Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on Tuesday heard lawmakers and law enforcement say there was foreknowledge that members of anti-Trump extremist groups would be at the infamous Jan. 6 Capitol riots.
During a meeting of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Rules Committee, Leahy asked former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund why police weren’t ready for the swarm of people who breached the Capitol building and proceeded to vandalize it.
“I really wonder why we didn’t take this seriously enough to be prepared for them,” Leahy said. “The hours it took to bring in the National Guard, and everything else. … You said there wasn’t enough intelligence there, but in the same letter you stated that the intelligence assessment I’m quoting here indicated that members of the Proud Boys, white supremacist groups, Antifa and other extremist groups were expected to participate in the January 6 event, and they may be inclined to become violent. How much more intelligence do we need than that?”
Leahy asserted that he believes the attacks were coordinated.
“I look at the lives that were lost, the police who fought, who protected our capitol,” he said. “We saw this as a violent, and I would say planned and organized attack on the United States and the United States government by domestic terrorists. I hope that they all will be prosecuted as fully as they can.”
Leahy added because Trump urged his supporters that day to “fight and show strength,” that means that Trump deserves blame for the riots.
Sund said Capitol Police had planned for “the possibility of violence and the possibility of some people being armed,” but he added that they did not anticipate “a coordinated military-style attack involving thousands against the capitol.”
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., shared a Capitol riot eyewitness account by the Center for Security Policy analyst J. Michael Waller. According to that account, the vast majority of Trump supporters on Jan .6 were strongly in support of the Capitol Police, and the violence was started by small groups that did not appear to be sincere Trump supporters.
“The pro-police crowd went from disbelief and confusion to anger [when the violence started],” Johnson read. ” … The last five pages is titled, ‘Provocateurs Turn Unsuspecting Marchers into Invading Mob.'”
Johnson added that he has a long list of questions in a letter he gave to committee Chair Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich. regarding what really happened.
“[I am] hoping that you will ask these questions and investigate these issues, and I’ll be listening,” he said.
Johnson’s questions may not get answered. As Peters recently said in a statement regarding Trump’s second impeachment acquittal, “Trump violated his oath of office by inciting a violent, deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol and our democracy.”
Johnson asked Sund if law enforcement anticipated a breach of security.
“A breach of the capital is not something anybody anticipated,” Sund responded. “Nor do I think some of our federal partners expected it. I don’t think Secret Service would have brought up the vice president if they expected it.”
One federal partner did know something. The Washington Post reported that the FBI’s field office in Norfolk, Virginia, warned law enforcement on Jan. 5 that extremists could attack the nation’s capital. This warning included knowledge of conspirators distributing a map of the city’s tunnels and meeting points where they could gather.
Later on, Leahy suggested that the military presence in Washington, D.C., may continue for the foreseeable future.
“I think until we root out the hate that drove the rioters through the doors that day, no fence or tank or barrier is going to provide the safety we need,” he said.
The Vermont senator also acknowledged that safety comes with a tradeoff. At one point he referenced the words of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin: “Those who give up a piece of liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”