Early Edition: January 8, 2021

A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours.

Signup to receive the Early Edition in your inbox here.

A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.

BREACH AT THE CAPITOL

Law enforcement response:

Officials say that despite weeks of planning between federal and local law enforcement agencies, which included tracking social media, they had no intel to suggest that the Capitol could or would be breached. Those officials say that during multiple calls the US Capitol Police assured federal authorities that the situation would be under control and that they were able to deal with large demonstrations – citing that due to Inauguration Day, one of the most secure events in the city, according to sources, the Capitol area was already being prepared for large crowds. Multiple federal law enforcement agencies deployed agents the morning of the event but they were put on stand-by, awaiting requests for support. By the time their assistance was called on – first with bomb threats in multiple locations, and then to the Capitol itself – it was too late to effectively respond and stop the mobs breaching the Capitol. “They have jurisdiction. And the minute they asked for support, we sent it,” Acting Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said on Fox News. “And by the way, they asked for support before violence began. So that was not a pure reaction. There was some planning to it. But it was just too close to when everything began to heat up. And they were outnumbered and overwhelmed. I mean, that’s why you see pictures like that. It’s pure, it’s just numbers.” Evan Perez, Jeremy Herb, Geneva Sands and Priscilla Alvarez report for CNN.

The Pentagon limited the DC National Guard’s to largely crowd control, prohibiting Guard troops from “receiving ammunition or riot gear, interacting with protesters unless necessary for self-defense, sharing equipment with local law enforcement, or using Guard surveillance and air assets without the defense secretary’s explicit sign-off, according to officials familiar with the orders,” The Post reports. The heavily limited scope of the troops’ task was due to DC Mayor Muriel Bowser never requesting troops to help with crowd or riot control, but to remain crowd controllers, officials said. Those officials also said that troops were permitted to deploy a quick-action force only as a very last resort.  The limits were established because the Guard hadn’t been asked to assist with crowd or riot control. Early yesterday afternoon, during a call with Pentagon and local officials, soon-to-resign Capitol Police Chief Sund was asked whether National Guard help was needed. “There was a pause,” one of the DC officials said; then Sund said yes; “Then there was another pause, and an official from the [office of the] secretary of the Army said that wasn’t going to be possible,” the official continued. Paul Sonne, Peter Hermann and Missy Ryan report for the Washington Post.

The Capitol Police were also contacted by the Pentagon three days before the event to offer National Guard, the AP first reported, but the assistance offered was turned down. As the Capitol was breached, the Justice Department offered assistance from the FBI, but that offer was rejected also. 

US Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund has handed in his resignation effective Jan. 16, according to a Capitol Police official. The news follows growing calls by lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), for the chief to step down following what has been pointed criticism at the lack of preparedness by Sund and his officers. Manu Raju and Ted Barrett report for CNN.

“We have a lot of lessons to learn from this,” said Michael Sherwin, acting US attorney in Washington, DC, at a briefing yesterday. Aruna Viswanatha and Sadie Gurman for the Wall Street Journal.

The security in place for Inauguration Day is being reassess following the Capitol breach. Christopher Cadelago and Tyler Pager report for POLITICO.

“How the U.S. Capitol Police were overrun in a ‘monumental’ security failure” is explained by Peter Hermann, Carol D. Leonnig, Aaron C. Davis and David A. Fahrenthold report the Washington Post.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said yesterday that a “painstaking investigation” would soon begin into Capitol security protocols. Joseph Choi reports for The Hill.

Soon-to-be President Joe Biden points out the clear difference in response by law enforcement when policing anti-racism and police brutality protests last year: “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,” the soon-to-be president said in a video statement. “We all know that’s true, and it is unacceptable.” Annie Linskey, Chelsea Janes and Amy B Wang report for the Washington Post.

Biden’s charge has been mirrored by many others, including newly-elected Rep. Core Nush (D-MO), who said, “Had it been people who look like me, had it been the same amount of people, but had they been Black and brown, we wouldn’t have made it up those steps.” Joseph Choi reports for The Hill.

President Trump has been strongly denounced for his inciting of rioters:

Prosecutors will look at “all actors” responsible – which could include Trump – Michael Sherwin, acting US attorney in Washington, DC, suggested during a briefing yesterday. “We are looking at all actors, not only the people who went into the building,” Sherwin said. When asked whether Trump would be charged for inciting rioters, Sherwin responded: “We’re looking at all actors … If the evidence fits the elements of a crime, they’re going to be charged.” Katie Benner reports for the New York Times.

Democrats’ calls for Trump to be removed from office – via the 25th Amendment or impeachment – continue to intensify, with House Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) stressing that they are willing to initiate impeachment proceedings if Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet do not invoke the Constitution. Manu Raju, Lauren Fox and Phil Mattingly report for CNN.

Trump apparently discussed with his aides and lawyers, including White House counsel Pat Cipollone, whether he had the power to pardon himself – with some of those conversations happening in recent weeks, although nothing yet indicates a conversation has happened since yesterday’s events, sources have said. “Another person said it is not in the works in the White House counsel’s office currently but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen or that the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel is not currently reviewing the matter,” report Pamela Brown and Jeremy Diamond for CNN.

Trump yesterday condemned mobs that breached the Capitol and further said that he would focus on a smooth transition of power: “We have just been through an intense election and emotions are high … But now tempers must be cooled and calm restored. “We must get on with the business of America … Now Congress has certified the results. A new administration will be inaugurated on Jan. 20,” adding, “My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.” Trump went on to condemn rioters: “The demonstrators who infiltrated the capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy,” Trump said. “To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country and to those who broke the law, you will pay.” Brett Samuels and Morgan Chalfant report for The Hill.

transcript of Trump’s statement is provided by Al Jazeera.

Trump has been permanently banned from his Facebook and Instagram accounts, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” Zuckerberg wrote, adding, “Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.” Tony Romm and Elizabeth Dwoskin report for the Washington Post.

A number of officials have resigned:

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said yesterday that were resigning from their posts which were set to end in less than two weeks. Mick Mulvaney, a former White House chief of staff, now U.S. special envoy for Northern Ireland, also resigned. DeVos, writing in a letter to the president, said: “There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation.” Natalie Andrews, Alex Leary and Josh Mitchell report for the Wall Street Journal.

Also, John Costello, one of the nation’s most senior cybersecurity officials, resigned yesterday, along with Tyler Goodspeed, the acting chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, who resigned today, citing Trump’s incitement. The New York Times reports.

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House Sergeant at Arms, Paul Irving, was submitting his resignation, while Senate Sergeant at Arms, Michael Stenger, submitted his resignation late Thursday, according to a statement by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell,” report Evan Perez, Jeremy Herb, Geneva Sands and Priscilla Alvarez report for CNN.

Also:

A Capitol Police officer directed mobs who breached the Capitol building to Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office, a member of the mob group told reporters, stating that: “We wanted to have a few words” with Mr. Schumer, “He’s probably the most corrupt guy up here. You don’t hear too much about him. But he’s slimy. You can just see it.” Aaron, the rioter who disclosed the officer’s assistance, did not disclose his last name but said that mobs had asked the officer where Schumer’s office was and the officer tried to direct them – although the mob reportedly never found the office. Sabrina Tavernise and Matthew Rosenberg report for the New York Times.

40 rioters appeared at DC Superior Court yesterday charged with unlawful entry of public property – one person was charged with possessing a “military style automatic weapon” and Molotov cocktails, prosecutors have confirmed. Evidence is also being reviewed for potential additional charges, with most defendants residing in other states and travelling in for the event. Keith L. Alexander, Spencer S. Hsu and Paul Diggan report for the Washington Post.

Among those who died during the breach was US Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, U.S. Capitol Police said in a statement late yesterday, stating that, Sicknick passed away “due to injuries sustained while on-duty,” adding, “He returned to his division office and collapsed. He was taken to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.” Marianne Levine and Sarah Ferris report for POLITICO.

US DEVELOPMENTS

The federal judiciary may have been breached in the recent Russia hacking operation, a statement on the US Courts’ website suggested, citing “an apparent compromise” to its Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) system. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.

A new office at the State Department has been approved – the Bureau of Cyberspace Security and Emerging Technologies (CSET) – which will help lead diplomatic efforts. “The need to reorganize and resource America’s cyberspace and emerging technology security diplomacy through the creation of CSET is critical, as the challenges to U.S. national security presented by China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and other cyber and emerging technology competitors and adversaries have only increased since the Department notified Congress in June 2019 of its intent to create CSET,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold its confirmation hearing for President-elect Joe Biden’s defense secretary pick – Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin – on Jan. 19. Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.

CORONAVIRUS

The novel coronavirus has infected over 21.58 million and now killed over 365,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 88.16 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 1.9 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the US is available at the New York Times.

US and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.

A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.

Latest updates on the pandemic at The Guardian. 

About the Author(s)

Siven Watt

Associate News Editor at Just Security and Legal Fellow at JUSTICE, a law reform and human rights organization based in the UK. Follow him on Twitter (@SivenWatt)