A new report from the Inspector General of the Capitol Police, Michael Bolton, has rioted the leaders of Congress after it was discovered that the Capitol Police were notified that they were not using critical riot materials and tactics in preparation for the January 6 protests could. The result calls into question the narrative put forward in the second impeachment of former President Donald Trump. It also raises questions about whether the leaders of Congress (who have repeatedly condemned Trump for the death and injury of officers) share responsibility for the loss of control of Congress with the rioters.
The report, “Looking Back at the Events surrounding the Takeover of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021,” raises additional questions about Congressmen’s responsibility for the lack of manpower and materials to deal with the protest. It was previously announced that offers to support the National Guard prior to the protests had not been accepted. The DC government under Mayor Muriel Bowser deployed few guardsmen in traffic positions.
The report reinforces suspicions about why the House’s leadership refused to hold hearings with key witnesses prior to Trump’s second impeachment. It also addresses whether, following the controversial eviction of Lafayette Park last summer, Congress leaders obstructed their own security forces.
Ultimately, over 140 police officers were injured during the riot, and Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick later died. Two other officers later died of suicide.
Bolton and his staff reportedly found in their 104-page report that three days before the uprising, officials were warned in an intelligence assessment that “Congress itself was the target” in the planned protests. Congress was also warned that “the propensity for theft to attract white supremacists, militiamen and others who actively promote violence can create a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public”.
This appears to be more than sufficient reason to seek the support of the National Guard and to assemble all of the force and resources available to the Capitol Police. According to the General Inspector, this did not happen. Instead, the plan stated that “no specific known threats related to the joint session of Congress were known”. More importantly, the Civil Disturbance Unit of the Capitol Police has been ordered by regulators not to use the department’s top-level resources and tactics to solve problems. This includes the use of “heavier, less lethal weapons,” including stun grenades. The report categorically states that they “were not used that day due to instructions from the leadership”. Instead, 35-year-old Ashli Babbitt was fatally shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer in the Capitol, even though he was unarmed and standing in a hallway.
That explains a lot. On the day of the riot, many of us familiar with the Capitol expressed disbelief at the lack of serious safeguards and the relative ease of protesters in breaking through the Capitol.
This is exactly the kind of information that should have been revealed in the weeks following the uprising. As discussed in repeated columns, the House Democratic leadership refused to hold a single hearing with key witnesses on what had happened before the uprising. After a “quick impeachment” was applied, weeks went by without calling such witnesses prior to the impeachment proceedings against Trump. Such evidence could challenge the narrative and raise questions about decisions by Congress that made the Capitol vulnerable to such an attack.
The report also addresses the Lafayette Park effect. Last summer, White House officials feared violent protesters, who injured dozens of officials this weekend and were involved in arson and attacks around the White House, could break through the grounds. They decided to clear the area for the installation of fences (which Congress only ordered after the January 6 uprising). They also deployed the National Guard, and the “heavier, less lethal weapons” found by the Inspector General were denied to the Capitol Police.
To this day, the media and many members repeat false reports about Lafayette Park. Many have still posted stories claiming that Lafayette Park was cleared for Trump to hold a photo in front of a church. I discussed these reports in testimony to Congress and in columns about the evacuation of the Lafayette Park area. NPR still has a story on its website titled “Peaceful Protesters Gassed In Tears To Clear The Way For Trump Church Photo-Op”.
A multitude of witnesses and documents explained how the plan to evacuate the area was put into practice 24 hours before the actual operation – and long before a photo op was discussed. The plan was approved by then Attorney General Bill Barr, but delayed as officers waited for both fence material and support staff.
Still, the narrative remained that this was a peaceful protest which was answered with tear gas and tranquilizers. While I criticized the use of force in the operation, the only way to describe the protest as completely peaceful is to focus on the time just before the clearing. As discussed in my testimony, about 150 officers were injured in the protests, half of whom were injured in the White House. The Justice Department claimed 750 officers injured during the various protests. The attacks around the complex were so great that the president was taken to the bunker.
Even so, Lafayette Park became a rally against the use of National Guard personnel and resources such as tear gas and pepper balls. After Lafayette Park, Mayor Bowser stated, “If you are like me, you’ve seen something you hoped you would never see in the United States.” Democratic leaders and the media denounced the use of guard and tear gas as a form of military rule. The New York Times even apologized for publishing a column by Senator Tom Cotton promoting the use of the National Guard (effectively dismissing the editor who approved the column).
Both the media and members are heavily invested in the Lafayette Park narrative. It would be embarrassing to report that before the protests, Congress should have ordered the same extension of a fenced perimeter and security guard – let alone the use of non-lethal devices like pepperballs.
The question is whether this narrative affected Capitol Police restrictions. Only after the loss of control of Congress was full use of fences, riot resources, and the National Guard permitted. It then stayed in operation for months at an enormous daily cost. It was the ultimate example of locking the barn door after the horse was locked. But Washington isn’t really about horse or barn. It’s about who gets the blame.