House Republicans issued a scathing report Wednesday exposing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s key role in the catastrophic security and intelligence failures that left the US Capitol vulnerable to a violent attack on January 6, 2021.
Days after Pelosi’s Jan. 6 select committee recommended insurrection charges against former president Donald Trump over the Capitol riot, Republicans have hit back with a counter-investigation apportioning blame for the internal security breakdown on Jan. 6 to Pelosi and a dysfunctional Capitol Police intelligence division.
“Leadership and law enforcement failures within the U.S. Capitol left the complex vulnerable on January 6, 2021,” says the report, which is based on a trove of texts and email messages, and testimony from Capitol Police leaders and rank-and-file officers.
House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving, who answered to Pelosi as one of three voting members of the Capitol Police Board, “succumbed to political pressures from the Office of Speaker Pelosi and House Democrat leadership,” was “compromised by politics and did not adequately prepare for violence at the Capitol.”
Pelosi and her staff “coordinated closely” with Irving on security plans for the Joint Session of Congress on Jan. 6, but Republicans were deliberately left out of “important discussions related to security.”
And, in an apparent attempt to hide from Republicans the fact that they were being excluded from discussions, Irving asked a senior Democratic staffer to “act surprised” when he sent “key information about plans for the Joint Session on Jan. 6, 2021, to him and his Republican counterpart.”
The staffer replied sardonically: “I’m startled!”
The report also claims that “staff within the House Sergeant at Arms office emailed Paul Irving that January 6th was Pelosi’s fault,” although it provides no evidence for the assertion.
When Irving was forced to resign after the riot, an email from an unnamed staffer in his office criticized Pelosi’s “knee-jerk reaction to yesterday’s unprecedented event” and described his resignation as “spectacularly unjust, unfair, and unwarranted. This is not your fault. Or [Capitol Police chief Steven] Sund’s fault.”
The Republicans responsible for the withering report — Jim Banks (R-IN), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) and Troy Nehls (R-TX) — are the five congressmen originally nominated to sit on the Jan. 6 committee, until Pelosi vetoed Banks and Jordan. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pulled the rest of his nominees in protest. Pelosi then installed two Never Trump Republican outcasts, Liz Cheney, and Adam Kinzinger.
Given Pelosi’s assiduous grooming of Cheney, no doubt it suited both their interests to focus the final Jan.6 committee report on Trump — and not on Pelosi’s culpability.
But now the Republicans Pelosi rejected have skewered her in their rival report, dredging up some of what she tried to hide, despite complaining of obstruction from the personnel she controls.
The report insinuates that the Speaker left the Capitol Police without backup on Jan. 6 because “widespread concern from Democratic leadership over ‘optics’ in the aftermath of the Summer 2020 ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests prevented early deployment of the National Guard.”
Chief Sund begged repeatedly for troops but has testified that Irving rebuffed him over concern about “optics.” During the violence on Jan. 6, Sund repeated his request, but help was delayed until after the riot ended, because Irving needed to run it up the chain of command, a.k.a. Pelosi.
“The Speaker’s office was heavily involved in planning and decision-making before and during the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and micromanaged the Sergeant at Arms.”
From early December 2020, Pelosi aides attended regular meetings with Irving and Sund to discuss the security plan. So hands-on was Pelosi’s chief of staff Terri McCullough that, at one point, she was editing details of parking, event timing and “language regarding official business visitors” for the Joint Session.
To illustrate the intense involvement of Pelosi’s office, on Jan. 6 alone, the report records 36 communications between Irving and Pelosi staffers, including 11 with McCullough, and 20 with Jamie Fleet, a Pelosi aide who doubled as a Democratic staff director.
Pelosi’s repeated assertions that she has “no power over the Capitol Police” are rejected.
“This is false,” says the report. “Documents provided by [current] House Sergeant at Arms show how then-House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving carried out his duties in clear deference to the Speaker, her staff, and other Democratic staff . . .
“House Rules dictate . . . that the Sergeant at Arms is to report directly to the Speaker of the House.”
Indeed, the report says that Pelosi regularly exercised her authority over security matters, “when she directed the use of magnetometers outside the House chamber in the name of safety . . . Similarly, she required masks in the House chamber [and] exerted influence on security protocols at the Capitol related to the perimeter fence . . . She also oversaw the fencing that was erected for a purported rally on September 18, 2021, that never materialized.”
The report of the Republican refuseniks is an appetizer to potential future investigations next year when they regain subpoena power. It makes sensible recommendations to prevent another disaster, including reform and oversight of the Capitol Police Board.
Far from being a revenge ploy, it identifies security flaws it claims have not been remedied, including the breakdown of intelligence that had the Capitol Police (USCP) flying blind and hopelessly outnumbered when “criminal rioters assaulted police officers, broke into the U.S. Capitol, damaged property, and temporarily interfered with … the Joint Session of Congress.”
The Capitol Police Intelligence Division “failed to warn USCP leadership and line officers about the threat of violence,” despite having “obtained sufficient information from an array of channels to anticipate and prepare for the violence.”
In fact, the final intelligence threat assessment three days before the riot did warn of a violent scenario in which “Congress itself” could be attacked by armed Trump supporters. But the warning was buried towards the end of the 15-page document and was not included in the up-front summary, so was overlooked. Nor was the warning mentioned in three subsequent daily intelligence reports.
The Republicans blame much of the intelligence failure on the assistant director of the USCP intelligence division, Julie Farnam, who had joined the Capitol Police from the Department of Homeland Security only 10 weeks before the riot.
Analysts testified that “the section became ‘nonfunctional’ immediately upon Farnam’s arrival as she tried to “consolidate power for herself to the detriment of the safety and security of the Capitol.”
“Documents and testimony show that, immediately upon joining the USCP, and without time to acclimate, Farnam began to dismantle the systems that had kept the Capitol safe for so long,” the report alleges.
“Information about planned protests and threats of violence were siloed and not properly analyzed and disseminated during this key period because of Farnam’s misplaced priorities.”
One analyst testified: “at the time of January 6, we were not doing proactive searches of social media like we had been before. We were strictly reactive.”
As a result, USCP leadership “were not fully informed about the severity of the threats against the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021”.
However, Farnam told CBS this year that her team does not bear any responsibility for the attack on the Capitol and provided adequate threat assessments to police leadership before the riot.
“I think we did an excellent job . . . I am the one who has worked tirelessly . . . to right this ship.”
After cataloguing so many tragic failures, the report concludes on a poignant note with messages to Irving from friends in the aftermath of the attack on the Capitol.
“You’re quite something to take this one for the team, Paul, as they say. I know how these things work and you know I do, too.”