators that they were “horrified” that no one was on the radio giving orders or helping the officers. The person said that the screams on the radio were “horrific” and that the sights were “unimaginable” as officers begged for aid.
Another officer described the weapons used, including pieces of a fence in front of the inauguration platform that were torn apart and used to assault officers.
That person listed the objects that were thrown at them: “bricks, liquids, pepper spray, bear spray, sticks of various widths, pipes, bats.” Some were armed with guns, the officer said, and others had stun guns. The person said they were sprayed with bear spray “at least 6-8 times while tussling with rioters who were trying to use the bike racks against us as weapons.”
While about 300 of the 1,200 officers on duty that day had training and equipment, “the remaining 900 officers had even less training and equipment to defend themselves and the buildings and individuals they are sworn to protect,” the report says.
Associated Press writers Nomaan Merchant and Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.