American Oversight has filed three lawsuits against multiple federal agencies for failing to release records that could provide more information about how the government responded to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, during which a mob of Trump supporters violently broke into the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
American Oversight filed complaints against the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Secret Service last week, and on Thursday sued the Departments of Justice, Defense, Homeland Security, and the Interior. The lawsuits were filed after the agencies failed to release documents in response to more than a dozen Freedom of Information Act requests for related records, including communications and orders sent on the day of the riot.
On Jan. 5, the day before the attack, U.S. Capitol Police leadership held a meeting with members of the Capitol Police Board and officials from the FBI, the Secret Service, and the D.C. National Guard. Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund — who resigned shortly after the attack — later testified before Congress that during the meeting, no entity “provided any intelligence indicating that there would be a coordinated violent attack on the United States Capitol by thousands of well-equipped armed insurrectionists.” News reports later indicated that the FBI office in Norfolk, Va., had that same day received information about the potential for serious violence on Jan. 6, and had reportedly shared that warning with Washington.
In January, we submitted a FOIA request to the FBI asking for the expedited release of communications sent by and to top agency officials before and during the Jan. 6 attack, as well as any related orders or directives. And in August, we submitted a request to the FBI for the release of notes and materials from the Jan. 5 meeting.
Our lawsuit against the Secret Service and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, includes a request for notes from that same meeting. We are also seeking records of any orders or requests regarding the granting of Secret Service protection to Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton during their participation at the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol.
The FBI’s and the Secret Service’s failure to produce the requested records, which could shed light on how senior officials responded to the violent attack on U.S. democracy, prompted American Oversight to sue both agencies on Oct. 15.
On Thursday, Oct. 21, American Oversight filed another lawsuit for records that could shed light on what was going on behind the scenes on the afternoon of Jan. 6, when requests for the deployment of National Guard troops to help secure the Capitol were delayed for hours. The lawsuit was filed against the Departments of Justice, Defense, Homeland Security, and the Interior for failing to release records responsive to 11 FOIA requests we filed in August.
Among the records sought in that lawsuit are the Jan. 6 communications of high-ranking officials at several agencies, including then-acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller and his acting chief of staff, Kash Patel, whose testimony has been subpoenaed by the House select committee investigating the attack. We are also seeking records of any dissent memos or whistleblower complaints regarding Jan. 6 filed at DHS or the Department of the Army, as well as records from a Jan. 4 conference call that was convened by Miller.
The Jan. 6 select committee has also ramped up its investigation of the attack on the Capitol in recent days, leading to former President Trump suing the panel and the National Archives to block the release of records. On Thursday, the House found Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena for documents and testimony related to the Jan. 6 attack; the charge will now be referred to the Justice Department. The depositions of three other former Trump administration officials — former White House officials Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino, as well as Patel — have been postponed by the committee.
American Oversight will continue to investigate these efforts to undermine democracy; read more about our Jan. 6 investigations here.
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