In December 2020, just a couple weeks before armed insurrectionists laid siege to the halls of Congress as lawmakers certified Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump, the intelligence division of the U.S. Capitol Police warned of potential security threats to elected officials—some of which had been posted to a blog called thedonald.win. “Don’t cuck out,” one comment read. “This is do or die. Bring your guns.” But according to a new Senate report, the overt discussion of violence outlined by the Intelligence and Interagency Coordination Division—and its assessment that groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers were likely to participate in pro-Trump protests on January 6—was only communicated to command staff. The “full scope of known information” was never conveyed Capitol Police “leadership, rank-and-file officers, or law enforcement partners.”
That communication breakdown is just one of several security failures chronicled by a bipartisan Senate panel. According to a joint 100-plus page report by the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the Committee on Rules and Administration, the intelligence community failed to adequately communicate the scale of the threats to the Capitol January 6, and Capitol Police was ill-prepared to handle the riot. Those intelligence and operational failures were exacerbated, the Senate committees concluded, by “opaque processes and a lack of emergency authority,” which delayed the deployment of National Guard troops to contain the chaos.
“The events of January 6th were horrific,” Democratic Senator Gary Peters, chair of the Homeland Security committee, said in a statement Tuesday. “Our bipartisan investigation identified many unacceptable, widespread breakdowns in security preparations and emergency response related to this attack.”
Some of the security and intelligence missteps were already known. But the review—led by Peters, Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Republicans Roy Blunt and Rob Portman—is the most robust accounting yet of the lead-up to the January 6 riot and the events of that day. The new details the panel revealed speak to the necessity of further investigation—perhaps one like the 9/11-style commission that Republicans filibustered last month. But the report’s own shortcomings highlight the difficulty that commission would face: If a probe involves input from Republicans, whose party enabled and in some cases actively instigated the attack, it is likely doomed to be watered down.
While the Senate report pores over security and intelligence failures and makes recommendations to prevent further collapses, it does not discuss the role Trump himself played. As CNN reported, language had to be “carefully crafted” by its authors to receive support from both parties. “Did we look at Trump’s role in the attack?” a committee aide told the outlet. “The answer is no.” An investigation into an attack that spends little or no time examining the person who incited it is fundamentally insufficient. But Republicans have a vested interest in glossing over the role the former president and his allies played: Trump remains the head of the party, and more than a hundred Republican lawmakers cosigned his efforts to overturn his November loss to Biden. Those in the GOP who have stood up to him have been effectively exiled, and the same lies that led to the storming of the Capitol serve as the foundation for a massive, Republican-led voter suppression effort.
The Senate probe is an important start and offers a worrisome look at major shortcomings ahead of the riot and while it transpired. “The failures are obvious,” Klobuchar, chair of the Rules committee, told the New York Times. “To me, it was all summed up by one of the officers who was heard on the radio that day asking a tragically simple question: ‘Does anybody have a plan?’ Sadly, no one did.”
But a full accounting remains necessary—andelusive. “I think what you’re seeing in the discussion this morning is the inchoate nature of our understanding,” Democratic Congressman Sean Maloney, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in an MSNBC interview Tuesday, renewing calls for a “full, fair, independent, nonpartisan investigation.”
More Great Stories From Vanity Fair
— The Lab-Leak Theory: Inside the Fight to Uncover COVID-19’s Origins
— Ben Crump Is Thriving in Biden’s Washington
— Why It’s Not a Great Time to Be Matt Gaetz
— AOC’s Endorsement Could Change the NYC Mayor’s Race—But It May Never Come
— Trump Has Been Telling People He’s Going to Be President Again
— Is Juan Williams’s Exit From The Five Thanks to a Greg Gutfeld Blood Feud?
— Republicans’ Reason Not to Want to Investigate January 6: They’re to Blame
— Trump’s Inner Circle Is Scrambling at the Likelihood of Criminal Charges
— From the Archive: “60 Minutes Is Going Down”
— Not a subscriber? Join Vanity Fair to receive full access to VF.com and the complete online archive now.