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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

FBI report warned of ‘war’ at Capitol, contradicting claims that there was no indication of looming violence

Congressional staff passed through a metal detector and security screening as they entered the House chamber on Tuesday. New security measures were put into place after a mob loyal to President Trump stormed the Capitol in Washington last week.
Congressional staff passed through a metal detector and security screening as they entered the House chamber on Tuesday. New security measures were put into place after a mob loyal to President Trump stormed the Capitol in Washington last week.J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A day before rioters stormed Congress, an FBI office in Virginia issued an explicit internal warning that extremists were preparing to travel to Washington to commit violence and “war,” according to an internal document reviewed by The Washington Post that contradicts a senior official’s declaration the bureau had no intelligence indicating anyone at last week’s pro-Trump protest planned to do harm.

A situational information report approved for release the day before the US Capitol riot painted a dire portrait of dangerous plans, including individuals sharing a map of the complex’s tunnels, and possible rally points for would-be conspirators to meet up in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and South Carolina and head in groups to Washington.

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"As of 5 January 2021, FBI Norfolk received information indicating calls for violence in response to 'unlawful lockdowns' to begin on 6 January 2021 in Washington. D.C.," the document says. "An online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating 'Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled. Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal."

BLM is likely a reference to the Black Lives Matter movement for racial justice. Pantifa is a derogatory term for antifa, a far-left antifascist movement whose adherents sometimes engage in violent clashes with right-wing extremists and police.

Yet even with that information in hand, the report's unidentified author expressed concern that the FBI might be encroaching on free speech rights.

The warning is the starkest evidence yet of the sizable intelligence failure that preceded the mayhem, which claimed the lives of five people, although one law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid disciplinary action, said the failure was not one of intelligence but of acting on the intelligence.

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At the FBI office in Norfolk, the report was written within 45 minutes of receiving the information, officials said, and shared with counterparts in Washington.

The head of the FBI’s Washington field office, Steven D’Antuono, told reporters Friday that the agency did not have intelligence suggesting the pro-Trump rally would be anything more than a lawful protest. During a news conference Tuesday, held after the Post’s initial publication of this report, he said that the alarming Jan. 5 intelligence document was shared “with all our law enforcement partners” through the joint terrorism task force, which includes the Capitol Police, the US Park Police, Washington, D.C., police, and a variety of other federal and local agencies.

He suggested there was not a great deal for law enforcement to do with the information because the FBI at that time did not know the identity of the people who made the comments. "That was a thread on a message board that was not attributable to an individual person," D'Antuono said Tuesday.

D'Antuono did not say what, if anything, the FBI or other agencies did differently as a result of that information. Nor did he explain why he told reporters on Friday that there had been no such intelligence.

Recently departed Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said in an interview Tuesday that he never received nor was he made aware of the FBI's field bulletin, insisting he and others would have taken the warning seriously had it been shared.

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After the riot, agents and prosecutors feel a great sense of urgency to track down and arrest the most violent participants in the mob, in part because there is already significant online discussion of new potential clashes Sunday and again on Jan. 20 when Biden will be inaugurated.

The Jan. 5 FBI report notes that the information represents the view of the FBI's Norfolk office, is not to be shared outside law enforcement circles, that it is not "finally evaluated intelligence," and that agencies that receive it "are requested not to take action based on this raw reporting without prior coordination with the FBI."

Washington Post

Thousands of National Guard troops activated for inauguration

A total of 15,000 National Guard members have been activated and will deploy to Washington, D.C., to help provide security in the run-up to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

The number of Guard members coming in from other states has been growing, amid escalating fears of more violent protests in the wake of the deadly riot at the Capitol last week.

Army General Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, was given the authority to tap up to 15,000 Guard members, and he has said that requests for assistance from the Secret Service, the US Park Police, and the Capitol Police have been increasing this week.

The Army also said Tuesday that officials are working with the Secret Service to determine which Guard members may need additional background screening. Representative Jason Crow, Democrat of Colorado, had asked Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy to have the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command screen Guard members coming in to ensure they were not “sympathetic to domestic terrorists.”

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The Army also said it is working with the FBI to identify people who participated in Capitol attack, adding, “any type of activity that involves violence, civil disobedience, or a breach of peace may be punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice or under state or federal law.”

Associated Press

Three House members who were evacuated test positive for COVID

WASHINGTON — Within a span of about 24 hours, three House Democrats revealed they tested positive for COVID-19, prompting concern that last week’s insurrection at the Capitol has also turned into a super-spreader event threatening the health of lawmakers and their staffs.

Those who tested positive were among dozens of lawmakers who were whisked to a secure location when pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the Capitol on Wednesday. Some members of Congress huddled for hours in the large room, while others were there for a shorter period.

It’s not certain where and when lawmakers caught the illness, but the Capitol’s attending physician notified all House lawmakers of possible virus exposure and urged them to be tested. Dr. Brian Moynihan said members who were in protective isolation last Wednesday “may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection.”

The three Democratic lawmakers directed their anger toward some House Republicans who were also in the secure room and declined opportunities to wear masks, despite their role in blocking the spread of COVID-19. Video surfaced of multiple Republican lawmakers refusing to wear a mask even when one was offered.

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“Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” Representative Brad Schneider, Democrat of Illinois, said Tuesday.

Representatives Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey also said they have tested positive for COVID-19.

All three lawmakers are isolating. Schneider said he was not feeling symptoms, while Watson Coleman said she was experience mild, cold-like symptoms. Jayapal did not elaborate on how she was feeling, but noted that she began to quarantine several days ago out of concern about conditions in the secured room.

Within hours of their announcements, Democratic Representatives Debbie Dingell of Michigan and Anthony Brown of Maryland introduced legislation that would impose a $1,000 fine on any member of Congress refusing to wear a mask on Capitol grounds during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is not brave to refuse to wear a mask. It is selfish, stupid, and shameful behavior that puts lives at risk,” Dingell said.

Associated Press