On the afternoon of Jan. 6, 2021, as Congress was meeting to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election, a violent and heavily armed mob of supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol. While lawmakers and staff were shepherded to secure locations or barricaded behind doors, the rioters pushed past severely outnumbered Capitol Police officers, breaking windows and vandalizing offices, many with disturbingly violent intentions toward members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence for their having refused to succumb to Trump’s attempts to overturn the election in his favor. Five people were killed, including one Capitol Police officer who was beaten by rioters.
The attempted coup was not the spontaneous work of a moment. “The invasion of the U.S. Capitol … was stoked in plain sight,” ProPublica reported, with Trump supporters having for weeks discussed openly their plans for a violent overthrow. Their goal of stopping the election certification, based on baseless conspiracy theories of widespread voter fraud, was encouraged by elected officials like Rep. Mo Brooks, Rep. Paul Gosar, Sen. Josh Hawley, and Sen. Ted Cruz. The biggest instigator, of course, was the president himself, who for months had fanned the flames of conspiracy and earlier that day urged the crowd to march to the Capitol and “fight.”
But beyond the important issue of who was complicit in inciting the seditious and violent attack, questions remain about how the mob was able to so easily breach Capitol security and why it took so long to secure the building. Just 1,400 Capitol Police officers were on duty at the time, and National Guardsmen didn’t arrive until hours after the invasion began. As Americans watched the rioters storm through the building, news reports circulated that the Pentagon — which has authority over the D.C. National Guard — and the president had initially denied requests for the deployment of Guardsmen.
In the days following the attack, federal law enforcement did not brief the public. Information about the events was shared largely through media reports and interviews, in which various officials pointed fingers. Capitol Police — an agency with a budget larger than that of most major-city police forces — are part of the legislative branch, thus not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, and have been heavily criticized in the past for not releasing information to the public.
As the public demands answers, American Oversight has filed FOIA requests with multiple agencies to learn more about how the federal government — including the Defense Department, the White House, and federal law enforcement agencies — responded to the mob attack. We’ve requested related communications and directives, as well as Jan. 6 call logs, of top officials at multiple agencies, and are also seeking any assessments about the threat of militia violence that were prepared in advance of the attack by the FBI, the Pentagon, or the Department of Homeland Security. We also requested the communications of top Defense and Army officials with Trump or Vice President Pence.