While Jan. 6 insurgents were battling police, DHS told the Pentagon everything was fine


Here’s what the early afternoon of Jan. 6 looked like for those watching on that day.

  • 12:30 PM—Following Trump’s call to march on the Capitol, supporters stream away even though Trump is still speaking.
  • 12:49 PM—Police are notified of explosive devices outside both DNC and RNC headquarters.
  • 12:53 PM—Trump supporters confront small group of police at the first of four temporary barriers. After a few minutes of shouting at police, Trump supporters push the barrier out of the way, pushing it into police and trampling over the fallen barrier.
  • 1:00 PM—Vice President Mike Pence and senators walk into House Chamber. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi gavels the session to order at 1:03 PM.
  • 1:09 PM—Sund asks Irving and Stenger to declare an emergency and call for deployment of the National Guard. Irving and Stenger promise to make the call. However, Stenger fails to forward the request.
  • 1:10 PM—Trump finishes his speech after repeating calls to march on the Capitol. The reminder of his crowd begins moving toward the the Capitol building. At about the same time, a group of militia pull out bear spray and force Capitol Police back as fences on the west side of the Capitol are breached.
  • 1:12 PM—Sen. Ted Cruz objects to the counting of electoral votes from Arizona. With that objection, House and Senate members move back to their own chambers for two hours of debate.
  • 1:13 PM—Sund requests immediate assistance from the D.C. National Guard.
  • 1:15 PM—Insurgents climb scaffolding in front of the Capitol.
  • 1:17 PM—Lauren Boebert tweets “We are locked in the House Chambers.”
  • 1:18 PM—Lauren Boebert tweets “The Speaker has been removed from the Chambers.”
  • 1:34 PM—Phone call between Pentagon leaders and Bowser.
  • 1:40 PM—DHS Memo saying, “There are no major incidents of illegal activity at this time.”
  • 1:49 PM—Sund makes direct call to D.C. National Guard commander William Walker.

As Politico reports, while the Pentagon has taken most of the blame for failing to promptly deploy the Guard, the memo shows that other departments were sending them inaccurate and confusing evaluations of what was taking place at the Capitol. While the actual police on the ground were calling for help and trying desperately to go through every channel to bring in assistance, the agency charged with handling domestic terrorism was at best underestimating and at worst deliberately downplaying the violent actions of Trump supporters.

The memo, supposedly an update on the situation as of 1:30 PM, noted that there were 2,000 to 5,000 Trump supporters at the Capitol, with another 15,000 or so moving in that direction. However, the threats that are mentioned include the Proud Boys possibly trying to shut down the D.C. water supply—which was deemed “not credible”—and a package found at l’Enfant Plaza that was found to be “no threat.” The memo also calls claims that some Trump supporters were carrying baseball bats an “exaggerated report.” 

Later, it once again seems to downplay the idea that there is any issue: “In the last 24 hrs—There were NO incidents of criminal or illegal activity directed at federal facilities or personnel.” It concludes that the Park Service believes it can handle the rally event, and, “There are no reported incidents at this time. “

Nowhere in the document is there any mention of how those thousands at the Capitol had pushed through and torn down multiple barricades, how they had engaged in violence against police, or how many of them had proved to be carrying clubs or chemical sprays and wearing body armor.

In a memo that arrived more than half an hour after the chief of the Capitol Police begin trying to get the National Guard on site, the Pentagon was being sent a memo that said, in essence, “All is fine. Nothing to see here.”

How is it possible that DHS could be so inaccurate about events that were unfolding in their backyard? A September 2020 report from David Neiwert provides the best clue: DHS had been deliberately downplaying threats of domestic terrorism—and in particular the threat represented by white nationalist Trump supporters—for years. A whistleblower report included claims that “intelligence assessments had been altered or shelved in order to protect Trump politically.” And the information being shared with other agencies from DHS included intelligence assessments that had been modified to make the white supremacist threat “appear less severe.” 

Instead, DHS very deliberately did what other Trump supporters did on Jan. 6: ignored the real source of violence and created myths about “antifa” and Black Lives Matter.

A timeline released by the Department of Defense shows that nine minutes after the DHS memo arrived, Sund grew frustrated with the inaction from official channels and contacted the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard directly. Incredibly, it wouldn’t be until 3:00 PM, almost two hours after Sund began calling and over an hour after the Capitol building was invaded, that Pentagon officials concluded that dispatching the Guard was warranted. The first National Guard troops would actually leave for the Capitol at 5:02 PM.

In terms of confusion and delay, it was a day that had to be encouraging to every enemy of the United States, both foreign and domestic. It was an absolute showcase of the nation’s inability to mount a rapid response, even to protect the most important sites, top officials, and vital processes of the government. 

A large amount of the blame has landed on the Pentagon … because a large amount deserves to be on the Pentagon. From the resistance to early requests to the restrictions placed on the handful of troops deployed in the city to the outright lies about the involvement of Michael Flynn’s brother, no one in the military deserves less than scorn for their performance on that day. 

But they weren’t alone. It’s clear that DHS was continuing to do what they had done for so long under Trump: protect his supporters, no matter the risk to the nation. And for that reason, the House Select Committee shouldn’t just be demanding documents from the officials at DHS, they should be considering actions.

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