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“No major incidents of illegal activity”: DHS tells Pentagon as pro-Trump mob violated Capitol Hill

“These emails raise serious questions about the response to the January 6 threat,” said Jordan Libowitz, spokesperson for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a government watchdog group that obtained the email via a public registration request and shared it with POLITICO.

A DHS spokesperson declined to respond directly to the previous administration’s response from Jan.6, or to answer follow-up questions about whether the department forwarded additional updates to the Pentagon through other channels.

“Under Secretary Mayorkas’ leadership, tackling domestic violent extremism is a top priority for DHS,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The Department works closely with federal, state, local, tribal and non-government partners to improve our ability to detect, assess and mitigate threats posed by domestic terrorists. “

Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said senior military officials were working with real-time information “to assess the situation and determine the best response options available to the Secretary of Defense and the secretary of the army “.

The Pentagon received more specific information about the threat on January 6 through frequent communications throughout the day with other agencies, as well as with lawmakers, the White House, the mayor of DC and forces of the United States. local order. A detailed schedule released by the DOD at the time reflects several phone calls between Secretary of the Army, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and the leadership of the Metropolitan Police Department, as well as others between DOD leaders and legislators.

The email listing the DHS updates was sent by someone from the Army Operations Center in the Pentagon basement to a number of senior Army officials, including Lt. General Charles Flynn, who at the time was the Army’s deputy chief of staff for operations, plans, and training at the Pentagon (and who is the brother of Trump’s former national security adviser, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn); and then Under Secretary of the Army, James McPherson. Before sharing the email with CREW in response to their request, the Department of Defense redacted the sender’s name.

DHS updates were delivered through an internal government messaging system, which automatically converted the time stamp to Greenwich Mean Time, according to an Army official, who requested anonymity to discuss a topic sensitive.

The document shows that at 1:40 p.m., senior DOD officials received the “DHS National Operations Center Update at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 6,” as described in the email from the DOD. ‘army.

The NOC “provides timely reports and products … to support senior leadership decision making,” according to the DHS website. Part of its mission is to “bind senior leadership together to facilitate unity of effort and incident management efforts.”

In other words, the center exists to provide accurate information to decision makers when they need it. Its updates are routinely sent in real time to the Army Operations Center, which then forwards them to relevant military officials, according to people familiar with the process.

The first item on DHS’s 1:30 p.m. update list wasn’t even about DC, according to the Army email; they were National Guard units deployed to Wisconsin “in anticipation of a prosecution decision” in the case of Jacob Blake, a black man shot in the back seven times by a white police officer. The shooting left Blake partially paralyzed and sparked a nationwide uproar. The DHS update noted that 851 National Guard personnel were ready for “civil disruption operations” following a local prosecutor’s announcement that he would not lay charges against the ‘officer.

Then the update listed “DC Events Reported to DHS NOC” as the second item.

“In the last 2 hours – There has been no major incident of illegal activity at this time,” the report said.

Then he listed a number of non-issues: a suspicious package at a metro station near the capital was “not distributed threat; “A law enforcement agency” determined that Proud Boys threatening to shut down the downtown water system was not a credible threat; “and” Protesters near the 16th and Pennsylvania avenue reportedly with baseball bats; exaggerated report.

He also noted that two buildings in the Capitol Complex were being evacuated due to a bomb threat against the Capitol Hill Club. The report did not note that this club – a meeting place for lobbyists and Republican agents – is next to the Republican National Committee. A homemade bomb was found there that day.

By the end of the two hours covered by this update, the attacks on the Capitol had already started. But you wouldn’t know from the update.

“Why were so many more members of the National Guard prepared to protect the Kenosha, Wisconsin area after the decision not to prosecute the officer who shot Jacob Blake than there was for to protect DC from Trump supporters? Said Libowitz. “An update at 1:30 pm reported up to 20,000 people marching towards the Capitol, but“ There is no major incident of illegal activity at this time. But by 1 p.m., the rioters had already crossed the barricade of the Capitol. Why didn’t they take what was clearly going on as serious?

Events that unfolded on Capitol Hill throughout the afternoon, broadcast on live television across the world, belied the DHS ticking.

At 12:52 p.m. that day, then Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said he realized the danger was imminent. A huge group was heading for the Capitol, he said in testimony to Congress, and it wasn’t an old DC protest.

“It was immediately clear that their main objective was to overcome our perimeter as quickly as possible and cross the police line,” said Sund. “This crowd was unlike anything I’ve seen in my law enforcement career. The group consisted of thousands of well-coordinated and well-equipped violent criminals. They had weapons, chemical munitions, protective equipment, explosives and climbing equipment. A number of them wore radio headsets indicating a high level of coordination. “

By 12:53 p.m., protesters had crossed the outer perimeter of the Capitol, according to the New York Times.

At 12:58 p.m., Sund called for help from the DC Metropolitan Police Department.

At 1:05 p.m., Washington Post reporter Rebecca Tan tweeted a photo from the growing crowd. “The demonstrators charge towards the Captiol [sic] steps, ”she wrote. “Some tried to enlarge the building structures and were taken over by the police. They want to enter the building and make attempts at intervals. The Capitol police are trying to hold them back.

At 1:09 p.m., Sund urged the Sergeants-at-Arms – officials responsible for the day-to-day operations of the House and Senate – to send their support and “authorize the National Guard,” he later said. .

The danger was great enough that Capitol Hill’s top law enforcement official called for the National Guard to enter. But these troops did not arrive until after 5 p.m.

At 1:26 pm, according to the DOD timeline, the United States Capitol Police “ordered the evacuation of the Capitol complex.”

DHS sent another update “from 1400” or 2 p.m. ET, according to the Army email. It gave a slightly more precise picture of the chaos.

“The United States Capitol was reportedly locked down due to multiple attempts to breach police barriers and police injuries,” it reads, followed by a partially redacted sentence that ended with the phrase “the situation continues to develop “.

This characterization is a drastic understatement. From 1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m., the situation at the Capitol deteriorated considerably. At 1:44 p.m., Trump supporters climbed onto the scaffolding outside the building, according to Just Security.

At 1:49 p.m., Sund called the head of the Washington National Guard, Major General William Walker. Walker later said Sund had declared “that there was a serious emergency on Capitol Hill and called for immediate help from as many guards as I could muster.”