Capitol siege aftermath
February 26, 2021

Illinois state Rep. Chris Miller (R), the husband of freshman U.S. Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.), acknowledged Thursday that his pickup truck was parked in a restricted area outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot, but he said the "Three Percenter" militia sticker on the back window doesn't mean anything.

"Army friend gave me decal," Miller told The Daily Beast in an email late Thursday. "Thought it was a cool decal. Took it off because of negative pub." He said he "never was member" of the militia and "didn't know anything about 3% till fake news started this fake story and read about them." Online sleuths had linked him to the truck visible in footage from a CBS News report, earlier Thursday.

The Three Percenters, founded in 2008, are a "radical militia group" implicated in leading the Jan. 6 siege along with the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, and other far-right extremist groups, the FBI said in an affidavit filed in the case against alleged rioter Robert Gieswein. Their name comes from the apocryphal claim that only 3 percent of U.S. colonists fought in the Revolutionary War, and they fashion themselves as the same kind of tyranny-stomping "patriots."

Miller's wife, Mary Miller, is most famous for favorably quoting Nazi leader Adolf Hitler at a "Moms for America" rally outside the Capitol on Jan. 5. "Hitler was right on one thing: whoever has the youth has the future," she told the rally, apologizing later when video of her comments went viral but insisting that "some are trying to intentionally twist my words to mean something antithetical to my beliefs." Peter Weber

February 24, 2021

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. Peter Weber

February 3, 2021

The House voted 216 to 210 Tuesday night to fine lawmakers $5,000 the first time they bypass new security measures and $10,000 for each subsequent violation. Capitol Police installed metal detectors outside the House chamber after the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, but some Republican lawmakers have just walked around the magnetometers or refused to stop after setting them off. House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) criticized the "elitist mentality" of such lawmakers in a floor speech Tuesday.

Lawmakers are not allowed to bring firearms into the House chamber. "The rules apply to us, too — and it's time all of us acted like it," McGovern said. Some of his "friends on the other side," he added, "are acting as though by being elected to Congress, they have been anointed to some sort of special club — one that gets to pick and choose what rules to follow."

No Republicans voted for the new rule. In an email to House Republicans sent Tuesday night, Rep. Lauren Boebert's (R-Colo.) office urged other members to vote against the "unconstitutional metal detector fines." Other Republicans point out that they are allowed to step around metal detectors when they enter the Capitol and its office buildings.

Lawmakers will now have 90 days to pay any fines incurred before the money is taken directly from their paychecks. It is "an unprecedented step," Politico reports, but it "speaks to the new reality: lawmakers are afraid of being injured, or worse, by colleagues trying to sneak weapons on to the House floor."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has instituted new security measures for House members and their staff both inside and outside of the Capitol, and a full review of congressional security she ordered will be finished in March. She is also calling for a "9/11-style commission" to investigate the Jan. 6 siege. Pelosi said Tuesday that the security fines are "sad" but necessary after "many House Republicans began disrespecting our heroes by refusing to adhere to basic precautions keeping members of our congressional community safe — including by dodging metal detectors, physically pushing past police, and even attempting to bring firearms into the chamber." Peter Weber

February 2, 2021

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) described her experience hiding from the violent mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, recounting in an emotional Instagram Live stream Monday night how she believed she was going to die and comparing the response from some congressional Republicans to sexual abuse.

Ocasio-Cortez said she went to shelter in her office, and when a man banged on her office door, yelling "Where is she?" she hid in the bathroom. "I just thought to myself that they got inside," she said. "I thought I was going to die," and "I really just felt like, if this is the plan for me, then people will be able to take it from here."

The man trying to get into her office turned out to be a Capitol Police officer, who told her to go to another building but didn't say where to go or offer to escort her, Ocasio-Cortez said. So she went and sheltered in the office of Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), who picked up the story on MSNBC, describing a shaken Ocasio-Cortez looking for hiding places in her office, too, saying she hoped to live long enough to become a mom.

Ocasio-Cortez also disclosed she is "a survivor of sexual assault," telling the 100,000-plus viewers that she hasn't "told many people that in my life." Her colleagues and others "that tell us to move on, that it's not a big deal, that we should forget what's happened or even telling us to apologize, these are the same tactics as abusers," she said, the tactics "of that man who touched you inappropriately at work, telling you to move on," or "the adult who, you know, if they hurt you when you were a child and you grow up and you confront them about it, and they try to tell you that what happened never happened."

Any members of Congress who don't regret what happened, "they continue to be a danger for their colleagues," Ocasio-Cortez said. Her experience, she tweeted later, is "just one story of many of those whose lives were endangered at the Capitol by the lies, threats, and violence fanned by the cowardice of people who chose personal gain above democracy." Peter Weber

February 1, 2021

In the wake of the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump, "a picture has emerged of entropic forces coming together on Trump's behalf in an ad hoc, yet calamitous, crash of rage and denial," The New York Times reports in a detailed look at "the 77 democracy-bending days between election and inauguration" of President Biden. "But interviews with central players, and documents including previously unreported emails, videos, and social media posts scattered across the web, tell a more encompassing story of a more coordinated campaign," ultimately "summoned and directed by the departing president" in "one final norm-defying act of a reality-denying presidency."

The Jan. 6 rally at the Ellipse that led to the mobbing of the Capitol was originally organized by a pro-Trump group called Women for America First. After Trump decided on Dec. 18 that trying to get Congress to overturn his loss on Jan. 6 was his last best hope, the group, founded by Tea Party veteran Amy Kremer and led by her daughter, Kylie Jane Kremer, put together a multi-state bus tour to Washington, D.C.

Two activists with close ties to Stephen Bannon — Jennifer Lawrence and Dustin Stockton — helped organize the effort, the Times reports, with funding from Bannon's "War Room" podcast and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. Trump tweeted on Jan. 2 that he would be at the event, and though "Kremer held the permit, the rally would now effectively become a White House production," the Times reports. Publix supermarket heiress Julie Jenkins Fancelli donated $300,000 and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones chipped in another $50,000; Caroline Wren, a former deputy to Kimberly Guilfoyle, and Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson joined the organizing of the event.

Stockton, a hard-right gun activist, told the Times "he was surprised to learn on the day of the rally that it would now include a march from the Ellipse to the Capitol. Before the White House became involved, he said, the plan had been to stay at the Ellipse until the counting of state electoral slates was completed."

The violent assault on the Capitol, followed by Congress certifying Biden's victory, spelled the end of Trump's post-election campaign, the Times reports, but "the same cannot be said about the political staying power, the grip on the Republican faithful, of the lie he set in motion," that the election was stolen from him. Read more at The New York Times. Peter Weber

January 27, 2021

Lots of things went wrong with law enforcement before and during the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump, and one of them was the long delay in deployment of National Guard reinforcements. Those failures were the focus of a closed-door hearing Tuesday before the House Appropriations Committee, and among those who testified was Maj. Gen. William Walker, commander of the D.C. National Guard. Walker told The Washington Post on Tuesday that the Pentagon had tied his hands.

Because Washington, D.C., isn't a state, the president is nominally in charge of the D.C. National Guard. In practice, the defense secretary and Army secretary are in command, but Walker, like all National Guard commanders, typically has the power to take military action in an emergency. "All military commanders normally have immediate response authority to protect property, life, and in my case, federal functions — federal property and life," Walker told the Post. "But in this instance I did not have that authority."

In a Jan. 5 memo, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, who was Walker's direct superior until he stepped down last week, prohibited Walker from deploying a ready force of 40 Guardsmen without a formal "concept of operations" plan, the Post reports. In a Jan. 4 memo, acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller had prohibited McCarthy from authorizing the deployment of D.C. Guardsmen carrying helmets, body armor, riot control agents, or weapons without his approval, and said the quick reaction force could be dispatched "only as a last resort."

Pentagon officials say the requirement for top-level authorization was a response to the D.C. Guard's participation in Trump's widely criticized crackdown on racial justice protests in June. "When you go back to times when we've done this, like June, we wanted to make sure we were very careful about the employment — careful about fragmentary orders," McCarthy told the Post.

There was also concern at the Pentagon about sending soldiers nominally under Trump's command into a riot of Trump supporters, because that might give the impression Guardsmen were aiding a pro-Trump coup, the Post reports. Those concerns, valid as they may be, don't explain why it took three hours for the Pentagon to deploy the National Guard after the rioters had already overrun the Capitol. Read more at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

January 27, 2021

At least six members of the Proud Boys, a group of right-wing nationalist "Western chauvinists," have been arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 violent siege of the U.S. Capitol. Among those charged is Joseph Biggs, a Proud Boy leader who led about 100 men from former President Donald Trump's "Stop the Steal" rally to the Capitol.

Prosecutors and federal investigators are now trying to determine how closely the Proud Boys communicated during the siege and whether they planned the incursion in advance, The New York Times reports.

Investigators have recently turned their attention to two Proud Boy organizers on the West Coast, Ethan Nordean of Auburn, Washington, and Eddie Block from Madera, California, the Times reports, citing a federal law enforcement official. Nordean, also called Rufio Panman, has not been charged, and Block, who live-streamed the insurrection, told the Times that federal agents seized his electronic equipment on Friday. Investigator are also scrutinizing the role of Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio, who was not at the riot because he had been banned from Washington, D.C., two days earlier.

Still, "despite having launched one of the most sprawling inquiries in American history, investigators have yet to unearth clear-cut evidence suggesting there was a widespread conspiracy to assault the Capitol," the Times reports. The Wall Street Journal made a pretty compelling case Tuesday that the Proud Boys were at least key instigators of the assault, based on a thorough review of video and social media posts.

The Proud Boys have publicly downplayed their involvement in the Capitol incursion. Tarrio told the Times a week after the siege that it was misguided and anyone who damaged the Capitol or assaulted police should be prosecuted. The handful of Proud Boys arrested after being filmed breaking into the Capitol, like Dominic Pezzola, "obviously, they didn't help our cause," he added.

Federal authorities as of Monday had charged about 150 of the more than 800 people who charged into the Capitol, and "it's likely not everyone will be tracked down and charged with a crime," The Associated Press reports. There were few arrests during the incursion, and "federal prosecutors are focusing on the most critical cases and the most egregious examples of wrongdoing." Some Capitol insurrectionists were turned in to the FBI by friends and family members, AP notes, but in dozens of cases, the rioters themselves "downright flaunted their activity on social media." Peter Weber

January 19, 2021

A woman who participated in the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol surrendered to authorities in Pennsylvania on Monday night, the Justice Department said. Riley Williams, 22, was charged with illegally entering the Capitol, violent entry, and disorderly conduct, but the FBI said it is also investigating a tip from the suspect's former "romantic partner" that Williams broke into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office during the siege, stole a laptop, and "intended to send the computer device to a friend in Russia, who then planned to sell the device to SVR, Russia's foreign intelligence service."

The transfer of the laptop to Russian intelligence "fell through for unknown reasons," the former partner, identified only as Witness 1, told the FBI, "and Williams still has the computer device or destroyed it." Williams was captured on video urging fellow rioters to go upstairs in the Capitol, toward Pelosi's office, the FBI said. Pelosi's deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, confirmed after the siege that "a laptop from a conference room was stolen," but said "it was a laptop that was only used for presentations."

Williams lived with her mother, who identified her as the woman in an ITV video of the Capitol raid, the FBI said. The mother also told authorities that her daughter had taken a sudden interest in President Trump's politics and "far-right message boards." Williams had traveled to the pre-riot protest with her father, but he said they were separated before the Capitol siege, the FBI said, and after they returned to Pennsylvania, Williams deleted her social media accounts, changed her phone number, and fled. Peter Weber

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