Politics

Senators behind January 6 Capitol riot report share reactions and concerns in exclusive bipartisan interview

The Senate released a report Tuesday morning identifying widespread security and intelligence failures that led to the deadly January 6 assault on the Capitol. The analysis includes multiple recommendations to address the failures and protect the Capitol from possible future attacks. 

In a rare bipartisan joint interview, the Democrats and Republicans leading the investigation sat down with CBS News’ Kris Van Cleave for a candid conversation about what went wrong and allowed a mob to storm the U.S. Capitol.

Asked about what surprised them the most in learning about the investigation, Democrat Senator Gary Peters said it was “the intelligence failure.”

“How long it took the Defense Department to respond,” Republican Senator Roy Blunt answered. 

His fellow GOP Senator Rob Portman said it was the total lack of preparedness on part of the Capitol Hill police that shocked him.

And Senator Amy Klobuchar said, “sadly it was the frontline officers who were left to defend us, to defend our staff, and to defend democracy.”

The Senate report is the result of two hearings, thousands of documents and numerous interviews over the past five months. Their recommendations could lead to new funding to increase Capitol security so what happened that day does not happen again.

It also found that warning signs were missed by federal law enforcement and by Capitol police.

“Part of the reason it was overlooked, is that people were saying, ‘Well, this just can’t happen. And these groups of folks, they can’t do that.’ Well, now we know they can. We know that what happens on the internet can be translated into physical action on the Capitol grounds or in towns across this country,” Peters said. “We’ve got to treat domestic terrorism with the seriousness that it deserves.”

Portman said the officers there that day were put “in an impossible position.”

“They didn’t have adequate training, they didn’t have adequate equipment, they didn’t have adequate barriers. They didn’t have adequate communication. They didn’t have the intelligence to know it was coming and yet they valiantly supported the effort to protect the Capitol, protecting the vice president, protecting all members of Congress, protecting democracy,” he said.

Around 75% of the officers working on January 6 did not have protective equipment like helmets and shields, according to the new report. One unit wasn’t able to access their gear because it was in a locked bus. 

Some riot shields had been improperly stored and shattered when used.

“When the acting chief of staff of the Army was asked about, ‘How come this didn’t come together right away?’ And he said you know, ‘National Guards are incredible but you just can’t pick this moment to have it be like a pick-up game.’ That they’re all just going to be able to combine with no contingency plan in place,” Klobuchar said. “He said this was a Super Bowl of attacks and you need a plan in place of how this is going to work.”

The Minnesota Democrat acknowledged it probably would not have happened without President Trump’s encouragement.

“His false claims of this election is what led to this insurrection,” she said.

Portman, who is retiring in 2022, said finding the motivation behind the attack was not the Senate report’s goal.

“It was about ‘okay, once it happened, what did we do here in the Capitol and how could this have happened, and how can we ensure this never happens again?'” he said.

Blunt noted that the DOJ was currently pursuing more than 450 prosecutions relevant to the riot.

“I think you’re going to find a lot of information that you can only find in one way, and that’s to pursue this through the legal system and that will lead you in new places if it’s necessary to go there,” he said.

Klobuchar said more needs to be done.

“Our country needs this 9/11-style commission to get to the bottom of all this,” she said. “While the prosecutions are going on you could be looking at the causes and everything, but our mission right now was to protect this Capitol going forward.”

The Senate Rules Committee and Committee for Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs jointly made 20 recommendations, including appointing a new Capitol police chief, bolstering training, enhancing communication between the law enforcement agencies, improving coordination across all levels of government and evaluating threats of violence on social media.

Most changes, the senators believe, can be adopted immediately — marking a rare moment of agreement in a divided Congress.

“We believe that our duty was not just to say what a mess this was and we disagree,” Klobuchar said.

Portman said he wants to send a message that “we can figure this out together.”

Senators Blunt and Klobuchar plan to release a bill simplifying the rules around how quickly the National Guard could be deployed in the event of an attack like January 6. 

In response to the report, the U.S. Capitol police said in a statement that it welcomes the analysis and “agrees improvements are needed specific to intelligence analysis and dissemination.”

It goes on to insist, “at no point prior to the 6th did it receive actionable intelligence about a large-scale attack.”

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