Speed Reads

Capitol siege aftermath

Capitol Police leaders still haven't really explained why they were unprepared for the Jan. 6 siege

The top security officials at the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 siege testified before the Senate on Tuesday about what went wrong before and during what they all agreed was a well-planned and coordinated armed insurrection by far-right extremists. Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, House sergeant-at-arms Paul Irving, and Senate sergeant-at-arms Michael Stenger "each sought to minimize their responsibility for the events on that violent and chaotic day," pointing instead to intelligence failures, The Washington Post reports. All three resigned after the assault.

Sund, Iriving, and Stenger said they prepared for the pro-Trump demonstration their intelligence indicated was warranted, based partly on previous pro-Trump protests. Sund painted the Capitol Police as mostly a "consumer" of intelligence from 18 federal agencies. "No entity, including the FBI, provided any intelligence indicating that there would be a coordinated violent attack on the United States Capitol by thousands of well-equipped armed insurrectionists," he said in written testimony.

Sund told the Senate he only learned Monday of a Jan. 5 warning from an FBI field office in Virginia on credible online chatter about a Jan. 6 "war" on Congress to overturn former President Donald Trump's loss, with maps of the Capitol tunnel system and exhortations to violence. He said he now knows the Capitol Police did get the warning, but it never made it past the department's intelligence division.

But Capitol Police leaders apparently ignored or downplayed other big red flags, including a prescient Jan. 3 memo from their own intelligence unit. This 12-page report, two people told the Post, was conveyed to all Capitol Police command staff by intelligence unit chief Jack Donohue.

"Unlike previous post-election protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counter-protesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself," and the presumptively armed protesters' "desperation and disappointment may lead to more of an incentive to become violent," the memo said, according to excerpts first published in the Post on Jan. 13.

Sund didn't discuss that memo, but questioned by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), he insisted Capitol Police planned no differently for the Jan. 6 riot than for Black Lives Matter protests over the summer, for which the force was reportedly unnecessarily prepared. "Internally, some officials have wondered whether the threats were not taken more seriously because the rallygoers were White conservatives loyal to Trump," the Post notes. Media critic Dan Froomkin agrees, and you can read his long critique at PressWatchers.