How Were Pro-Trump Extremists Able To Storm The U.S. Capitol?

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Damage is seen inside the Capitol building early on Jan. 7, 2021, in Washington, D.C., after supporters of President Trump breeched security and entered the building during a session of Congress. (Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images)
Damage is seen inside the Capitol building early on Jan. 7, 2021, in Washington, D.C., after supporters of President Trump breeched security and entered the building during a session of Congress. (Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images)

National security analyst Malcolm Nance says U.S. Capitol Police management needs to be fired, and the officers involved should be investigated for potential complicity in the insurrection on Wednesday.

Compared to Black Lives Matter protesters in D.C. over the summer, the insurrectionists exercised “the ultimate white privilege,” he says.

“I saw a national security disaster unfold and then turn into a national security catastrophe,” he says. “I monitor right-wing extremist chat groups, their Telegram channels, their private internet forums. And we saw this coming a long time ago.”

The police response to the pro-Trump extremists was “an utter abject failure,” Nance says. There are 2,200 officers on the Capitol Police team, making it the ninth-largest police force in the country, he says.

“Why they couldn't respond on their own is because they thought the protesters were on their side,” he says.

Interview Highlights

On what Nance saw from a national security perspective

“As you recall, a couple of months ago, there was a plot revealed by the U.S. attorneys against six men in Michigan who were planning to kidnap and try and execute the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer. The plan B for that group was to take 200 men, storm the Statehouse, bring out all of the Democratic and liberal, or as they designate them, people in the Statehouse, try them and execute them by shooting or hanging them from the Statehouse. That viable plan was the first thing I thought of when I was monitoring their live streams [Wednesday] and saw them move away from the Mall and go toward the Capitol. I said, ‘This is going to turn into something bad.' ”

On Capitol Police being unprepared

“I have to compare this to the protests that we saw, the Black Lives Matter protests in Washington, D.C., this summer, and it's quite simple. This summer, all of the resources of government were mobilized to protect the White House and to confront the Black Lives Matter protesters because they were under the explicit orders of Donald Trump and the attorney general, Bill Barr, to bring out every resource in the United States federal system. They brought in riot response teams from the Federal Bureau of Prisons. They use the National Guard with a protected symbol on it and actually brought in National Guard from three other states. And they used them like an iron-nailed fist on those protesters.

“In this one, because it was after a speech that President Trump had attended, they viewed this, I suspect, that these protesters were about to exercise what I could only identify as the ultimate white privilege. They were seen as allied with law enforcement when they got to the western side of the Capitol, it was open warfare with law enforcement. But the ones that went to the eastern side that eventually penetrated the building, they were almost cooperating with them as if they were an extremely large high school tour group. It was an utter collapse of the Capitol Hill Police's responsibilities and their protocols. Everyone in that organization's management must be fired and then all officers need to be investigated to see whether they were complicit in this.”

On Vice President Mike Pence approving the order to deploy the National Guard instead of Trump

“Here's the real reason that we saw any response whatsoever and that we had the president of the United States seemingly report that he did not want the D.C. National Guard to mobilize through the Department of Justice. The reason that there was any response is because Mike Pence and Kamala Harris, the incoming vice president and the special security force for Nancy Pelosi, which is part of Capitol Hill Police, made an emergency call for immediate response from federal agencies that the vice president was under immediate and imminent threat. That is why the FBI's strike teams moved out, that's why other police forces mobilized. But they didn't call the Metropolitan Police Department, which has jurisdiction for every other part of the city other than Capitol Hill. And it was the FBI and the Secret Service that really evacuated that building with the assistance of some elements of the Capitol Hill's emergency response forces as well, an utter abject failure.

“It was Mike Pence who threw his Secret Service forces, called on the state of Virginia to send military police National Guardsmen, and only later did the Department of Justice give authority for the Washington, D.C., police to mobilize all 1,200 of its National Guardsmen, and then the mayor was given cooperative authority to allow the Metropolitan Police Department to respond and actually secure Capitol Hill.”

On how preparing for the pro-Trump protest should have been handled from the start

“It should have been an integrated network of all law enforcement brought in to support all of the disparate operations that were going on — the most important of which was the fact that you were in a joint session of Congress. All of the members of the House of Representatives and all of the members of the United States Senate were in one room. That alone should have constituted a national security threat, which means every resource of the United States government should have been there in place exactly as it was for the State of the Union. The only thing that was missing was the president of the United States. So why they failed at this is beyond me.

“But more importantly, it was taken like a routine day of Mike Pence going out to the golf course instead of having a complete integration of all law enforcement with a FBI national security ready room ready for all resources to respond from park police, the D.C. police, enhanced SWAT units and to channel those protesters more toward Union Station and away from the Capitol itself. I think that Donald Trump was quite pleased with that response, and this is why we're not hearing from them. And it became incumbent upon the security details of the vice presidents in order to secure the entire operation for the Capitol. It's disgraceful.”

On what he expects from the investigation going forward

“I'm not being flippant when I say ISIS is infuriated that they never came up with this idea of coming in through a mass protest, doing a hostage barricade and executing everybody inside the building because that was viable [on Wednesday]. And I don't know if the people that had five firearms on them or the noose that was set up outside the Capitol, whether they fully intended to have a murder cell in there, who would be completely and wholly independent from the protesters, enter that building, lay siege to it and start killing people.

“Every person in management failed. Every person in that part of the Capitol Hill Police force who allowed those protesters in, who did not guard the building, failed. Now there's a template for taking over the United States Capitol building. All you need is a mass protest of people who look like anybody other than Black Lives Matter and antifa, and you can just take over a state building. It's happened before. And I think that in many statehouses across this country, they fear that it's going to happen again very soon.”

 Julia Corcoran produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd Mundt. Allison Hagan and Serena McMahon adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on January 7, 2021.


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Peter O'Dowd Senior Editor, Here & Now
Peter O’Dowd has a hand in most parts of Here & Now — producing and overseeing segments, reporting stories and occasionally filling in as host. He came to Boston from KJZZ in Phoenix.



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