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Watchdog to Testify on Jan. 6 Failures 04/15 06:12

   

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The top watchdog for the U.S. Capitol Police will testify 
for the first time on Thursday about the department's broad failures before and 
during the Jan. 6 insurrection, including missed intelligence predicting a 
"war" and weapons that were so old that officers didn't feel comfortable using 
them.

   Capitol Police Inspector General Michael A. Bolton has investigated the 
force's missteps since the siege, when hundreds of President Donald Trump's 
supporters broke into the building and sent lawmakers fleeing for their lives. 
In a report obtained by The Associated Press, he paints a dire picture of his 
agency's ability to respond to future threats and casts serious doubt on 
whether the force would be able to respond to another large-scale attack.

   The Capitol Police have so far refused to publicly release the report -- 
prepared in March and marked as "law enforcement sensitive" -- despite 
congressional pressure. Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, who heads 
the House Administration Committee, said last month that she found the report, 
along with another the department had circulated internally, "detailed and 
disturbing." Lofgren's committee is holding Thursday's hearing.

   Bolton found that the department's deficiencies were -- and remain -- 
widespread: Equipment was old and stored badly; officers didn't complete 
required training; and there was a lack of direction at the Civil Disturbance 
Unit, which exists to ensure that legislative functions of Congress are not 
disrupted by civil unrest or protest activity. That was exactly what happened 
on Jan. 6 when Trump supporters violently pushed past police and broke into the 
Capitol as Congress counted the Electoral College votes that certified Joe 
Biden's victory.

   The report also focuses on several pieces of missed intelligence, including 
an FBI memo sent the day before the insurrection that then-Capitol Police Chief 
Steven Sund told lawmakers he never saw. The memo warned of threatening online 
postings by Trump backers, including one comment that Congress "needs to hear 
glass breaking, doors being kicked in" and blood being spilled.

   "Get violent ... Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest," read 
one post recounted in the memo. "Go there ready for war. We get our President 
or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal."

   A separate report prepared by the Department of Homeland Security in 
December alerted the police to messages on a blog where people appeared to be 
planning for Jan. 6. One online post included a map of tunnels under the 
Capitol used by lawmakers and staff. "Take note," the message said.

   The Capitol Police said in a statement Wednesday that officials had already 
made some of the improvements recommended in the report, and that the siege was 
"a pivotal moment" in history that showed the need for "major changes" in how 
the department operates. Still, they said that they would need more money and 
staff to make improvements.

   "It is important to note that nearly all of the recommendations require 
significant resources the department does not have," the statement said.

   The report also provides new information on the movements of the Capitol 
Police as officers scrambled to evacuate lawmakers. An appendix to the document 
details previously unknown conversations among officials as they disagreed on 
whether National Guard forces were necessary. It quotes an Army official 
telling Sund, after the insurrectionists had broken in, that "we don't like the 
optics of the National Guard standing in a line at the Capitol."

   The riot has pushed the Capitol Police force toward a state of crisis, with 
officers working extra shifts and forced overtime to protect the Capitol. The 
acting chief, Yogananda Pittman, received a vote of no confidence from the 
union in February, reflecting widespread distrust among the rank and file who 
were left exposed and injured as the violent mob descended on the building. 
Morale has plummeted.

   The entire force is also grieving the deaths of three of their own. Officer 
Brian Sicknick collapsed and died after engaging with protesters on Jan. 6. 
Officer William "Billy" Evans was killed April 2 when he was hit by a car that 
rammed into a barricade outside the Senate. Evans laid in honor in the Capitol 
Rotunda on Tuesday.

   A third officer, Howard Liebengood, died by suicide in the days after the 
insurrection.

   The report describes in detail how department equipment was substandard, 
including at least 11 different types of munitions that appeared to have 
expired. Some equipment hadn't been replaced in more than two decades. Riot 
shields that shattered upon impact as the officers fended off the violent mob 
had been improperly stored. Weapons that could have fired tear gas were so old 
that officers didn't feel comfortable using them. Other weapons that could have 
done more to disperse the crowd were never staged before a Trump rally held 
near the White House, and those who were ordered to get backup supplies to the 
front lines could not make it through the aggressive crowd.

   In other cases, weapons weren't used because of "orders from leadership," 
the document says. Those weapons -- called "less lethal" because they are 
designed to disperse rather than kill -- could have helped the police repel the 
rioters as they moved toward the Capitol after Trump's speech, according to the 
report.

   The timeline attached to the report also gives a more detailed look at 
Capitol Police movements, commands and conversations as the chaos unfolded. It 
recounts several instances in which police and SWAT teams rescued individual 
lawmakers trapped in the Capitol and sheds new light on conversations in which 
Sund begged for National Guard support. Sund and others, including the head of 
the D.C. National Guard, have testified that Pentagon officials were concerned 
about the optics of a military response.

   The document quotes Army Staff Secretary Walter Piatt telling Sund and 
others on a call that "we don't like the optics" of the National Guard at the 
Capitol and he would recommend not sending them. That was at 2:26 p.m.; rioters 
had already smashed their way into the building.

   The Pentagon eventually did approve the Guard's presence, and Guard members 
arrived after 5 p.m. While they were waiting, Sund also had a teleconference 
with Vice President Mike Pence, the timeline shows. Pence was in a secure 
location in the Capitol because he had overseen the counting of the electoral 
votes. Some rioters were calling for his hanging because he refused to try and 
overturn Biden's win.

   The AP reported on Saturday that Pence also had a conversation that day with 
the acting defense secretary, Christopher Miller, in which Pence demanded, 
"Clear the Capitol."

 
 
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