Documents: Capitol Police Misjudged Risk of Violence

Documents show clashing assessments warned of possible trouble and even 'war'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 8, 2022 3:20 PM CST
Just Before Riot, Capitol Police Intelligence Misjudged Risk
With the Washington Monument in the background, people attend a rally in support of President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Intelligence reports compiled by the US Capitol Police in the days before last year's insurrection envisioned only an improbable or remote risk of violence, even as other assessments warned that tens of thousands of pro-Trump demonstrators could converge in Washington to create a dangerous situation. The documents, obtained by the AP, underscore the muddled intelligence that circulated to Capitol Police officers ahead of the Jan. 6 riot, when thousands of Donald Trump loyalists swarmed the Capitol complex and clashed violently with law enforcement officers in their effort to disrupt the certification of the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The intelligence reports in particular show how the police agency for days grievously underestimated the prospect of chaotic violence and disruptions, the AP reports. The daily intelligence reports have been discussed in congressional testimony and summarized in a Senate report. But the AP on Friday evening obtained full versions of the documents for Jan. 4, 5, and 6. On each of the three days, the Capitol Police ranked as "highly improbable" the possibility of acts of civil disobedience and arrests arising from the "Stop the Steal" protest planned for the Capitol. The event and nearly two dozen others were ranked on a scale of "remote" to "nearly certain" on the likelihood of major disruptions. All were rated as either "remote," "highly improbable," or "improbable," the documents show.

Those optimistic forecasts are tough to square with other intelligence assessments compiled by Capitol Police in late December and early January. Those documents, also obtained by AP, warned that crowds could number in the tens of thousands and include extremist groups like the Proud Boys. A Jan. 3, 2021, memo, for instance, warned of a "significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike." A Dec. 21, 2020, assessment showed that people were researching the tunnels under the Capitol—typically used by members of Congress and staff—on public websites. Adding to the mixed intelligence portrait is a Jan. 5 bulletin from the FBI's Norfolk field office that warned of the potential for "war" at the Capitol. Top Capitol Police leaders have said they were unaware of that document.

(More intelligence stories.)

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