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Capitol Police ignored intelligence warnings ahead of Jan. 6 riots, watchdog report finds

The agency also lacked necessary policies and procedures leaving them unprepared to deal with the deadly attack, an inspector general report found.
Riot police push back a crowd of supporters of US President Donald Trump after they stormed the Capitol building on Jan 6, 2021.Roberto Schmidt / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Capitol Police ignored critical intelligence ahead of the Jan. 6th riot, including overlooking a warning that, “Congress itself is the target,” according to an internal watchdog report obtained by NBC News.

The police force tasked with protecting the U.S. Capitol also lacked policies and procedures that left them severely unprepared to deal with the deadly insurrection, the 104-page report prepared by the Capitol Police’s inspector general found. The report has not been made public.

The findings offer a devastating account of the Capitol Police preparation ahead of and response to the deadly attack that unfolded on Jan. 6th when a crowd of supporters of then-President Donald Trump descended on the building to try to stop the certification of President Joe Biden's election victory.

The report also makes several recommendations about how the Capitol Police can be better prepared in the future. Responding to the report later Wednesday, the Capitol Police said it agreed with the recommendations but also suggested it lacks the "time and resources" needed to implement them.

NBC News reviewed the report on Wednesday ahead of a public hearing on Thursday before a House Administration subcommittee to discuss its findings. The watchdog's findings were first reported by The New York Times.

In perhaps its most damning finding, the inspector general found that the Capitol Police’s intelligence unit warned three days before the riot that supporters of Trump, who believed his false claims that the 2020 election had been stolen, had made specific plans to target Congress on Jan. 6 and were “actively” promoting violence.

“Unlike previous post-election protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counter protesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th,” a Jan. 3 threat assessment said, according to the report.

The inspector general quoted the intelligence warning as saying, “Stop the Steal’s propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members and others who actively promote violence may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike.”

The report found that the Department of Homeland Security had also issued a warning to the Capitol Police, and notified them that it had identified a map of the U.S. Capitol’s tunnel system on message boards where Trump supporters congregated. In addition, the report found that an FBI field office in Norfolk, Va., also warned the Capitol Police.

The so-called "Norfolk Memo" stated that, “an online thread discussed specific calls for violence stating, ‘Be ready to fight/ Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa [a euphemism for Antifa] slave soldier 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 memo stated.

The Capitol Police watchdog Michael Bolton, however, found in his report that Capitol Police wrote in a plan that “no specific known threats known related to the joint session of Congress.”

The police department “did not have adequate policies and procedures" for the responding unit that would define "its responsibilities, duties, composition, equipment, and training," the report states.

The Civil Disturbance Unit "was operating at a decreased level of readiness as a result of a lack of standards for equipment, ... a lapse in certain certifications, an inaccurate CDU roster, staffing concerns for the unit, quarterly audits that were not performed, and property inventories not in compliance,” the report’s executive summary states.

The watchdog report also found that Capitol Police leaders told officers to avoid using the most aggressive possible responses at the time.

“Heavier less-lethal weapons … were not used that day because of orders from leadership,” Bolton wrote.

It was only later in the day, when, "officers were preparing for a second wave of violence," that the less-leathal weapons, "were deployed, but not used," the report stated.

Meanwhile, Bolton's report also found that Capitol Police officers had been unable during the riot to access their protective shields because they were locked away on a bus.

“When the crowd became unruly, the CDU platoon attempted to access the bus to distribute the shields but were unable because the door was locked,” the report said, which resulted in members of the unit having to "respond to the crowd without the protection of their riot shields.”

Separately, the report found that some crucial equipment was old and had been improperly stored, including some protective shields that "shattered upon impact" because of poor storage and “some munitions stocked in the armory" that "were beyond their expiration date.”

Bolton made 26 recommendations to the Capitol Police.

"Implementation of the Department’s formal training guidance, requirements, and lesson plans is crucial to its mission. Formalizing and implementing equipment standards will provide officers with proper functioning equipment. Additionally, the Department should require that all types of weapon systems classified as less lethal are staged prior to large events," Bolton wrote.

To increase the efficiency of its intelligence resources, the Capitol Police "should consider reorganizing its intelligence functions into a single intelligence bureau," Bolton wrote.

"A formal Intelligence Training Program is a must, otherwise the Department cannot ensure the proper training of its intelligence employees or ensure that they are up to date on policies and procedures related to Intelligence and Interagency Coordination Division personnel duties," he wrote.

Later Wednesday, the Capitol Police said in a statement that "fully agrees with many of the recommendations" issued by the inspector general but was "also aware that nearly all of the recommendations require time and significant resources the Department does not have."

"January 6 was a pivotal moment in USCP, U.S. and world history that demonstrated the need for major changes to the way USCP operates," the agency added in the statement. "The Department stands eager and willing to work with its Congressional stakeholders to implement critical security enhancements."