Capitol Police rejected offers of federal help to quell mob

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WASHINGTON (WJW/AP) — There was a heavy police presence at the Capitol a day after a violent mob stormed the Capitol as lawmakers were meeting to confirm Joe Biden’s presidential win. Wednesday began as a day of reckoning for President Donald Trump’s attempt to cling to power, as Congress took up the certification of Biden’s victory.

A pro-Trump mob overran the U.S. Capitol, occupying one hallowed space of American democracy after another. A woman was shot and killed by police, and three others died in apparent medical emergencies. Streets in the District of Columbia were quiet Thursday morning.

10:00 p.m.:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Three days before supporters of President Donald Trump rioted at the Capitol, the Pentagon asked the U.S Capitol Police if it needed National Guard manpower. And as the mob descended on the building Wednesday, Justice Department leaders reached out to offer up FBI agents. The police turned them down both times, according to senior defense officials and two people familiar with the matter.

Despite plenty of warnings of a possible insurrection and ample resources and time to prepare, the Capitol Police planned only for a free speech demonstration.

Still stinging from the uproar over the violent response by law enforcement to protests last June near the White House, officials also were intent on avoiding any appearance that the federal government was deploying active duty or National Guard troops against Americans.

The result is the U.S. Capitol was overrun Wednesday and officers in a law enforcement agency with a large operating budget and experience in high-security events protecting lawmakers were overwhelmed for the world to see. Four protesters died, including one shot inside the building.

The rioting and loss of control has raised serious questions over security at the Capitol for future events. The actions of the day also raise troubling concerns about the treatment of mainly white Trump supporters, who were allowed to roam through the building for hours, while Black and brown protesters who demonstrated last year over police brutality faced more robust and aggressive policing.

“This was a failure of imagination, a failure of leadership,” said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, whose department responded to several large protests last year following the death of George Floyd. “The Capitol Police must do better and I don’t see how we can get around that.”

Acevedo said he has attended events on the Capitol grounds to honor slain police officers that had higher fences and a stronger security presence than what he saw on video Wednesday.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said that as the rioting was underway, it became clear that the Capitol Police were overrun. But he said there was no contingency planning done in advance for what forces could do in case of a problem at the Capitol because Defense Department help was turned down. “They’ve got to ask us, the request has to come to us,” said McCarthy.

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, under pressure from Schumer, Pelosi and other congressional leaders, was forced to resign. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asked for and received the resignation of the Sergeant at Arms of the Senate, Michael Stenger, effective immediately. Paul Irving, the longtime Sergeant at Arms of the House, also resigned.

“There was a failure of leadership at the top,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

The U.S. Capitol had been closed to the public since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has now killed more than 360,000 people in the U.S. But normally, the building is open to the public and lawmakers pride themselves on their availability to their constituents.

It is not clear how many officers were on-duty Wednesday, but the complex is policed by a total of 2,300 officers for 16 acres of ground who protect the 435 House representatives, 100 U.S. senators and their staff. By comparison, the city of Minneapolis has about 840 uniformed officers policing a population of 425,000 in a 6,000-acre area.

There were signs for weeks that violence could strike on Jan. 6, when Congress convened for a joint session to finish counting the Electoral College votes that would confirm Democrat Joe Biden had won the presidential election.

On far-right message boards and in pro-Trump circles, plans were being made.

The leader of the far-right extremist group Proud Boys was arrested coming into the nation’s capital this week on a weapons charge for carrying empty high-capacity magazines emblazoned with their logo. He admitted to police that he had made statements about rioting in Washington, local officials said.

Both Acevedo and Ed Davis, a former Boston police commissioner who led the department during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, said they did not fault the responses of clearly overmatched front-line officers, but the planning and leadership before the riot.

“Was there a structural feeling that well, these are a bunch of conservatives, they’re not going to do anything like this? Quite possibly,” Davis said. “That’s where the racial component to this comes into play in my mind. Was there a lack of urgency or a sense that this could never happen with this crowd? Is that possible? Absolutely.”

Trump and his allies were perhaps the biggest megaphones, encouraging protesters to turn out in force and support his false claim that the election had been stolen from him. He egged them on during a rally shortly before they marched to the Capitol and rioted. His personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, a former New York mayor known for his tough-on-crime stance, called for “trial by combat.”

McCarthy said law enforcement’s intelligence estimates of the potential crowd size in the run-up to the protests “were all over the board,” from a low of 2,000 to as many as 80,000.

So the Capitol Police had set up no hard perimeter around the Capitol. Officers were focused on one side where lawmakers were entering to vote to certify Biden’s win.

Barricades were set up on the plaza in front of the building, but police retreated from the line and a mob of people broke through. Lawmakers, at first unaware of the security breach, continued their debate. Soon they were cowering under chairs. Eventually they were escorted from the House and Senate. Journalists were left alone in rooms for hours as the mob attempted to break into barricaded rooms.

Sund, the Capitol Police chief, said he had expected a display of “First Amendment activities” that instead turned into a “violent attack.” But Gus Papathanasiou, head of the Capitol Police union, said planning failures left officers exposed without backup or equipment against surging crowds of rioters.

“We were lucky that more of those who breached the Capitol did not have firearms or explosives and did not have a more malign intent,” Papathanasiou said in a statement. “Tragic as the deaths are that resulted from the attack, we are fortunate the casualty toll was not higher.”

The Justice Department, FBI and other agencies began to monitor hotels, flights and social media for weeks and were expecting large crowds. Mayor Muriel Bowser had warned of impending violence for weeks, and businesses had closed in anticipation. She requested National Guard help from the Pentagon on Dec. 31, but the Capitol Police turned down the Jan. 3 offer from the Defense Department, according to Kenneth Rapuano, assistant defense secretary for homeland security.

“We asked more than once and the final return that we got on Sunday the 3rd was that they would not be asking DOD for assistance,” he said.

The Justice Department’s offer for FBI support as the protesters grew violent was rejected by the Capitol Police, according to the two people familiar with the matter. They were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.

By then, it was too late.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police Department descended. Agents from nearly every Justice Department agency, including the FBI, were called in. So was the Secret Service and the Federal Protective Service. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sent two tactical teams. Police from as far away as New Jersey arrived to help.

It took four hours to evict the protesters from the Capitol complex. By then, they had roamed the halls of Congress, posed for photos inside hallowed chambers, broken through doors, destroyed property and taken photos of themselves doing it. Only 13 were arrested at the time; scores were arrested later.

In the aftermath, a 7-foot fence will go up around the Capitol grounds for at least 30 days. The Capitol Police will conduct a review of the carnage, as well as their planning and policies. Lawmakers plan to investigate how authorities handled the rioting.

The acting U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia, Michael Sherwin, said the failure to arrest more people is making their jobs harder.

“Look, we have to now go through cell site orders, collect video footage to try to identify people and then charge them, and then try to execute their arrest. So that has made things challenging, but I can’t answer why those people weren’t zip-tied as they were leaving the building by the Capitol Police.”

8:20 p.m.:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he has accepted the resignation of Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger a day after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.

The Kentucky Republican said Thursday in a statement that he had earlier requested the resignation and later received it. He says Stenger’s resignation is effective immediately.

McConnell says Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms Jennifer Hemingway will now be acting sergeant-at-arms.

He says, “I thank Jennifer in advance for her service as we begin to examine the serious failures that transpired yesterday and continue and strengthen our preparations for a safe and successful inauguration on January 20th.”

Democrat Chuck Schumer had earlier vowed to fire Stenger when Schumer becomes Senate majority leader later this month if Stenger was still in the position.

6:30 p.m.:

The head of the U.S. Capitol Police will resign effective Jan. 16 following the breach of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

Chief Steven Sund said Thursday that police had planned for a free speech demonstration and did not expect the violent attack. He said it was unlike anything he’d experienced in his 30 years in law enforcement.

He resigned Thursday after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on him to step down. His resignation was confirmed to The Associated Press by a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The breach halted the effort by Congress to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Protesters stormed the building and occupied for hours. The lawmakers eventually returned and finished their work.

6:00 p.m.:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday denounced the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol as “domestic terrorists” and he blamed President Donald Trump for the violence that has shaken the nation’s capital and beyond.

The riot by Trump supporters who breached the security of Congress on Wednesday was “not dissent, was not disorder, was not protest. It was chaos.”

Those who massed on Capitol Hill intending to disrupt a joint session of Congress that was certifying Biden’s election victory over Trump “weren’t protesters. Don’t dare call them protesters. They were a riotous mob — insurrectionists, domestic terrorists. It’s that basic,” Biden said.

In solemn tones, Biden said the actions Trump has taken to subvert the nation’s democratic institutions throughout his presidency led directly to the mayhem in Washington.

“In the past four years, we’ve had a president who’s made his contempt for our democracy, our Constitution, the rule of law clear in everything he has done,” Biden said. “He unleashed an all-out assault on our institutions of our democracy from the outset. And yesterday was the culmination of that unrelenting attack.”

The mob of hundreds of Trump backers broke into the Capitol and roamed the halls looking for lawmakers, who were forced to halt their deliberations and seek safety. The violent protesters were egged on by Trump himself, who has falsely contended that he lost the election due to voter fraud.

Trump’s claims were repeatedly dismissed in the courts, including the Supreme Court, and by state election officials from both parties, and even by some in his own administration. But the president went to greater and greater lengths to try to subvert the election, culminating this week in efforts by some Republican members of Congress to object to the certification of the results and the violence at the Capitol. After the disruption, Congress returned to work late Wednesday and affirmed Biden’s victory early Thursday.

Biden ticked off a list of Trump’s assaults on American norms, including his attacks on the press and the intelligence community and his pressure on state and federal officials and judges to submit to his efforts to overturn the election. Biden said that on Wednesday, Trump tried to “use a mob to silence the voices of nearly 160 Americans” who voted in November.

And both he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris spoke about the police treatment of the largely white protesters on Wednesday, compared with the heavy-handed way in which police have handled Black Lives Matter protests.

“We witnessed two systems of justice, when we saw one that let extremists storm the United States Capitol and another that released tear gas on peaceful protesters last summer,” Harris said.

Biden declared that “no one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol.”

He expressed hope that images comparing the police presence Wednesday to that marshaled to prepare for Black Lives Matters protests would open Americans’ eyes to the needs for reform.

The remarks came during an event in Wilmington, Delaware, to introduce Biden’s Justice Department team, to be led by federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland as attorney general. Biden also announced Obama administration homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco would serve as deputy attorney general and former Justice Department civil rights chief Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general, the No. 3 official. He also named an assistant attorney general for civil rights, Kristen Clarke, now the president of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an advocacy group.

The Justice Department is expected to dramatically change course during the Biden administration, with a greater focus on civil rights issues and a review of policing policies. Both Biden and Harris spoke Wednesday about the importance of an independent judiciary.

Biden said some of the most important work for the nation remains “committing ourselves to the rule of law in this nation, invigorating our domestic and democratic institutions carrying out equal justice under law in America.”

“There is no more important place for us to do this work than the Department of Justice,” he said.

4:05 p.m.:

(AP) — Vice President Mike Pence is expected to attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

That’s according to two people — one close to Pence and one familiar with the inauguration planning. The people spoke on condition of anonymity Thursday because the plans had yet to be finalized.

The news comes a day after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol to stop the congressional confirmation of Biden’s victory, with some angrily shouting that they were looking for Pence.

Trump had told his supporters that Pence had the power to reject electoral votes and make him the president instead of Biden, even though he didn’t have that authority. The pressure campaign created a rare public rift between the men after years of Pence’s uncheckered loyalty.

Pence’s press secretary Devin O’Malley tweeted Thursday: “You can’t attend something you haven’t received an invitation to….”

But it is customary for an outgoing vice president to attend the inauguration. Outgoing President Donald Trump has not said whether he plans to attend.

Biden will be inaugurated in Washington on Jan 20.

3:05 p.m.:

(AP) — Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of President Donald Trump’s top congressional allies, says the president must accept his own role in the violence that occurred at the U.S. Capitol.

The South Carolina senator said Thursday that Trump “needs to understand that his actions were the problem, not the solution.”

Graham was a foe of Trump’s during the 2016 campaign and questioned his mental fitness for office. Once Trump was in office, however, Graham became one of his closest confidants and often played golf with him.

Graham added that he had no regrets of his support of Trump but that “it breaks my heart that my friend, a president of consequence, would allow yesterday to happen.”

Graham complimented Vice President Mike Pence’s decorum during the Electoral College vote certification process, saying that any expectation that Pence could have overturned the results was “over the top, unconstitutional, illegal and would have been wrong for the country.”

2:15 p.m.:

(AP) — Pelosi: If Trump not removed under 25th Amendment, Congress may go forward with impeachment

1:05 p.m.:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf is asking President Donald Trump and all elected officials to “strongly condemn the violence that took place yesterday” at the Capitol.

Wolf says he has condemned violence on both sides of the political aisle, specifically directed at law enforcement. He tweets “we now see some supporters of the President using violence as a means to achieve political ends.” He calls that unacceptable.

Wolf also assures that he plans to stay on as acting secretary until the end of the Trump administration to ensure the Department of Homeland Security remains focused on “the serious threats facing our country and an orderly transition to President-elect Biden’s DHS team.”

Wolf’s statement also came out on the morning that the White House sent out a notice officially withdrawing his nomination as DHS secretary.

11:30 a.m.

WASHINGTON (WJW)– The Metropolitan Police Department released photos of people accused of committing criminal acts at the U.S. Capitol. Anyone with information about these people is asked to call police at 202-727-9099 or text the tip to 50411.

A file of those photos is available here.

(Images courtesy: Metropolitan Police Department)

11:10 a.m. update:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top U.S. military commander for Africa has issued a message of assurance to his forces, saying that America, its Constitution and system of government remain strong despite the violent events at the U.S. Capitol.

Army Gen. Stephen Townsend tweeted Thursday that America has “withstood much greater and graver challenges in the past” and Africa Command remains focused on its mission.

“The American people expect, and need, us to stay steady and keep clear eyes on our duty — and we will,” said Townsend in a statement with his senior enlisted leader, Sgt. Maj. Richard Thresher.

10:30 a.m. update:

WASHINGTON (AP) —  Former Attorney General William Barr says President Donald Trump’s conduct as a violent mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol was a “betrayal of his office and supporters.”

In a statement to The Associated Press, Barr said Thursday that “orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress is inexcusable.” Barr was one of Trump’s most loyal and ardent defenders in the Cabinet.

His comments come a day after angry and armed protesters broke into the U.S. Capitol, forcing Congress members to halt the ongoing vote to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s election and then flee from the House and Senate chambers.

Barr resigned last month amid lingering tension over the president’s baseless claims of election fraud and the investigation into Biden’s son.

9:50 a.m. update:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Defense Department has formally activated roughly 6,200 members of the National Guard from six northeastern states to help support the Capitol Police and other law enforcement in Washington in the wake of the deadly riot Wednesday that rocked the U.S. Capitol.

Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller signed orders activating the National Guard from Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland for up to 30 days. A defense official said the goal is to have Guard members help secure the U.S. Capitol and the surrounding area through the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

The Guard members are arriving over the next several days. A total of 6,200 have been activated, but the exact number of troops that will actually get to the city may be less than that, depending on who is available in each state. The Guard won’t be armed, but will have riot gear and protective clothing, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to provide troop details.

9:25 a.m. update:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers are vowing an investigation into how police handled Wednesday’s violent breach at the Capitol. The Democratic chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, California congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, says the breach “raises grave security concerns” and that her committee will work with House and Senate leaders to review the police response and preparedness.

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