On Tuesday, Congress will have another opportunity to ask questions of FBI Director Christopher Wray. The hearing of the House Oversight Committee is aptly titled, “The Capitol Insurrection: Unexplained Delays and Unanswered Questions.”
We propose the following questions for members of Congress (and the news media) to ask, and for the broader public to demand answers to as well.
1. The 9/11 attackers intended to take down the U.S. Capitol and the people inside, not just the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Our lack of preparation for 9/11 led to the 9/11 Commission. The commission’s successful analysis, which led to a transformation of how we better defend the country, was due in large part to the level of cooperation from the Intelligence Community including the FBI Director at the time, Bob Mueller.
Do you pledge to provide full cooperation for investigations of January 6 whether by Congress or by an independent commission?
2. You said you were appalled by what happened on January 6. What precisely is the FBI doing to assess what it did right and what it did wrong in preparing for January 6? When will the public and the FBI oversight committees see a written report on your assessment?
3. During last week’s House Judiciary Committee hearing you were given multiple opportunities to acknowledge failures on the part of the FBI with respect to the January 6 attack. Instead you stated vaguely, but often, that the Bureau’s looking to improve. You said:
“You can be absolutely sure that we are asking what else we can do, what we can do better, what we can do more of” (in response to Rep. Val Demings (D-FL));
“You can be darn sure that we are going to be looking hard at how we can do better, how we can do more” (in response to Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY)).
That’s not actually providing information to Congress and the public. A marathon runner who beats the world record may say she’s looking for ways to do better, to do more.
January 6 was a failure on the part of several agencies, including the FBI. Why won’t you admit that and tell the public specifically what you are doing to assess the handling of January 6? Some questions need to be:
- Was it an intelligence failure?
- What intelligence did the FBI and other agencies have?
- Was it a failure to act on that intelligence?
- Did politics play any role in the failure — e.g., no one wanted to upset the then-President whose supporters were the ones coming to the Capitol at his invitation?
- Did race play any role in the failure to prepare and act, and how do the FBI’s actions leading up to and on January 6 compare to the FBI’s actions during BLM protests, where people were arrested the same day as the protests not weeks later?
How can Congress or the public trust that you are taking all steps to assess this failure if you cannot admit that you were part of a catastrophic intelligence and/or law enforcement failure? Do you agree that the FBI was part of that failure? What mistakes did the FBI make under your leadership in the run up to, and during, the attack on the Capitol?
4. If you knew before January 6 what the FBI knows now about militia group members’ conspiring to attack the Capitol, would the government have been able to thwart the attack? Why did the FBI not know this beforehand?
5. You were widely criticized for failing to make any public presentation or answer any questions from the media or Congress in the days following the attack on the Capitol. Do you regret not having done so? What was the reason for your not having done so?
6. During last week’s House Judiciary Committee hearing you said:
“You may be surprised to learn that, in fact, almost none of the individuals charged and found to be involved with the attack on the Capitol were in fact individuals who were previously under investigation.”
It sounds like you are saying the FBI did not have at least a preliminary investigation open on the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, or Three Percenters and any members, including anyone who has been charged. Is that correct?
Isn’t that itself a failure? Why do you think it is favorable to the FBI that you did not even have a preliminary investigation open on these individuals or groups, especially given their past actions and their overtly planning to attack the Capitol? Isn’t the absence of even a preliminary investigation an indictment of the FBI?
You said, “almost none of the individuals charged and found to be involved with the attack on the Capitol were in fact individuals who were previously under investigation.”
What about the top leaders of the militia groups and others who have not (yet) been charged? Were none of them under investigation either?
Were any of the people who came to DC on January 6 on any terrorism watch list or no-fly list? See the Washington Post report that dozens of people on the terrorism watch list came to DC for January 6 events.
The FBI takes actions all the time in advance of major events that could result in violence, whether an inauguration, presidential nominating political conventions, and the like. It takes steps to monitor and watch for violence. On January 6, every member of Congress and the Vice President of the United States were all gathered in one location — clearly an event that would require utmost security and doing everything to anticipate dangers. Why did that not happen here? That would not violate the First Amendment or FBI guidelines in the DIOG (Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide), which only prevents actions based solely on the First Amendment.
7. You lauded the fact that the FBI’s Norfolk office broke with normal protocol to send other federal agencies raw intelligence indicating a possible attack and conveyed the information in three different formats.
If the FBI thought it was important enough to do that with raw intelligence, what else did the FBI do other than simply pass on the information? Why should you get credit for doing what was required; isn’t that what we all should expect? Why did the FBI itself do with the information? And what actions, in retrospect, does the Bureau wish it had taken?
8. On Friday, Jan. 8, the head of the FBI’s Washington field office, Steven D’Antuono, said:
“There was no indication that there was anything [planned] other than First Amendment-protected activity.”
He made that statement before the public knew of the Norfolk report or of other FBI actions such as the Bureau’s disrupting the travel of specific people with intention to cause violence from coming to DC that day.
Do you acknowledge that Mr. D’Antuono’s statement was not accurate? What did you do to correct it? How was that statement vetted before it was made?
What actions do you take in your responsibilities as Director when a senior official makes a false statement on an issue of such public importance?
9. You refrained from calling the acts of January 6 an “insurrection” saying that you need to be careful about “not getting ahead of both prosecutors and judges.” But the Justice Department already called it an “insurrection,” and the federal judge accepted that description. So why don’t you?
10. In the House Judiciary Committee hearing, you were asked a direct question by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA):
“Prior to January 6th did the FBI receive any tips from social media companies about threats to the Capitol?”
You equivocated in your answer and ended by saying, “I’m not aware that we had any intelligence indicating that hundreds of individuals were going to storm the Capitol itself.” The question is broader than your highly specific denial.
So, to repeat Rep. Swalwell’s question, prior to January 6th did the FBI receive any tips from social media companies about threats to the Capitol?
INFORMATION KNOWN BEFORE JANUARY 6 INDICATING VIOLENCE
On Jan. 12, 2021, the head of the FBI’s Washington field office, Steven D’Antuono stated:
“In the weeks leading up to this January 6 rally, the FBI worked internally with every FBI field office to ensure that we were looking for any intelligence that may have developed about potential violence during the rally on January 6. We developed some intelligence that a number of individuals were planning to travel to the DC area with intentions to cause violence. We immediately shared that information and action was taken as demonstrated by the arrest of Enrique Tarrio by the Metropolitan Police Department the night before the rally. Other individuals were identified in other parts of the country and their travel subsequently disrupted.”
The following is a list of some pertinent excerpts from these two timelines:
Ryan Goodman, Mari Dugas and Nicholas Tonckens, Incitement Timeline: Year of Trump’s Actions Leading to the Attack on the Capitol, Just Security, Jan. 11, 2021
Atlantic Council’s DFRLab, #StopTheSteal: Timeline of Social Media and Extremist Activities Leading to 1/6 Insurrection, Just Security, Feb. 10, 2021
April 30, 2020: Armed protestors storm the Michigan state capitol building. Two of the protestors are eventually charged in the attempted kidnapping of Governor Gretchen Whitmer (see entry for Oct. 7, 2020).
The New York Times reports that one of the protestors carried a sign that read, “Tyrants Get the Rope,” and another carried an American flag that had a doll made to look like Ms. Whitmer hanging from it.
May 1, 2020: Trump tweets in favor of the Michigan protestors.
The president tweets: “The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”
May 28, 2020: Trump retweets, with praise, a video of a supporter saying, “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”
May 29, 2020: Trump tweets, in reference to riots in Minneapolis, saying, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
August 31, 2020: After the police shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin, President Trump declines to condemn white nationalist-led violent protests.
Trump expresses sympathy to 17-year old Kyle Rittenhouse, charged with shooting and killing two people, and the president suggests he may have been acting in self defense. In response to the violence in Kenosha and Portland, Oregon, Trump also says: “Well, I understand that had large numbers of people that were supporters, but that was a peaceful protest…And paint is not — and paint as a defensive mechanism, paint is not bullets. … These people, they protested peacefully. They went in very peacefully.”
In response to Trump’s failure to denounce the violence, then-candidate Biden states: “He wouldn’t even repudiate one of his supporters who is charged with murder because of his attacks on others. He is too weak, too scared of the hatred he has stirred to put an end to it.”
Later reports suggest that DHS officials were directed to make sympathetic statements toward Rittenhouse. It is unclear whether these directions originated at the White House or within the DHS press office, NBC reports.
September 23, 2020: In response to a direct question, President Trump refuses to say he will ensure a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election.
October 07, 2020: The Justice Department indicts ring for attempting to kidnap Michigan Governor.
The Justice Department announces indictments of 13 men charged with attempting to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, Governor of Michigan. Whitmer cites Trump statements failing to condemn white supremacists and other rhetoric is seen as a “rallying cry” for such violent groups.
Trump responds to the plot at a rally in Lansing, MI: “It was our people — my people, our people that helped her out. And then she blamed me for it. She blamed me and it was our people that helped her. I don’t get it. How did you put her there?” (The crowd chants “lock her up” at the rally in response).
Trump tweets, “I do not tolerate ANY extreme violence. Defending ALL Americans, even those who oppose and attack me, is what I will always do as your President! Governor Whitmer—open up your state, open up your schools, and open up your churches!”
November 1, 2020: President Trump praises supporters who, with their cars, swarm a Biden campaign bus traveling between San Antonio and Texas.
A Biden campaign spokesperson says the vehicles “attempted to slow the bus down and run it off the road,” and that following the incident an event at the Texas AFL-CIO was canceled out of an “abundance of caution.”
“Did you see the way our people were protecting his bus?” Trump boasts at a frigid rally in Washington, Mich., hours after tweeting a video of the caravan with the message: “I LOVE TEXAS.” “They had hundreds of cars. Trump. Trump. Trump, and the American flag.”
December 1, 2020: Gabriel Sterling, a Republican election official in Georgia, implores Trump in a passionate viral speech:
“Stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone is going to get shot, someone is going to get killed. And it’s not right.”
December 6, 2020: Armed protestors arrive at the home of Michigan Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson, threatening violence after the results of the election.
December 8, 2020: The official Twitter account of the Arizona GOP asks supporters whether they are willing to die for President Trump.
In response to a Stop the Steal tweet saying “I am willing to give my life for this fight,” the Arizona GOP tweets, “He is. Are you?” The GOP account also tweets a clip of the 2008 movie “Rambo,” as the character proclaims, “This is what we do, who we are. Live for nothing, or die for something.” After public criticism, both tweets are deleted.
December 9, 2020: “I believe there will be violence in our streets soon.” Lin Wood predicts during an interview on the pro-Trump TV station, New Tang Dynasty Television.
December 12, 2020: “Stop the Steal” rallies occur across the country and turn violent; President Trump expresses his support for his supporters’ participation in the rallies.
December 19, 2020: Trump begins to rally support around a large gathering of his supporters in Washington D.C. on January 6th, immediately following the Senate elections in Georgia and coinciding with Congress’ certification of President-elect Biden’s victory.
Trump tweets: “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election” and “Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”
December 21, 2020: Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) tells attendees at a Turning Point USA rally to “call your congressman and feel free — you can lightly threaten them.”
December 29, 2021: The Proud Boys announce they will attend the January 6 event, saying they will do so “incognito.”
January 1, 2021: Momentum builds for the January 6th rally, with increased calls for violence by Trump supporters.
Trump himself tweets, “The BIG Protest Rally in Washington, D.C. will take place at 11:00 A.M. on January 6th. Locational details to follow. StopTheSteal!”
He also retweets Kylie Jane Kremer, chair of Women for America First, an organizer of the rally. “The calvary[sic] is coming, Mr. President! JANUARY 6th,” Kremer had tweeted on Dec. 19. The President responds, “A great honor!” in his retweet on New Years Day.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) says on Newsmax that as a consequence of the dismissal of his lawsuit enjoining Mike Pence to overturn the election results, “you got to go to the streets and be as violent as Antifa and BLM.” The following day, Gohmert tweets a statement saying that he does not advocate violence.
January 4, 2021:
On TheDonald.win, a popular pro-Trump forum board, more than 50 percent of top posts that day contain calls for violence in the top five responses, according to Advance Democracy. Users on the forum openly fantasize about storming congressional offices. One user replies to a post on the forum with the comment, “Stop the steal and execute the ‘stealers,’” according to The Daily Beast. Similar violent rhetoric is present on the platform Parler.
Violent posts litter pro-Trump online communities. Users in a thread on TheDonald.win discuss violating weapons laws and overwhelming Washington, D.C. metropolitan police, receiving hundreds of upvotes — signaling community approval of the comments.
Jeremey Liggett of the Florida-based Guardians of Freedom III% militia movement group uploads a video to Facebook in which he offers advice about carrying weapons and staying safe during the Jan. 6 protests in D.C. Much of the advice would be explicitly illegal due to strict laws and restrictions for carrying firearms within the District of Columbia. He and his group members are dressed in tactical gear.
The DFRLab also observes an infographic posted several times to TheDonald.win that contains directions for surrounding the U.S. Capitol complex, as well as markings of landmarks and access tunnels that run beneath the Capitol.
January 4, 2021 evening: On the eve of the two-days of events in DC, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio is arrested in Washington D.C., as President Trump and Donald Trump Jr. call for supporters to “fight like hell.”
Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio is arrested in Washington D.C. for burning a Black Lives Matter banner that he had taken from a Black church during December’s Stop the Steal rallies. He is found to be in possession of two high capacity firearm magazines, and he is charged for their possession.
At a pre-election rally in Georgia, Donald Trump, Jr., introducing his father, tells the crowd, “We need to fight.” President Trump then takes the stage, telling supporters, “They’re not taking this White House. We’re going to fight like hell.”