Bipartisan Senate Report on Capitol Riot Blasts DHS, FBI for not Informing Capitol Police of Threats

A report from a bipartisan Senate investigation of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol criticized the FBI and the Homeland Security Department for downplaying online threats and for not issuing formal intelligence bulletins to help law enforcement prepare ahead of the insurrection.

The report found multiple agencies did not anticipate an attack despite rioters openly planning for an insurrection on the internet, the Associated Press reported. Agents from the Capitol Police intelligence unit did not properly inform leadership about possible threats even though they "knew about social media posts calling for violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, including a plot to breach the Capitol, the online sharing of maps of the Capitol Complex's tunnel systems, and other specific threats of violence," the report said.

"Law enforcement agencies across the country rely on intelligence, and the quality of that intelligence can mean the difference between life and death," Capitol Police said in a statement responding to the report.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Capitol Police Report
The United States Capitol Police seal appears on the side of a bus parked near the headquarters on February 19, 2021 in Washington, DC. A bipartisan Senate investigation found that law enforcement agencies experienced major breakdown in communication before and during the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. The report criticized agents for not taking online threat of violence seriously. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Senate report released Tuesday is the first — and could be the last — bipartisan review of how hundreds of former President Donald Trump's supporters were able to violently push past security lines and break into the Capitol that day, interrupting the certification of President Joe Biden's victory.

It includes new details about the police officers on the front lines who suffered chemical burns, brain injuries and broken bones and who told senators that they were left with no direction when command systems broke down. It recommends immediate changes to give the Capitol Police chief more authority, to provide better planning and equipment for law enforcement and to streamline intelligence gathering among federal agencies.

As a bipartisan effort, the report does not delve into the root causes of the attack, including Trump's role as he called for his supporters to "fight like hell" to overturn his election defeat that day. It does not call the attack an insurrection, even though it was. And it comes two weeks after Republicans blocked a bipartisan, independent commission that would investigate the insurrection more broadly.

"This report is important in the fact that it allows us to make some immediate improvements to the security situation here in the Capitol," said Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which conducted the probe along with the Senate Rules Committee. "But it does not answer some of the bigger questions that we need to face, quite frankly, as a country and as a democracy."

The House in May passed legislation to create a commission that would be modeled after a panel that investigated the Sept. 11 terrorist attack two decades ago. But the Senate failed to get the 60 votes needed to advance, with many Republicans pointing to the Senate report as sufficient.

The top Republican on the Rules panel, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, has opposed the commission, arguing that investigation would take too long. He said the recommendations made in the Senate can be implemented faster, including legislation that he and Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the rules committee chair, intend to introduce soon that would give the chief of Capitol Police more authority to request assistance from the National Guard.

The Senate report recounts how the Guard was delayed for hours on Jan. 6 as officials in multiple agencies took bureaucratic steps to release the troops. It details hours of calls between officials in the Capitol and the Pentagon and as the then-chief of the Capitol Police, Steven Sund, desperately begged for help.

It finds that the Pentagon spent hours "mission planning" and seeking multiple layers of approvals as Capitol Police were being overwhelmed and brutally beaten by the rioters. It also states that the Defense Department's response was "informed by criticism" of its heavy-handed response to protests in the summer of 2020 after the death of George Floyd in police custody.

The senators are heavily critical of the Capitol Police Board, a three-member panel that includes the heads of security for the House and Senate and the Architect of the Capitol. The board is now required to approve requests by the police chief, even in urgent situations. The report recommends that its members "regularly review the policies and procedures" after senators found that none of the board members on Jan. 6 understood their own authority or could detail the statutory requirements for requesting National Guard assistance.

Two of the three members of the board, the House and Senate sergeants at arms, were pushed out in the days after the attack. Sund also resigned under pressure.

Congress needs to change the law and give the police chief more authority "immediately," Klobuchar said.

There were no functional incident commanders, and some senior officers were fighting instead of giving orders. "USCP leadership never took control of the radio system to communicate orders to front-line officers," the investigation found.

"I was horrified that NO deputy chief or above was on the radio or helping us," one officer told the committee in an anonymous statement. "For hours the screams on the radio were horrific(,) the sights were unimaginable and there was a complete loss of control. ... For hours NO Chief or above took command and control. Officers were begging and pleading for help for medical triage."

Acting Chief of Police Yogananda Pittman, who replaced Sund after his resignation, told the committees that the lack of communication resulted from "incident commanders being overwhelmed and engaging with rioters, rather than issuing orders over the radio."

The committee's interviews with police officers detail what one officer told them was "absolutely brutal" abuse from Trump's supporters as they ran over them and broke into the building. They described hearing racial slurs and seeing Nazi salutes. One officer trying to evacuate the Senate said he had stopped several men in full tactical gear who said "You better get out of our way, boy, or we'll go through you to get [the Senators].'"

The insurrectionists told police officers they would kill them, and then the members of Congress. One officer said he had a "tangible fear" that he might not make it home alive.

At the same time, the senators acknowledge the officers' bravery, noting that one officer told them, "The officers inside all behaved admirably and heroically and, even outnumbered, went on the offensive and took the Capitol back."

Report on Capitol Insurrection
In this Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol Police officers hold off rioters loyal to President Donald Trump at the Capitol in Washington. A report from a bipartisan Senate investigation was critical of law enforcement agencies for the lack of communication before and during the attack at the Capitol. /Julio Cortez/AP Photo