A searing new report by the Inspector General of the Capitol Police, Michael A. Bolton, raises important new questions about why the force was so ill-prepared to deal with the January 6 insurrection.
It concludes that a specific threat assessment, prepared by Capitol Police Intelligence, had in fact warned of an imminent attack on the Capitol and specifically that "Congress itself is a target." This assessment was delivered to the organization a full three days before the January 6 insurrection. It was also completely ignored.
The New York Times reports that it received an advance copy of the threat assessment and has reviewed it. It included a specific warning that supporters of the ex-president actually had posted maps of the tunnels beneath the building on message boards and were growing increasingly extreme and violent in their language online. It also warned about the kind of protestors that were gathering and the threat they posed.
The assessment warned:
"Stop the Steal's propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike."
Despite this clear warning from their own Intelligence experts, the Capitol Police's plan to deal with the protest was devoid of any urgency.
Instead, it blandly stated, as of January 5, that there were "no specific known threats related to the joint session of Congress." The chief of the Capitol Police, who has since resigned, testified later before Congress that they had concluded the likelihood of violence to be "improbable." This appears to be at stark odds with their own Intelligence report.
Worse still, according to Inspector General Bolton's new report, Capitol Police leaders specifically instructed their officers not to use their most aggressive tactics to hold off the mob, including their most powerful crowd control tools and techniques. "Heavier, less-lethal weapons," including stun grenades, "were not used that day because of orders from leadership," Bolton wrote. Officials on duty on Jan. 6 told him that such equipment could have helped the police to "push back the rioters."
The report goes into further detail about how equipment, training, and inaccessible protective gear exacerbated an already bad situation.
Congress will no doubt have many more questions, especially as this heads into House Administrative Committee hearings later this week. Per NPR, the panel's chair, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), called for the hearing after receiving a briefing from Bolton last month and has stated that the findings "provide detailed and disturbing findings and important recommendations."
They also raise at least two important questions:
1) Was the Intelligence Report specifically warning of the violent threat on Congress buried, or did it just somehow lose its way to top leadership?
2) Why did supervisors tell officers not to use their most effective crowd control tools and techniques? Were they instructed from higher-ups to do so, and assuming they were, who gave this command and why?
As has so often been the case, the truth may lie somewhere between sheer incompetence and conspiracy.