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DC, Capitol Police say they never saw FBI warning protesters preparing for ‘war’ before Capitol protest

Police on Capitol Hill (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
February 25, 2021

Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said he did not receive a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report that warned protesters were getting ready for “war” at the Capitol, according to testimony at Tuesday’s Senate committee hearing, reported by The Hill.

A day before protesters turned violent on Capitol Hill on January 6, one Virginia FBI office issued a report warning that demonstrators were organizing to descend on the nation’s capital to commit violence and “war,” contradicting previous declarations that the bureau didn’t have any intelligence indicating potential violence, according to an internal document reviewed by The Washington Post.

The report warned of calls for violence, including details that individuals were sharing a map of the tunnels running underneath the federal building and rally points in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, South Carolina and Washington.

According to Tuesday’s testimony, a Joint Terrorism Task Force officer forwarded the report to the Capitol Police Intelligence Division, but it was never sent up the Capitol Police chain of command.

Sund told lawmakers during the February 23 hearing that he only learned of the report one day before he was scheduled to testify in front of the committee.

“No entity, including the FBI, provided any intelligence indicating that there would be a coordinated violent attack on the United States Capitol by thousands of well-equipped armed insurrectionists,” former Chief Sund testified in written remarks, according to the Associated Press.

Both the DC Metropolitan Police Acting Chief Robert Contee and the now-former sergeant-at-arms of the House and Senate each testified they hadn’t seen the FBI’s warning, as well.

According to Chief Contee, the FBI sent an email about the report to DC police, but it was never sent to him. “Something as violent as an insurrection at the Capitol would warrant a phone call,” Contee added, noting that he is available via his cell phone 24 hours a day.

“There was a failure to take this threat more seriously,” Sen. Gary Peters, the Democratic chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said.

Sund also reportedly asked House and Senate security for permission to request that the D.C. National Guard be put on standby in the event that backup was needed in the days leading up to the protest, but was blocked, The Washington Post reported.

According to Sund, House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving told the chief that the “optics” of declaring an emergency made him uncomfortable. Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger advised Sund to informally request the Guard instead.