Senate report blames Capitol Hill police for January 6th riot

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File

It’s a little more complicated than how the headline portrays the situation, but not all that much. Despite Democrats’ anger over their failure to form a 9/11-style commission to investigate the January 6th riot, the Homeland Security and Rules committees in the Senate have continued their work investigating what happened on that day and a preliminary report is ready for release. People who have seen the report indicate that the committees are finding fault with the leadership of the U.S. Capitol Police for not making critical intelligence information available to its own forces ahead of the incursion. Online intelligence gathering revealed that people were planning the attack well in advance, with maps of the area and the Capitol Hill building being circulated. Various routes to infiltrate the complex were being discussed and if the police had been informed of all of this, they could have been better prepared and equipped to handle the assault. (NBC News)

U.S. Capitol Police leaders learned that Trump supporters were discussing ways to infiltrate tunnels around the complex and target Democratic members of Congress on Jan. 6 but failed to act on the threats, according to a new Senate report summing up what it says were profound intelligence and security failures that contributed to one of the worst incidents of domestic terrorism in U.S. history.

The report also says that officers complained about a lack of leadership within the department as they tried to repel the attack — and that top leaders were virtually silent as they begged for help.

Through tips from the public and other sources, Capitol Police “knew about social media posts calling for violence at the Capitol on January 6, including a plot to breach the Capitol, the online sharing of maps of the Capitol Complex’s tunnel systems, and other specific threats of violence,” the report said.

One officer told Senate investigators, “we were betrayed.” The report also notes the fact that it took more than three hours for Washington, D.C., National Guardsmen to arrive on the scene after they were initially requested to respond. Had this intelligence been made available, it’s alleged that they could have been on station before the crowd arrived at the complex. Presumably, that sort of armed presence might have dissuaded some, if not all of the rioters from attempting to breach the facility.

I have to have at least a bit of sympathy for the Capitol Police leadership here. The reality is that there are always kooks on the internet talking about crackpot schemes, the vast majority of which never materialize. Separating the wheat from the chaff in these cases can be difficult. Of course, it’s never fun to be caught in the position of being the person who wrote the rumors off as nonsense only to find out it was deadly serious. But that’s how it played out and the people who made the decision to ignore that intelligence will have to be held accountable now.

Of course, there’s another story hidden in this report that NBC News is conveniently ignoring. Since the day it happened, the vast majority of talking heads in the mainstream media have been placing the blame on Donald Trump for “inciting” the riot. To hear them tell it, Trump was holding a huge rally for his supporters in front of the White House where he “dispatched” the raucus crowd to go attack the Capitol Hill Building and they spontaneously followed his marching orders. But if that’s the case, how did the organizers of the attack manage to assemble their forces online and distribute all of this planning material days ahead of time?

Another conclusion that we might draw from this news is that there really was never going to be a need for a full-blown 9/11-style congressional commission into the January 6th riot. Investigating the 9/11 attacks was an incredibly complicated affair, requiring classified intelligence briefings from multiple countries and the potential for revealing sources and methods. The January 6th riot was a criminal act, albeit on a large scale. The objectives here are to determine who was participated in the illegal activities, who, if anyone, was responsible for organizing it, and how much of it was planned as opposed to some sort of spontaneous crowd surge.

That was already being done and this report should reflect the results of the ongoing investigation. Hundreds of people have already been arrested and more are being identified. The criminal prosecutorial process is working as designed and the guilty are being held accountable, though it will take time for the wheels of justice to fully turn. A congressional commission investigating the attack at this point wouldn’t provide any new information and would only serve as a media circus designed to foster political grandstanding as we move into the midterm election cycle. And it seems to me that that’s really all that the people carping about the lack of such a commission wanted in the first place.