Why Were Capitol Police So Unprepared For The January 6 MAGA CHUD Invasion?
The January 6 attack on the Capitol was a months-long work in progress. Donald Trump and his minions spread blatant, inflammatory lies about the election months before the first votes were cast. Trump's supporters showed up at polling places and threatened elections workers. They tried to enter a vote-counting center in Detroit, and Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff's deputies gathered in tactical gear at a polling place to keep Trump supporters from coming inside.
The #StoptheSteal hashtag started trending (again) on Facebook in September of 2020 (Roger Stone had used it during the 2016 election). Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was just elected to Congress, raffled off her AR-15 on Facebook to raise money for the “Stop the Steal" movement. This anti-democratic insurgency wasn't hiding its intentions, and it was clear by December that the January 6 electoral vote certification would be considered a last stand. Trump encouraged his supporters to come to Washington DC for a “wild" protest.
So, why were the Capitol Police caught flat-footed? They were outnumbered and overwhelmed, a far cry from the response to racial justice protesters across the country in 2020.
A former senior official in the US Capitol Police just released a scathing letter to Congress that places blaming squarely on the heads of Assistant Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman and acting Assistant Chief Sean Gallagher. The anonymous official accuses Pittman and Gallagher of ignoring an intelligence report they received on December 21 that specifically warned about a potential riot at the Capitol. It was reportedly similar to intel the FBI provided the department on January 5, which according to the Gregorian calendar is prior to January 6.
The letter, dated September 28, claims Pittman and Gallagher deliberately failed to share this information with the rest of the department and didn't bother to update the security assessment for January 6. This assembled mob was not the 2017 Women's March.
The official argues that if Pittman and Gallagher had shared this intelligence, it could've "changed the paradigm of that day" and "would have provided the documentation needed to support securing the National Guard and other allied agency manpower for January 6th."
Not that I'm one who'd ever defend law enforcement, but this strikes me as scapegoating. The issue seems greater than Pittman and Gallagher — nor do we know the anonymous official's own agenda or possible culpability. Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told him to GTFO, ludicrously claimed there was no evidence that "a well-coordinated, armed assault on the Capitol might occur on January 6." A riot doesn't need to be well-coordinated. It's not a Broadway musical. That's the advantage of a deranged mob.
I also think the anonymous official misses the orange elephant in the room when he suggests that this documentation would've helped secure the National Guard. The president commands the DC National Guard, and Trump wasn't going to rain on his own coup parade.
Although Mike Pence has shamelessly tried to minimize the events of January 6 as merely an attack against architecture, it was in reality the worst attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812. The British burned the White House as well, which was not a simple case of arson. A violent mob sent members of Congress fleeing for their lives, and Trump's thugs crossed the thin blue line without much effort and attacked cops with flagpoles, baseball bats, stun guns, bear spray, and pepper spray.
From the Washington Post:
In a joint statement responding to the criticism, members of the Capitol Police's executive team — which includes Pittman and Gallagher along with Chief of Police J. Thomas Manger — said that while "there is more work to do, many of the problems described in the letter have been addressed."
"The United States Capitol Police has implemented, and continues to implement, many of the critical recommendations called for in a series of post January 6 reviews," the officials said. "The letter from the former employee echoes the thoughtful recommendations in those reports."
But January 6 isn't a “learn from our mistakes" situation. It's a debacle that should result in everyone involved at the very least losing their jobs. Instead, the Capitol Police want more money because increased funding would've helped them forward emails.
The anonymous former official accuses Pittman of lying to Congress when she said the December report was shared with key personnel within the department. The report warned that Trumpists online were sharing maps of the Capitol campus and planned to confront members of Congress while armed. The official says Pittman's claim that senior officials were aware of this threat is “unconditionally false." It certainly defies logic, because if you watch videos taken after the Capitol was breached, the cops at the scene are woefully unprepared — not just to defend Congress members but to even protect themselves.
What the anonymous official misses here is that Pittman wasn't empowered to give the order for Capitol Police to “hold back" and not use their most powerful crowd control weapons. And it was Sund who'd considered the potential for violence improbable, as if he'd never met a Proud Boy.
Pittman testified that the Capitol Police knew that armed extremists might come to the Capitol to disrupt the vote and certain precautions were taken. If that's true, the question is why police across the country seemed more prepared to defend a local CVS from rioters than Capitol Police were to secure the US Capitol. The answer is unsettling but it's not entirely Pittman and Gallagher's fault. It's a collective disgrace.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."