Damning watchdog report reveals Capitol Police failures on Jan. 6, but more questions remain


“Unlike previous postelection protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counterprotesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th,” the inspector general’s report quotes the threat assessment. “Stop the Steal’s propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike.”

Skip forward to January 5—the day the FBI’s Norfolk field office forwarded a social media thread with threats like “Get violent … stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal”—and Capitol Police leadership concluded, in a plan for handling the next day’s events, that there were “no specific known threats related to the joint session of Congress.”

In February, Steven Sund, the former chief of the Capitol Police, testified to the Senate, saying “None of the intelligence we received predicted what actually occurred.” He added, “These criminals came prepared for war.”

Yes, they did. As they repeatedly pledged on social media to do. As the Capitol Police intelligence assessment warned days before the attack. As Sund and his leadership somehow … overlooked, as they planned for the kind of protest that could be controlled by the simplest metal barricades and an underequipped, understaffed roster of police.

As a result, “Heavier, less-lethal weapons”—you know, the kind you’ve seen used against far, far less threatening protesters time and time again if they’re carrying Black Lives Matter or Water is Life signs—“were not used that day because of orders from leadership.”

The report from Michael Bolton, the inspector general for the Capitol Police, also notes that there were significant equipment failures that day, as well as that training and audits of equipment hadn’t been kept up.

But as damning as it is, Bolton’s report leaves significant questions, Dan Froomkin argues. Froomkin obtained part of the report—which is not public—and wrote that “the part of the report I saw doesn’t get into why officials weren’t more alarmed. It doesn’t address the either covert or overt role of racism. I see no sign that, to this day, anyone—not the inspector general, not congressional overseers, and certainly not journalists—has gotten hold of contemporaneous correspondence between the key players or any other evidence that would offer insight into their states of mind.” That’s significant. 

Rep. Zoe Lofgren has called Bolton to testify before a House panel on Thursday. There should be questions about this, because the investigation needs to keep going deeper. We know the Capitol Police failed. This inspector general’s report tells us more about how they failed. Why did they fail?

Republicans are trying to prevent a serious assessment of what happened, getting in the way of the 9/11 Commission-style independent investigation House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for. If Republicans make that kind of investigation impossible, she told USA Today, investigations by existing congressional committees will continue, and a select committee is “always an option.” That said, “It’s not my preference in any way. My preference would be to have a commission.” But Republicans have their reasons for wanting to keep what happened on January 6—and in particular what motivated the insurrectionists—obscured. They may not be able to stop investigations, but they especially don’t want an investigation from an independent commission that will command added media and public attention.

This inspector general’s report once again makes clear why it’s so desperately important that we learn what really happened.

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