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U.S. Senate report details litany of police, intelligence failures in Jan. 6 riot

A Senate investigation of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has uncovered broad government, military and law enforcement missteps surrounding the violent attack, but doesn't delve into the root causes of the attack.

Report, which recommends more Capitol Police powers, looked at response to the riot, not the causes

Senate report reveals intelligence failures ahead of Capitol siege

The National

2 months ago
1:59
A U.S. Senate report on the Capitol insurrection reveals police had intelligence about a planned siege by Trump supporters at least two weeks prior, but the information never reached the officers who ultimately faced the angry mob. 1:59

A Senate investigation of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has uncovered broad government, military and law enforcement missteps surrounding the violent attack, including a breakdown within multiple intelligence agencies and a lack of training and preparation for Capitol Police officers who were quickly overwhelmed by the rioters.

The Senate report released Tuesday is the first — and could be the last — bipartisan review of how hundreds of President Donald Trump's supporters were able to violently push past security lines and break into the Capitol that day, interrupting the certification of President Joe Biden's victory.

It includes new details about the police officers on the front lines who suffered chemical burns, brain injuries and broken bones and who told senators they were left with no direction when command systems broke down. It recommends immediate changes to give the Capitol Police chief more authority, to provide better planning and equipment for law enforcement and to streamline intelligence gathering among federal agencies.

As a bipartisan effort, the report does not delve into the root causes of the attack, including Trump's role as he called for his supporters to "fight like hell" to overturn his election defeat that day. It does not call the attack an insurrection, even though it was. And it comes two weeks after Republicans blocked a bipartisan, independent commission that would investigate the insurrection more broadly.

"This report is important in the fact that it allows us to make some immediate improvements to the security situation here in the Capitol," said Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, the chairman of the homeland security and governmental affairs committee, which conducted the probe along with the Senate's rules committee. "But it does not answer some of the bigger questions that we need to face, quite frankly, as a country and as a democracy."

Supporters of President Donald Trump are confronted by Capitol Police officers outside the Senate chamber inside the Capitol on Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C. Officers on the ground received little in the way of direction from superiors on that day, according to a Senate report released Tuesday. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/The Associated Press)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday the findings show even greater need for a bipartisan commission to investigate the root causes of the attack, referring to Trump's unfounded claims about the 2020 election.

"As the 'big lie' continues to spread, as faith in our elections continues to decline, it is crucial — crucial — that we establish a trusted, independent record of what transpired," Schumer said.

But Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who led the blockade against such a commission, said he's confident the ongoing reviews by lawmakers and law enforcement will be sufficient.

The House in May passed legislation to create a commission that would be modelled after a panel that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks two decades ago. But the Senate failed to get the 60 votes needed to advance it, with many Republicans pointing to the Senate report as sufficient.

Calls for help not immediately answered

The top Republican on the rules panel, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, has opposed the commission, arguing the investigation would take too long. He said the recommendations made in the Senate can be implemented faster, including legislation that he and Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the rules committee chair, intend to introduce soon that would give the chief of Capitol Police more authority to request assistance from the National Guard.

The Senate report recounts how the National Guard was delayed for hours on Jan. 6 as officials in multiple agencies took bureaucratic steps to release the troops. It details hours of calls between officials in the Capitol and the Pentagon and as Chief of the Capitol Police Steven Sund desperately begged for help.

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It finds the Pentagon spent hours "mission planning" and seeking multiple layers of approvals as Capitol Police were being overwhelmed and brutally beaten by the rioters. It also says the Defence Department's response was "informed by criticism" of its heavy-handed response to protests in the summer of 2020 after the death of George Floyd in police custody.

The senators are heavily critical of the Capitol Police Board, a three-member panel that includes the heads of security for the House and Senate and the architect of the Capitol. The board is now required to approve requests by the police chief, even in urgent situations. The report recommends that its members "regularly review the policies and procedures" after senators found that none of the board members on Jan. 6 understood their own authority or could detail the statutory requirements for requesting National Guard assistance.

Two of the three members of the board, the House and Senate sergeants at arms, were pushed out in the days after the attack. Sund also resigned under pressure.

Congress needs to change the law and give the police chief more authority "immediately," Klobuchar said.

The report recommends a consolidated intelligence unit within the Capitol Police after widespread failures from multiple agencies that did not predict the attack even though insurrectionists were planning it openly on the internet.

WATCH | FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies for 1st time about Jan. 6 events:

FBI director calls Capitol Hill riot domestic terrorism

The National

5 months ago
2:03
FBI director Christopher Wray told a U.S. Senate committee that the Capitol Hill riots on Jan. 6 were an act of domestic terrorism and said there is no evidence to link the attack to fake protesters from the far left. 2:03

The senators also criticize the FBI and the Homeland Security Department for downplaying online threats and for not issuing formal intelligence bulletins that help law enforcement plan.

In a response to the report, the Capitol Police acknowledged the need for improvements, some of which they said they are already making.

"Law enforcement agencies across the country rely on intelligence, and the quality of that intelligence can mean the difference between life and death," the statement says.

Heroic actions but little leadership, coherence

During the attack, the report says, Capitol Police were heavily compromised by multiple failures — bad intelligence, poor planning, faulty equipment and a lack of leadership. The force's incident command system "broke down during the attack," leaving officers on the front lines without orders.

"I was horrified that NO deputy chief or above was on the radio or helping us," one officer told the committee in an anonymous statement. "For hours the screams on the radio were horrific[,] the sights were unimaginable and there was a complete loss of control. ... For hours NO Chief or above took command and control. Officers were begging and pleading for help for medical triage."

WATCH | U.S-based Canadian anchor Ali Velshi on the Capitol riot:

'This doesn’t go away with Donald Trump'

CBC News

4 months ago
2:26
MSNBC host Ali Velshi and others analyze how the U.S. media landscape contributed to the events at the Capitol on Jan 6, 2021. 2:26

The committee's interviews with police officers detail what one officer told them was "absolutely brutal" abuse from Trump's supporters as they ran over them and broke into the building. They described hearing racial slurs and seeing Nazi salutes. One officer trying to evacuate the Senate said he had stopped several men in full tactical gear who said, "You better get out of our way, boy, or we'll go through you to get [the Senators]."'

The insurrectionists told police officers they would kill them, and then the members of Congress. One officer said he had a "tangible fear" that he might not make it home alive.

At the same time, the senators acknowledge the officers' bravery, noting that one officer told them, "The officers inside all behaved admirably and heroically and, even outnumbered, went on the offensive and took the Capitol back."

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