Senate report on Capitol attack finds police need basic gear, better sharing of intel

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A Senate report on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot recommends Congress empower the Capitol police chief to request help from the D.C. National Guard in emergencies and that officers receive regular training on handling civil disturbances and are provided basic protective gear including helmets, gloves and gas masks.

The joint report from the Senate Rules and Homeland Security committees details the failure of law enforcement to fully understand the threat in the days leading up to the insurrection, when online posts warning of violence were deemed not credible by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. It portrays a chaotic response to the Capitol breach hampered by communications problems and inadequate preparation.

But the bipartisan document sheds little new light on the role of former President Donald Trump, who delivered an incendiary speech near the White House and exhorted his followers to head to the Capitol. There they battled police officers and stormed the building, hunting for lawmakers while erecting a gallows outside.

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, ranking Republican on the Rules Committee, was one of the principal senators involved in producing the report, along with Rules Chair Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, Homeland Security Chair Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat, and ranking member Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican.

The report’s release on Tuesday comes after Senate Democrats were unable to break a Republican filibuster last month to pass legislation establishing an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 uprising.

Portman was one one of just six Republican senators to support creation of a commission. Blunt vocally opposed the idea, but missed the vote to attend a ribbon-cutting event at the visitor center of Wilson Creek’s National Battlefield in Missouri.

Both have announced plans to retire rather than run for re-election in 2022.

Peters and Klobuchar emphasized that the report should not be seen as a substitute for a comprehensive investigation by an independent commission. Peters called a commission essential.

“Our report is limited in scope. It is specifically focused on the security planning and response failures that allowed the attack to occur… This report is not a comprehensive account of everything that happened in the lead-up to the attack,” Peters told reporters during a phone call. “We did not investigate what motivated people.”

But in the absence of a commission, congressional investigations, such as the Senate inquiry, will likely be the most thorough public examination of the Capitol riot.

Current system slowed response

The insurrection, the most serious attack on the U.S. Capitol in more than 200 years, interrupted a Joint Session of Congress called to formalize President Joe Biden’s electoral college victory over Trump. The rioters sent lawmakers scattering in fear as they desecrated hallways and office’s, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s.

Seven people, including three law enforcement officers, ultimately died, according to the report, a figure that includes two officer suicides that occurred shortly after the attack.

As of Saturday, 465 people have been arrested in connection with the attack, according to the Department of Justice.

In response to a question about the limited scope of the Senate report, Blunt noted that while these criminal cases are pending the Department of Justice will be constrained from sharing all of its information with Congress.

The Senate report may serve as a foundation for congressional action to improve security planning at the Capitol. It recommends Congress pass legislation to allow the Capitol police chief to directly request assistance from the D.C. National Guard in emergencies. Current law requires the Capitol Police Board, whose voting members include the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms and the Capitol architect, to sign off first.

The report found the present system “can constrain” the ability of police to act quickly. The National Guard didn’t arrive until more than three hours after the Capitol was breached.

“You have three people on that board, all of whom have a different commitment if there’s an emergency like this,” Blunt said.

Blunt and Klobuchar will soon introduce bipartisan legislation to enable the chief of the Capitol Police to directly request the guard’s assistance in emergency situations rather than going through the board. Blunt said Congress could pass this change quickly to improve emergency response.

Still, the report found that former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund never formally asked the Capitol Police Board to support National Guard aid on Jan. 6. Instead, the report says, Sund had informal conversations with the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms but no one discussed National Guard help with the Architect of the Capitol, the office which oversees the building.

Klobuchar said the security failures were summed up by a comment made by an officer on the radio during the chaos, “’Does anyone have a plan?’ Sadly, no one did.”

Sund announced his resignation the day after the riot. Chad Thomas, the number two Capitol Police official, resigned on Monday ahead of the report’s release, according to multiple outlets.

The four senators repeatedly said the agency’s leadership had failed front line officers.

“Capitol Hill police were put in an impossible situation without adequate intelligence, training. They didn’t have the tools to protect the Capitol,” Portman said.

‘Planned in plain sight’

The report suggests Congress should increase Capitol Police funding to support additional training and equipment for officers and “adequate staffing levels.” The inquiry found that all officers only receive basic civil disturbance training once as recruits with no required further instruction.

“As a result, some who responded to the Capitol attack had not received training in civil disturbance tactics in years,” the report says. “Officers were also not uniformly provided helmets, shields, gas masks, or other crowd control equipment prior to January 6, which would have aided their response.”

The report recommends all officers receive ballistic helmets, gloves and gas masks — the same equipment issued to D.C. metro police. Capitol Police should also be required to have a department-wide operational plan for special events and that a formal civil disturbance unit should be formed within the agency. Officers in the unit would be properly trained and equipped at all times, the report says.

Much of the report focuses on intelligence coordination failures in the days and weeks before the attack. The Capitol Police’s intelligence arm failed to fully convey the scope of the threat to its own officers and other law enforcement agencies, it says.

The Capitol Police Intelligence and Interagency Coordination Division had information from a variety of sources about the potential for violence and large crowds, the report says. That included the online sharing of maps of the Capitol Complex’s tunnel system.

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security also didn’t issue a threat assessment warning of potential violence. Instead, officials from those agencies stressed the difficulty of discerning constitutionally-protected free speech from credible threats.

“The attack was quite frankly planned in plain sight,” Peters said. “There was widespread information on social media and tips that were not heeded.”

The report recommends consolidating the Capitol Police’s intelligence units into a single bureau and that policies should be developed to effectively provide intelligence to leadership and rank-and-file officers.

The Senate report doesn’t assess Trump’s actions on Jan. 6. During the attack that followed his speech, he released a video telling rioters to go home but also saying “we love you” and calling them “very special.”

While the president’s speech is included in full in the report, Senate committee aides said the report didn’t look at his role in the uprising.

“President Trump began his address just before noon. During the next 75 minutes, the President continued his claims of election fraud and encouraged his supporters to go to the Capitol,” the report says.

Some Capitol riot defendants are asserting Trump spurred them to action. St. Louis attorney Al Watkins, who is representing the so-called QAnon Shaman, has said his client “took seriously the countless messages of President Trump.”

Trump and his allies spent weeks after the election promoting the false claim that he won and his supporters pursued longshot bids to keep him in power. Congressional supporters — including Missouri GOP Sen. Josh Hawley and Kansas GOP Sen. Roger Marshall — agreed to vote to block certification of Biden’s in key states when Congress convened on Jan. 6.

While Trump has been stripped of his social media platforms, he continues to advance the lie that he won the election. In an interview on Fox Business Network on Monday, he again repeated the falsehood.