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What Hearings Revealed About Jan. 6    03/04 06:17

   

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Many questions remain unanswered about the failure to 
prevent the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. But after six 
congressional hearings, it's clear that the Capitol Police were unprepared and 
overwhelmed as hundreds of Donald Trump's supporters laid siege to the 
building. It's also clear that no one wants to take responsibility for it.

   Officials who were in charge of protecting the Capitol, and the people 
inside it, have pointed fingers at each other in testimony to the House and 
Senate. Their deflections are indicative of the chaos of that day, the lack of 
intelligence leading up to the attack and the fact that none of the law 
enforcement agencies involved imagined that so many of Trump's supporters would 
violently lay siege to the Capitol with the mission of overturning his defeat.

   So far, lawmakers have focused on the lack of clear intelligence about the 
plans of the rioters, given that Trump's supporters openly discussed the 
insurrection online. They have also questioned military and law enforcement 
leaders about why it took more than three hours for the National Guard to get 
to the Capitol when the rioters were already inside.

   Five people died as a result of the violence, including a Capitol Police 
officer and a woman who was shot by police as she tried to break into the House 
chamber through a broken window.

   What we have learned so far about the failures that led to the Jan. 6 
insurrection:

   BROAD FAILURES, ACROSS THE BOARD ...

   Congress hasn't pinned the blame on any one agency or official as it 
investigates the riot, as it's obvious there were failures on all levels. The 
rioters easily broke through police barriers and overwhelmed the officers who 
were there, injuring many of them, as the Capitol Police had planned for a much 
smaller event. The National Guard did not arrive for several hours after a mob 
of around 800 people broke the doors and windows of the Capitol, entered the 
Senate shortly after it had been evacuated and tried to beat down the doors of 
the House with lawmakers still inside.

   As all of that was happening, law enforcement and national security 
officials at multiple agencies have described frantic pleas for help from 
Capitol Police that were followed by layers of required approvals, 
conversations about optics and the logistics of hastily readying a response.

   Capitol Police officials made clear that they never envisioned anything 
close to the scope of what happened. "We had planned for the possibility of 
violence, the possibility of some people being armed, not the possibility of a 
coordinated military-style attack involving thousands against the Capitol," 
said former chief Steven Sund, who was ousted from his job the day after the 
attack.

   ... BUT FEW WILLING TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY

   The acting Capitol Police chief, Yogananda Pittman, told a House 
appropriations subcommittee in February that the force "failed to meet its own 
high standards as well as yours." She listed several missteps: not having 
enough manpower or supplies on hand, not following through with a lockdown 
order she issued during the siege and not having a sufficient communications 
plan for a crisis.

   But she has also defended their role and suggested police couldn't have 
known how bad it would be.

   In the hearings --- so far two in the Senate and four in the House --- most 
every official has deflected responsibility, blaming either the intelligence 
failures, the Pentagon for failing to send the National Guard more quickly or 
each other.

   Sund described the difficult process of navigating the Capitol Police Board, 
which includes the two officials in charge of security for the House and Senate 
and the Architect of the Capitol. The House and Senate sergeants-at-arms, who 
were both forced to resign immediately after the rioting, have given 
conflicting accounts of the conversations the day of the riot, and in the days 
before, as Sund begged for National Guard support.

   NATIONAL GUARD DELAYS

   Multiple law enforcement officials, including Sund, Robert Contee, the 
acting chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department, and Maj. Gen. 
William Walker, commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, 
have blamed Pentagon officials for delaying for around three hours as they 
sought approval for National Guard troops.

   At a hearing on Wednesday, Walker told senators that Sund requested troops 
in a "voice cracking with emotion" in a 1:49 p.m. call just before rioters 
broke into the Capitol. He said he wasn't notified of approval until 5:08 p.m.

   A senior Pentagon official, Robert Salesses, testified that it took time for 
the Army to sort out what the National Guard was being asked to do and what its 
support might look like, especially since the Capitol Police days earlier had 
not asked for any help. Military officials were also concerned about the optics 
of a substantial National Guard presence at the Capitol, and that such visuals 
could inflame the rioters, Walker said.

   "Three hours and nineteen minutes," said Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, the top 
Republican on the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee, one of 
the two panels that conducted the hearing. "That can't happen again."

   MISSING INTELLIGENCE

   All of the law enforcement officials have blamed failures of intelligence, 
saying they didn't realize the severity of the threat, even though extremists 
were planning some of it openly online.

   Many of the questions have centered on the FBI's handling of a Jan. 5 
bulletin from its Norfolk, Virginia, field office that warned of online posts 
foreshadowing a "war" in Washington the following day. Capitol Police leaders 
have said they were unaware of the report at the time, even though it had been 
forwarded to the office.

   The Capitol Police also did its own intelligence assessment warning that 
Congress could be targeted on Jan. 6. But that report assessed the probability 
of civil disobedience or arrests, based on the information they had, as 
"remote" to "improbable" for the groups expected to demonstrate.

   Four House committees are probing what went wrong with that data collection, 
including the House intelligence committee. California Rep. Adam Schiff, the 
chairman of that panel, said his impression is that those failures "contributed 
to the tragedy on Jan. 6."

   "We need to answer the question why and what do we need to do differently," 
Schiff said in an interview this week.

   EVERYTHING BUT TRUMP

   The congressional investigations have picked up speed in the wake of the 
Senate's acquittal of Trump in his impeachment trial, where he faced a charge 
of inciting the insurrection. While Democrats --- and even some Republicans --- 
believe that Trump is ultimately responsible for the attack, it is clear after 
his acquittal that there are not the votes in Congress to officially lay the 
blame on the former president and prevent him from running for office again.

   As a result, Congress is focusing on the security failures that day, and how 
law enforcement and the military could have been better prepared. The House 
Oversight and Reform Committee is investigating how right-wing social media 
could have contributed to the attack, and the Senate Judiciary Committee is 
looking at extremism.

   Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner said his committee will 
look at extremism around the world --- a problem that began long before Trump's 
supporters broke into the Capitol. He says he thinks he could get bipartisan 
support for the probe even despite the "broad ideological breadth" of senators 
on the committee.

   "I don't want our committee's examination to be about Trump or about Jan. 
6," Warner, D-Va., said in an interview. "This is a problem that didn't start 
on Jan. 6."

   NEXT STEPS UNCERTAIN

   With the committee probes just begun, it's unclear how the Capitol will 
return to normal --- or what steps will be taken to prevent another attack. 
Thousands of National Guard troops still guard the Capitol, which is now 
surrounded by fencing and barbed wire and closed off to the public.

   Lawmakers have talked about legislation to overhaul the Capitol Police 
Board, but that could be far off, likely after the investigations are complete. 
Senators in both parties have said that they will likely want to talk to more 
Pentagon officials to understand how the National Guard was delayed for so many 
hours.

   "Any minute that we lost, I need to know why," said Senate Rules Committee 
Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.




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