The review was announced as the nation’s capital is on edge, with a growing security presence aimed to dissuade any further violence this weekend or at President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration Wednesday. Government officials are sealing off streets and some large public areas in the hopes of preventing a repeat of last week’s chaos.
The Justice Department review “will include examining information relevant to the January 6 events that was available to DoJ and its components in advance of January 6; the extent to which such information was shared by DoJ and its components with the U.S. Capitol Police and other federal, state, and local agencies; and the role of DoJ personnel in responding to the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6,” Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s office said in a statement.
The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the FBI’s Norfolk office circulated an intelligence report a day before the attack warning of talk online to attack Congress, break windows, push in doors, and “get violent … Get ready for war.” FBI officials said they shared that information the same day with other law enforcement agencies, but some senior officials outside the FBI have said they never saw it.
According to people familiar with the matter, dozens of people in D.C. on the day of the riot were previously identified on a government watch list as potential terrorist suspects.
Horowitz’s office will examine “whether there are any weaknesses in DoJ protocols, policies, or procedures that adversely affected the ability of DOJ or its components to prepare effectively for and respond to the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6,” the statement said, adding that his office may also examine other issues that arise during the course of his investigation.
The announcement of such a probe, as the FBI’s sprawling national investigation into the attack is barely a week old, underscores the degree of concern in government circles that vital intelligence may have been missed or mishandled. In his statement, Horowitz said his office “is mindful of the sensitive nature of the ongoing criminal investigations and prosecutions” and will “take care to ensure that the review does not interfere with these.”
In a letter to Pentagon leaders, a senior official from the Defense Department inspector general’s office said its review will begin this month and examine “requests for DOD support leading up to the planned protest and its aftermath at the U.S. Capitol complex, the DOD’s response, and whether the DOD’s actions were lawful and supported by requirements according to regulations and applicable guidance.”
Officials with D.C. police and the Capitol Police have accused the Defense Department of responding slowly as rioters forced their way into the Capitol building, saying that senior officials initially denied their request for urgent help and took hours to get members of the D.C. National Guard on site to assist.
Pentagon officials, in turn, have said local officials and authorities at the Capitol sought only limited help ahead of time from the D.C. National Guard — which because D.C. is not a state is commanded by the Defense Department — and had unrealistic expectations about how quickly a force of part-time soldiers can deploy.
In the months before the riot military leaders, scarred by criticism over their role in Trump’s heavy-handed response to racial-justice protests last June, have sought to distance themselves from the polarized politics surrounding November’s election and Trump’s attempts to overturn its result.
But in the wake of last week’s events, the Pentagon has mobilized a much larger force of National Guard from Washington D.C. and states across the country to be in place ahead of Biden’s inauguration. There are about 7,000 guardsmen on duty in Washington, a force that could exceed 20,000 by next week. And unlike the small force of about 340 guardsmen activated before the Capitol riot, some now positioned in D.C. are armed.
Separately, the Capitol Police inspector general has told lawmakers that its office also will review events surrounding last week’s melee and suspend all other casework while it does so, according to a congressional aide.
“It’s absolutely vital,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) “that we have a clear understanding of the U.S. Capitol security breach.”
Some lawmakers have asked the Government Accountability Office to examine those same issues, but that agency has not yet announced its decision on the request.
Aaron C. Davis contributed to this report.