If you haven’t yet read the final report of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol, allow me to issue this spoiler alert: It was all Trump’s fault. . In more than 800 pages of painstakingly gathered evidence, the committee convincingly demonstrates that former President Donald J. Trump was the catalyst for violence on Capitol Hill and attempts to nullify a valid 2020 presidential election. of the committee is compelling and its conclusions are overwhelming. Yet what the committee chose not to fully investigate and find leaves a gaping hole in its otherwise impressive work.
The committee’s report did not fully address the law enforcement and intelligence failures that may have prevented or mitigated the January 6, 2021 violence on our nation’s Capitol.
The committee’s report did not fully address the law enforcement and intelligence failures that may have prevented or mitigated the January 6, 2021 violence on our nation’s Capitol. This missing piece makes it more likely than not that the domestic terrorism we saw that day could happen again. In deciding to make “Trump did it” its mantra, the committee let that message, while legitimate, get in the way of its broader mission.
The House resolution that created the Jan. 6 committee said the committee’s purpose would include investigating “facts and causes relating to the preparation and response of the United States Capitol Police and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in the National Capital Region and other instruments of government, as well as the influential factors that have fomented such an attack on American representative democracy as she was engaged in a constitutional process.
The committee was also tasked “to review and evaluate evidence developed by relevant federal, state, and local government agencies regarding the facts and circumstances surrounding the domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol and the targeted violence and domestic terrorism relevant to such a terrorist attack”. And the committee was instructed to “issue a final report” containing “findings, conclusions and recommendations for corrective action.”
These “cause” and “corrective action” analyzes are desperately needed when it comes to law enforcement and intelligence agencies, but they are sorely lacking in the report. That’s not to say the committee didn’t gather the evidence needed to address these issues. Apparently the committee members chose not to show us their work. NBC News reported in November that the committee decided not to focus on law enforcement failings, but instead to make Trump its main theme. Indeed, the committee has relegated its law enforcement component to an appendix that begins on page 693 of the report and has only 18 pages of narrative. The Cheesecake Factory menu has more pages than that.
What the American public deserved was a thorough analysis of how laws, policies and directives might have prevented comprehensive intelligence gathering and response in federal agencies and, after that, recommendations on how to fix things that are broken. What we got from the January 6 committee was clear evidence that these agencies had intelligence that screamed about the violence to come on January 6 and evidence that the intelligence had been passed on but no one seemed to know what to do with it. . Worse still, the committee found that no one was responsible or even wanted to be responsible. Unfortunately, we still don’t know if these law enforcement and intelligence failures were the result of a failure to view fellow Americans as threats from within, operational directives that need to be changed, orders from the White House to ignore the threats – or all of them.
The committee declined to blame any agency for its clearly inadequate response before and during Jan. 6, but instead chose to simply blame Trump and claim that no agency could have predicted a president would be so corrupt.
From page 6 of the report: “These agencies apparently did not (and potentially could not) anticipate the provocation President Trump would offer the crowd in his Ellipse speech, which President Trump would ‘spontaneously’ request from the crowd marching toward the Capitol, whether President Trump would exacerbate the violent riot by sending his 2:24 p.m. tweet condemning Vice President Pence, or the full extent of the violence and lawlessness that would ensue. Nor did law enforcement anticipate that President Trump would refuse to order his supporters to leave the Capitol once the violence began. No advanced intelligence community analysis predicted exactly how President Trump would fare; no such analysis has acknowledged the magnitude and extent of the threat to the Capitol on January 6.
The committee is right to blame Trump, but wrong to conclude that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies were powerless to do anything in response to his provocations. This is like saying that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the acts of terror of September 11, 2001 – which is true – but that the American intelligence community was beyond reproach and incapable of stopping his plot – which is false. Prior to 9/11, there was growing and deeply disturbing intelligence that al-Qaeda was planning a massive attack. President George W. Bush has been briefed. FBI field offices reported that Saudi nationals were taking flying lessons but were unwilling to learn how to land. Likewise, before January 6, 2021, there were signs and clues that signaled that big trouble was coming.
The committee is right to blame Trump, but wrong to conclude that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies were powerless to do anything.
After 9/11, the US government set up an entire institution: the Department of Homeland Security. Congress passed the Patriot Act and created the Transportation Security Administration, which changed the way we board airplanes. The Federal Aviation Administration has allowed pilots to be armed. Yet the January 6 committee did not make a single recommendation to improve our law enforcement and intelligence community’s response to homegrown terrorism.
In her preface to the committee’s report, Nancy Pelosi, as Speaker of the House at the time, wrote: “Above all, the work of the special committee underscores that our democratic institutions are only as strong as the commitment of those to whom they are entrusted. .”
Well, the FBI, DHS, US Secret Service, Capitol Police, and other agencies are responsible for caring for and protecting our democracy. The January 6 committee, by choosing not to fully address what went wrong in law enforcement on January 6 and blaming everything on a former president, made mistakes similar to the mistakes made by those agencies. He spotted the problem and spread the news about it, but stopped short of creating a plan to prevent this problem from happening again.