MLive: Police expected violence at U.S. Capitol but weren’t ready for ‘coordinated attack.’ Michigan senator leads probe to learn why.
Security officials tasked with protecting Washington, D.C. testified before a U.S. Senate panel that they knew extremist groups were poised to commit violence on Jan. 6, but said information suggesting a planned attack on the U.S. Capitol wasn’t shared with police.
Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, co-chaired a joint hearing of two Senate committees investigating failures that allowed a mob of Trump supporters and far-right agitators to delay the certification of the presidential election. Former Capitol security officials who testified Tuesday blamed federal agencies for not passing along vital information that planned protests would likely be more violent than two earlier pro-Trump events.
“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 Steven Sund, who resigned from his position as chief of the U.S. Capitol Police after the riots.
Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee said available intelligence pointed to “a large presence” of extremist groups that participated in violence during “Million MAGA March” protests in Washington, D.C. in November and December last year. Contee said police weren’t provided information suggesting the groups were plotting an assault on the Capitol itself.
Sund told lawmakers that did not receive an FBI report that warned extremists were preparing for “war” in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6. Peters, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said the failure to deliver this important information before the attack is an obvious problem.
“How could you not get that vital intelligence?” Peters asked.
“I think that information would have been helpful to be aware of,” Sund answered.
Security officials said they were caught off guard by the level of coordination between the rioters, who communicated through private radio channels and hand signals. Federal charging documents allege members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers extensively planned ahead of the attack, removed police barriers and used improvised weapons to beat back police.
Authorities have yet to arrest people responsible for planting pipe bombs outside the headquarters of the Democratic Party and Republican Party, which Sund said was likely an attempt to draw police attention away from Capitol. Others brought climbing gear and chemical irritants.
Peters noted that the Department of Justice is prosecuting more than 200 federal cases, with 40 linked to extremist groups like Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.
Rioters smashed through windows and doors to breach the Capitol and engaged in a melee that injured 140 law enforcement officers. A Capitol Police officer died from injuries sustained in the attack, while a woman was shot by police near the House chamber where rioters were trying to break in.
“These criminals came prepared for war,” Sund said.
Sund said an internal report he viewed on Jan. 3 warned protesters were planning to target Congress itself. Sund said security plans were changed based on that report.
No civilian law enforcement agency is trained or equipped to repel thousands of rioters, Sund said. However, he said police procedures also prevented necessary resources from being deployed to handle the threat.
Paul Irving, former House Sergeant at Arms, said security plans for Jan. 6 were based on incomplete intelligence about the threat.
Irving said he met with Sund and former Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger to discuss whether the National Guard should be deployed. Irving said they collectively agreed the bringing in the National Guard wasn’t necessary.
“We all believed that the plan met the threat and that we were prepared,” Irving said. “We now know we had the wrong plan.”
Testimony from the security officials conflicted on some details of the events. Sund said he contacted Irving shortly after the attack began to request help, though Irving said he has no memory of the phone call. Senators asked for phone records to clear up the discrepancy.
Tuesday’s hearing is the first of several steps Congress is taking to review the Jan. 6 incident and adopt reforms.
The hearing follows a week-long impeachment trial examining the role former President Donald Trump played in the riots. The House voted to impeach Trump on one charge of “inciting an insurrection,” but a bipartisan group of Senators did not gather enough support to convict the former president.
Peters said the matter still deserves “exhaustive consideration” to give Americans answers on how the Capitol was breached.
Peters was elevated to lead the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in the 117th Congress. Peters said addressing a rising threat of domestic terrorism, white supremacy, anti-government militias and QAnon conspiracies is a top priority.
“These ideologies are intertwined in numerous ways, and on Jan. 6 we saw just how quickly they can shift from online communities to committing organized violent attacks in the real world,” Peters said.
By: Malachi Barrett
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