Rep. Jamaal Bowman on Tuesday introduced a bill that seeks to establish a commission to investigate last week’s violent assault on the U.S. Capitol by an insurrectionary pro-Trump mob.
On Sunday night, Bowman, a freshman Democrat from New York, posed a series of questions on social media: “What the hell happened on January 6th? Why were terrorists able to get into the Capitol? Why were they able to walk out free? Why wasn’t Congress more prepared for this attack?”
“We need answers,” Bowman said, adding that he would soon be introducing a bill to “demand a 9/11-style commission to investigate.”
In a tweet accompanying his introduction of the Congressional Oversight of Unjust Policing (COUP) Act, Bowman explained that the purpose of the bill is to “establish an investigation into any further ties between Capitol Police and white supremacy, insurrectionism, or fascism.”
The introduction of Bowman’s bill coincides with the emergence of several troubling details surrounding last week’s attack on the Capitol. As the Tuesday afternoon edition of the Capitol Hill newsletter Punchbowl News reported: “It’s clear that the people paid to protect the legislative branch and its workers failed. The U.S. Capitol Police either ignored or were unprepared for the intensity of the attack. And law enforcement agencies are not providing the public with any information.”
The Washington Post, which obtained and reviewed an internal document, reported Tuesday that “a day before rioters stormed Congress, an FBI office in Virginia issued an explicit internal warning that extremists were preparing to travel to Washington to commit violence and ‘war,'” a revelation that “contradicts a senior official’s declaration the bureau had no intelligence indicating anyone at last week’s pro-Trump protest planned to do harm.”
According to the newspaper:
“As of 5 January 2021, FBI Norfolk received information indicating calls for violence in response to ‘unlawful lockdowns’ to begin on 6 January 2021 in Washington. D.C.,” the document says. “An online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating ‘Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled. Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.'”…
The warning is the starkest evidence yet of the sizable intelligence failure that preceded the mayhem, which claimed the lives of five people, although one law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid disciplinary action, said the failure was not one of intelligence but of acting on the intelligence…
Multiple law enforcement officials have said privately in recent days that the level of violence exhibited at the Capitol has led to difficult discussions within the FBI and other agencies about race, terrorism, and whether investigators failed to register the degree of danger because the overwhelming majority of the participants at the rally were white conservatives fiercely loyal to the President Trump.
Steven D’Antuono, head of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, told reporters Friday that “we worked diligently with our partners on this,” adding that “there was no indication” of anything planned for the day of Trump’s rally “other than First Amendment-protected activity,” the Post noted.
According to a person familiar with the warning, “Some Capitol Hill staffers were told by supervisors to not come into work that day, if possible, because it seemed the danger level would be higher than a lot of prior protests,” the newspaper reported. Despite this warning, “Capitol Police did not take the kind of extra precautions, such as frozen zones and hardened barriers, that are typically used in major events around the Capitol.”
On Monday, the Post reported that “several U.S. Capitol Police officers have been suspended and more than a dozen others are under investigation for suspected involvement with or inappropriate support” for last week’s deadly riot at the Capitol. Politico reporter Caitlin Emma tweeted that one of the suspended officers took “the now infamous selfie” and another “wore a MAGA hat while directing rioters.”
In addition to co-sponsoring Bowman’s bill, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) last week wrote to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Committee on House Administration. In her letter (pdf), Pressley said that “it is incumbent upon us to thoroughly examine the actions that transpired, review the failed response, and hold the appropriate individuals and agencies to account.”
“Without a doubt, much of the blame is firmly placed at the doorstep of the White House,” Pressley wrote. The congresswoman highlighted Trump’s refusal last year to disavow white supremacy and his decision last week to instigate an attack on the halls of Congress while President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory was being certified in spite of the relentless efforts of the president and some GOP lawmakers to undermine the legitimacy of the outcome with “baseless and illogical claims” of fraud.
“Despite the widespread media coverage of the planned actions of far-right extremists in the nation’s capital,” Pressley continued, “it is evident that our security apparatus and coordination with local and federal law enforcement failed to prevent the attack. It is absolutely paramount that we investigate how these domestic terrorists were able to so easily breach the Capitol building in broad daylight and in clear view of the Capitol Police.”
Alluding to video footage of some Capitol Police officers “removing barriers from the Capitol grounds, taking selfies, and even politely escorting terrorists out of buildings allowing them to leave freely,” Pressley said that “the American people deserve to know if trespassing rioters seeking to disrupt a democratic process outlined in the U.S. Constitution were at all enabled by the very people responsible for stopping them.”
“The American people deserve to know why additional security capacity from federal agencies and the National Guard were not readily deployed considering the widely anticipated and publicized crusade against our nation’s democracy. The American people deserve to know how we will ensure there is never another attack like this,” Pressley added.
In the wake of last week’s deadly mayhem, the U.S. Department of Justice is “scrambling to identify and arrest those responsible for last week’s violence, in part because there is already significant online discussion of new potential clashes Sunday and again on January 20 when Biden will be inaugurated,” the Post reported. “Federal agents remain in a state of high-alert in the days leading up to the inauguration as authorities brace for possible violence not just in Washington, but around the country, officials said.”
The FBI on Monday issued a memo warning law enforcement agencies nationwide that armed demonstrations by far-right groups are being planned to occur in the coming days in all 50 state capitols and in Washington, D.C., as Common Dreams reported. Furthermore, the U.S. Capitol Police on Monday informed House Democrats that they are monitoring a number of potential plots that threaten the safety of congressional lawmakers.
If, as activist Max Berger has suggested, “the coup attempt is ongoing,” then the significance and urgency of Bowman’s COUP Act, which aims to get to the bottom of what transpired last week, is made that much clearer.
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