Three days before the deadly Electoral College Riot, an internal Capitol Police intelligence report warned of a violent scenario in which “Congress itself” could be the target of President Donald Trump’s angry supporters. This revelation is a stark alert that deepens questions about the security failures the day of the Capitol siege. In a 12-page report on Jan. 3, the intelligence unit of the congressional police force described how thousands of enraged protesters, egged on by Trump and flanked by white supremacists and extreme militia groups, were likely to stream into Washington armed for battle.
This time, the focus of their ire would be members of Congress, the report said.
Supporters of the current president see January 6, 2021, as the last opportunity to overturn the results of the presidential election, This sense of desperation and disappointment may lead to more of an incentive to become violent. 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 is the target on the 6th.
The report was conveyed to all Capitol Police command staff by the intelligence unit’s director, Jack Donohue. The report prompted the Capitol Police chief, Steven Sund, to seek the emergency activation of the National Guard and led the department to place its perimeter barricades farther from the Capitol than during past events. Though the support of the National Guard was requested, the report does not appear to have been shared widely with other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI. This was among several flags that security experts say should have alerted officials to the high-security risks on Jan. 6.
Sund, who resigned in the wake of the siege, said in the days immediately preceding the attack, he grew concerned that additional security measures were needed. He asked top congressional security officials for permission to declare an emergency and activate the National Guard, a request he said they rebuffed.
The report said organizers were urging Trump supporters to come armed with guns and to bring specialized combat gear — including gas masks and military-style bulletproof vests called “plate carriers” — to Washington on Jan. 6.
The memo concluded that Jan. 6 was shaping up to potentially be a perfect storm of danger because of the size of the expected crowds, the urgency of the group’s mission, the call for demonstrators to bring lethal weapons, the location of the two largest protests in proximity to the Capitol grounds, and the fact that “both have been promoted by President Trump himself.”
On Jan. 4, the day after the intelligence unit shared its warning and conclusions with more than a dozen Capitol Police command staff members, Sund said he asked the Senate and House sergeants at arms for permission to put the National Guard on emergency standby. Sund said House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving and Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger rejected that idea. On the day of the attack, Sund said, he urgently renewed the request for emergency National Guard support after a mob broke through the Capitol barricades around 1 p.m. When reinforcements arrived at 5:40 pm, more than four hours after the initial breach and days after the warning report was released, the Capitol had already been breached.