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Congressional Committee review of Jan 6th 2021 Insurrection - findings vs. Big Lie R's spout, Investigations

The 1/6th Insurrection on the Capitol and the attempt to throw away the election results by the R’s/Trump is one of the worst days in America’s history. If it goes unchecked, and the Big Lie continue to be a viable tool to keep the Republican base voting towards all things Trump, then we are all in a heap of trouble.

Here’s a huge undertaking by The Washington Post to describe what went on in the planning stages of 1/6th (who was involved, paid for it etc) and who took part in the day, and who might be penalized for it. The Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol wasn’t a spontaneous act.

Will be posting this HUGE article in sections under this banner…

BEFORE section below

  • Red flags were everywhere, but law enforcement officials failed to respond with urgency, a new Post investigation found.
  • Who raised the alarm? Local officials, FBI informants, social media companies, former national security officials, researchers, lawmakers and tipsters. The FBI was also limited by a change in its social media monitoring service just before 2021.
  • Early flares that day warned of what would come: Hundreds of Trump supporters clashed with police at the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial on the morning of Jan. 6, some with shields and gas masks.

President Donald Trump’s assault on American democracy began in the spring of 2020, when he issued a flurry of preemptive attacks on the integrity of the country’s voting systems. The doubts he cultivated ultimately led to a rampage inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, when a pro-Trump mob came within seconds of encountering Vice President Mike Pence, trapped lawmakers and vandalized the home of Congress in the worst desecration of the complex since British forces burned it in 1814. Five people died in the Jan. 6 attack or in the immediate aftermath, and 140 police officers were assaulted.

The consequences of that day are still coming into focus, but what is already clear is that the insurrection was not a spontaneous act nor an isolated event. It was a battle in a broader war over the truth and over the future of American democracy.

Since then, the forces behind the attack remain potent and growing. Trump emerged emboldened, fortifying his hold on the Republican Party, sustaining his election-fraud lie and driving demands for more restrictive voting laws and investigations of the 2020 results, even though they have been repeatedly affirmed by ballot reviews and the courts. A deep distrust in the voting process has spread across the country, shaking the foundation on which the American experiment was built — the shared belief that the nation’s leaders are freely and fairly elected.

Red Flags

As Trump propelled his supporters to Washington, law enforcement

agencies failed to heed mounting warnings about violence on Jan. 6.

Oct. 31, 2021

The head of intelligence at D.C.’s homeland security office was growing desperate. For days, Donell HarvinDonell Harvin As the head of intelligence at D.C.'s homeland security office, Harvin led a team that spotted warnings that extremists planned to descend on the Capitol and disrupt the electoral count. and his team had spotted increasing signs that supporters of President Donald Trump were planning violence when Congress met to formalize the electoral college vote, but federal law enforcement agencies did not seem to share his sense of urgency. On Saturday, Jan. 2, he picked up the phone and called his counterpart in San Francisco, waking Mike Sena before dawn.

Sena listened with alarm. The Northern California intelligence office he commanded had also been inundated with political threats flagged by social media companies, several involving plans to disrupt the joint session or hurt lawmakers on Jan. 6.

He organized an unusual call for all of the nation’s regional homeland security offices — known as fusion centers — to find out what others were seeing. Sena expected a couple dozen people to get on the line that Monday. But then the number of callers hit 100. Then 200. Then nearly 300. Officials from nearly all 80 regions, from New York to Guam, logged on.

In the 20 years since the country had created fusion centers in response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sena couldn’t remember a moment like this. For the first time, from coast to coast, the centers were blinking red. The hour, date and location of concern was the same: 1 p.m., the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 6.

Harvin asked his counterparts to share what they were seeing. Within minutes, an avalanche of new tips began streaming in. Self-styled militias and other extremist groups in the Northeast were circulating radio frequencies to use near the Capitol. In the Midwest, men with violent criminal histories were discussing plans to travel to Washington with weapons.

Forty-eight hours before the attack, Harvin began pressing every alarm button he could. He invited the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, military intelligence services and other agencies to see the information in real time as his team collected it. He took another extreme step: He asked the city’s health department to convene a call of D.C.-area hospitals and urged them to prepare for a mass casualty event. Empty your emergency rooms, he said, and stock up your blood banks.

Harvin was one of numerous people inside and outside of government who alerted authorities to the growing likelihood of deadly violence on Jan. 6, according to a Washington Post investigation, which found a cascade of previously undisclosed warnings preceded the attack on the Capitol. Alerts were raised by local officials, FBI informants, social media companies, former national security officials, researchers, lawmakers and tipsters, new documents and firsthand accounts show.

This investigation is based on interviews with more than 230 people and thousands of pages of court documents and internal law enforcement reports, along with hundreds of videos, photographs and audio recordings. Some of those who were interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private discussions or sensitive information.

While the public may have been surprised by what happened on Jan. 6, the makings of the insurrection had been spotted at every level, from one side of the country to the other. The red flags were everywhere.

One of the most striking flares came when a tipster called the FBI on the afternoon of Dec. 20: Trump supporters were discussing online how to sneak guns into Washington to “overrun” police and arrest members of Congress in January, according to internal bureau documents obtained by The Post. The tipster offered specifics: Those planning violence believed they had “orders from the President,” used code words such as “pickaxe” to describe guns and posted the times and locations of four spots around the country for caravans to meet the day before the joint session. On one site, a poster specifically mentioned Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) as a target.

An FBI official who assessed the tip noted that its criminal division had received a “significant number” of alerts about threats to Congress and other government officials. The FBI passed the information to law enforcement agencies in D.C. but did not pursue the matter. “The individual or group identified during the Assessment does not warrant further FBI investigation at this time,” the internal report concluded.

The paralysis that led to one of the biggest security failures in the nation’s history was driven by unique breakdowns inside each law enforcement agency and was exacerbated by the patchwork nature of security across a city where responsibilities are split between local and federal authorities.

While the U.S. government has been consumed with heading off future terrorist plots since 9/11, its agencies failed to effectively harness the security and intelligence infrastructure built in the wake of that assault by Islamic extremists to look inward at domestic threats.

Intelligence officials certainly never envisioned a mass attack against the government incited by the sitting president.

Yet Trump was the driving force at every turn as he orchestrated what would become an attempted political coup in the months leading up to Jan. 6, calling his supporters to Washington, encouraging the mob to march on the Capitol and freezing in place key federal agencies whose job it was to investigate and stop threats to national security.

For months, the president had been priming his supporters to believe that the election was rigged, that he was the rightful winner, and that Joe Biden’s victory was illegitimate and the product of a conspiracy by Democrats and the media. Throughout the fall and winter, Trump leaned on election officials in states such as Georgia and Arizona with a blizzard of tweets and personal phone calls, trying to get them to undo the results of the election.

When that failed, he turned his focus to Jan. 6, historically a pro forma ritual by Congress.

His words triggered rapid action by angry supporters who made plans to go to the nation’s capital, fusing together in a dangerous call-and-response.

Come to Washington, Trump tweeted to his supporters on the Saturday before Christmas, issuing a clarion call for them to gather and protest on Jan. 6: “Be there, will be wild!”

Donald J. Trump

@realdonaldtrump

Peter Navarro releases 36-page report alleging election fraud ‘more than sufficient’ to swing victory to Trump https://washex.am/3nwaBCe. A great report by Peter. Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!

His supporters immediately responded on the pro-Trump forum TheDonald.win under a thread titled “TRUMP TWEET. DADDY SAYS BE IN DC ON JAN. 6TH.”

It was the first time since Election Day that the president had urged his backers to turn out in Washington and protest. His message immediately began to shift the intelligence landscape, with the volume of threatening messages about Jan. 6 expanding by the hour.

As Jan. 6 neared, Trump ratcheted up his calls for action on that day – and the pressure on Vice President Mike Pence, whose role was to preside over the joint session. The president embraced a cast of renegade lawyers who argued that Pence could reject electors from a handful of states and, ultimately, nullify Biden’s victory.

The plan was far-fetched and, according to legal experts, unconstitutional. To Trump, Pence appeared open to the legislative maneuvers the president was demanding, soliciting detailed legal analyses to determine how far he could bow to Trump’s wishes.

3

Trump primed his base to view Pence as either a would-be hero or villain, depending on the path the vice president took.

“I hope Mike Pence comes through for us,” he declared at a rally in Georgia two days before the joint session, adding: “If he doesn’t come through, I won’t like him as much.”

Trump’s supporters not only knew where the president wanted them to gather on Jan. 6. They knew whom to target.

Again and again, as the pivotal day approached, top law enforcement officials fielded warnings of what was to come, but failed to respond in kind.

The FBI, the nation’s primary domestic intelligence agency, received numerous alerts of people vowing to violently confront Congress, but largely regarded social media posts about planning for Jan. 6 — even those discussing bringing firearms, arresting lawmakers and shooting police — as protected First Amendment speech. The bureau hampered its own understanding of how far-right extremists and Trump supporters were mobilizing at a key juncture when the FBI switched over its social-media monitoring service a week before the attack.

4

Politics was also at play. After months of the president threatening to fire FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, the agency’s senior leaders worried that any public statements by the director might be “asking for a desperate president to come after him,” as one person familiar with the discussions said.

At the Pentagon, leaders had acute fears about widespread violence, and some feared Trump could misuse the National Guard to remain in power, new accounts reveal.

Military officials took fateful steps to avoid being entangled in domestic unrest, scarred by the president’s efforts months earlier to use the military to quash racial justice protests. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy sought to require that only senior Pentagon leaders could approve changes to missions for National Guard soldiers. In the end, that posture contributed to the hours-long delay in getting the Guard to the Capitol to help restore order.

5

At one point, Milley suggested locking down the city and revoking permits for protests, and acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller said he feared a bloody “Boston Massacre-type” altercation that could be exploited by extremists to claim they were under attack by the government.

Miller was particularly frustrated with Justice officials, who he thought should be taking charge, and described one call he organized with key security officials and Cabinet members as “a s— show.” “There was not the acceptance by the other departments and agencies writ large that this was going to be an event that needed to be synchronized and coordinated and talked through,” he said. “It was like, ‘Permit’s good.’ ‘Fencing’s up.’ ‘We got extra Park Police.’ ‘Okay, we’re done. Have a nice day.’ That was the tone.”

6

Department of Homeland Security officials received sobering assessments of the risk of possible violence on Jan. 6, including that federal buildings could be targeted by protesters. One senior official was on the call with the fusion centers organized by Sena that prompted D.C. to begin preparing for a mass casualty event. The agency flew in hundreds of Border Patrol and other agents to protect its D.C. offices. But it did not issue a security bulletin — the department’s most readily recognized warning to law enforcement agencies, as well as to the public, regarding possible violence. Agency leaders also never moved to put the Secret Service in charge of security planning for an event that would bring together all members of Congress, the vice president and the vice president-elect, a move that could have elevated intelligence sharing and security coordination.

7

The U.S. Capitol Police, tasked with guarding a key branch of government, had been tracking threatening social media posts for weeks but was hampered by poor communication and planning. The department’s new head of intelligence concluded on Jan. 3 that Trump supporters had grown desperate to overturn the election and “Congress itself” would be the target. But Chief Steven Sund did not have that information when he initiated a last-minute request to bring in National Guard soldiers, one that was swiftly rejected. So unprepared was the police force that some shields, helmets and other crowd-control gear were locked away and hundreds of officers were either stationed away from the Capitol or allowed to remain on previously scheduled leave.

8

In response to The Post’s findings, Capitol Police leaders said they have already instituted many reforms to correct the mistakes that led to Jan. 6. “The Department expected and planned for violence from some protesters with ties to domestic terrorist organizations, but nobody in the law enforcement or intelligence communities imagined, on top of that threat, Americans who were not affiliated with those groups would cause the mayhem to metastasize to a volume uncontrollable for any single law enforcement agency,” the department said in a statement. “The world should never forget our officers fought like hell on January 6 and at the end of the day nobody they were charged with protecting was hurt and the Legislative process continued.”

DHS said in a statement that it is participating in ongoing investigations about the security failings and “leveraging lessons learned to enhance its ability to prevent future acts of violence.”

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the Defense Department “continues to cooperate with the Congress as they examine the events of that day.”

Senior FBI officials defended the bureau’s work leading up to Jan. 6 as proactive and aggressive. In interviews and statements, they insisted much of the alarming online chatter agents saw was largely “aspirational” and therefore protected First Amendment free speech — not the detailed evidence of planning needed to launch an investigation or foresee a mass attack on the Capitol.

In a handful of cases, the FBI engaged with people who were already under investigation to discourage them from traveling to Washington for Jan. 6, officials said. A bureau official said in one instance, investigators received a tip about a person espousing violence toward police officers on Jan. 6 and sent agents and local police to interview the subject. Nationwide, the bureau also instructed field offices to be on the lookout for information on threats in the Washington region before the joint session.

FBI Assistant Director Cathy Milhoan said the bureau “was actively engaged in gathering intelligence, disrupting travel, and sharing information with our partners. The FBI specifically warned state, local, and federal partners about the potential for violence at the January 6 events.”

The Justice Department said it is awaiting the findings of ongoing investigations into its preparations for that day, adding that the Capitol attack “was a heinous event that sought to interfere with the cornerstone of our democracy—the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another. Holding accountable those who committed criminal acts on January 6th is a top priority.”

In a statement, Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich disputed The Post’s investigation as “fake news” and falsely cast people who entered the Capitol that day as “agitators not associated with President Trump.”

102 days to go

The violent events of Jan. 6 had been months in the making.

Trump’s first allusion to the notion that Congress could determine the winner of the presidential race came more than a month before voters went to the polls, on Sept. 26, at a rally outside Harrisburg, Pa.

After rattling off his usual tropes about voter fraud, the president offered a new line: “I don’t want to go back to Congress either, even though we have an advantage if we go back to Congress. Does everyone understand that? I think it’s 26 to 22 or something because it’s counted one vote per state.”

A few people hollered, but some behind the stage looked puzzled. Trump was describing an obscure process for settling an election when neither candidate receives a majority of electoral college votes — a situation Congress hadn’t faced since 1876.

9

While the line didn’t register in Harrisburg, congressional Democrats in Washington took note.

In early August, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had quietly instructed members of her leadership team to begin contingency planning should Trump attempt to overturn the election in Congress in the case of a tie or dispute in the electoral college. In such a case, each state’s delegation in the House would be allotted one vote to determine the president. Ahead of the election, Republicans held the advantage, controlling 26 state delegations to the Democrats’ 22.

Recognizing this possibility, Democrats had begun targeting six races across Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Montana and Alaska, a list that would grow to more than a dozen. If a handful of those changed hands, it would give Democrats control of more than 25 state delegations when the new Congress was seated on Jan. 3 — enough to ensure that Biden would win a contested vote in the House on Jan. 6.

Trump’s remark in Pennsylvania confirmed Democratic suspicions. The next day, Pelosi sent a letter to her caucus revealing that a backup plan was already underway.

“The Constitution says that a candidate must receive a majority of the state delegations to win,” Pelosi wrote. “We must achieve that majority of delegations or keep the Republicans from doing so.”

Three days after the Harrisburg rally, Trump made a more menacing declaration at the first presidential debate.

Asked by moderator Chris Wallace whether he would condemn white supremacists and militia groups for their part in compounding deadly violence that had beset U.S. cities during the summer of 2020 — including a 17-year-old who allegedly fired on protesters in Kenosha, Wis., killing two and wounding a third — Trump insisted that the violence was coming from the left, not the right.

Biden pressed Trump to specifically condemn the Proud Boys, a far-right group known for street brawls with liberal protesters. When Wallace sought an answer, Trump said, "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”

On Parler, the social media network popular with conservatives and hate groups, the leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, responded almost immediately:

Enrique [email protected]

So Proud of my guys right now.

Parler

Enrique [email protected]

Standing by sir.

Enrique [email protected]

ProudBoys!!!

I will stand down sir!!!

Trump’s message wasn’t just stirring far-right extremists to action. In Tampa, a 38-year-old crane operator named Paul HodgkinsPaul Hodgkins The 38-year-old crane operator from Tampa traveled to Washington to show his support for Trump after absorbing false claims that the election was rigged — a decision that would drastically upend his life. was captivated by the president’s encouragement.

10

To a man who felt that the homeownership his parents had achieved would always be out of reach, Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan had struck a chord. The son and grandson of union elevator mechanics, Hodgkins had worked at factories, driven delivery trucks, sold firewood and scrapped metal, and until recent years had a side gig as a wrestler, sometimes making just $25 a match. For the past seven years, he had worked late-night shifts at a manufacturing facility, moving large steel coils.

His political affiliations were equally nomadic — he had backed Republican George W. Bush in 2000, independent Ralph Nader in 2004 and Democrat Barack Obama in 2008. In 2012, he wrote in his own name. But since 2016, he had been all-in for Trump.

“Ever since I was a kid, I remember many people saying they would love to see someone who wasn’t a politician, who hadn’t been bought and sold through the levers of Washington, become president. I saw that in Donald Trump,” Hodgkins said. “It seemed like both sides of the aisle didn’t want him, and that made me and a lot of other people want him all the more.”

Hodgkins volunteered for Trump phone banks, but what he really loved was a kind of performance art version of campaigning. In the weeks before Election Day, Hodgkins donned a pair of star-spangled MAGA tights and stood along busy intersections in Tampa, waving Trump campaign flags.

As Trump made misleading and false claims warning about voter fraud, Hodgkins grew concerned. He had never heard of tactics like “vote harvesting” or seen so much voting by mail.

“Previous elections we didn’t have that kind of thing go on,” he said.
Holding a paper with vote tallies, Trump speaks as election night draws to a close. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

63 days to go

In the wee hours of the morning after the election, as it appeared that he could be in danger of losing, Trump stepped before supporters in the East Room and falsely claimed that the election was rigged.

The next day, Trump tweeted that he “claimed” a win in Pennsylvania, falsely asserting that the state wasn’t allowing vote observers.

Donald J. Trump

@realdonaldtrump

We have claimed, for Electoral Vote purposes, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (which won’t allow legal observers) the State of Georgia, and the State of North Carolina, each one of which has a BIG Trump lead. Additionally, we hereby claim the State of Michigan if, in fact,…

The tweets and other social media posts by Trump, his son Eric Trump and members of his campaign began to activate his supporters, especially in the must-win battleground states that he was on track to lose. Mentions of “stop the steal” exploded online. Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh claimed without evidence that there were shenanigans at a ballot-processing center in Detroit preventing Trump’s votes from being counted fairly. By that afternoon, the president’s supporters had converged on the facility. By nightfall, protesters had also congregated outside government offices in Maricopa County, Ariz., where over 300,000 ballots remained to be counted.

At his computer in Colorado, Graham Brookie, who had served on President Barack Obama’s National Security Council and was now tracking domestic extremism as part of a group called the Digital Forensic Research Lab, watched “a million misinformation flowers blooming.”

Brookie and his lead researcher, Jared Holt, took note as extremists shared small scraps about the election and prominent figures rapidly amplified them, snowballing rumors into conspiracies and then discussions of action. “You get a little piece of information. ‘They just shut down all the voting machines in X.’ ” Brookie said. “Someone adds to that. Someone adds to that. Then you have them talking about what they can do.”

On the messaging app Telegram, users identifying as Proud Boys posted a rumor that officials in Maricopa, which encompasses Phoenix, were not counting all the votes because some people had used Sharpie pens to mark their ballots. County officials had debunked the rumor, but that didn’t matter.

Holt felt his first pang of worry about where it would all lead when he was monitoring video from Maricopa on Nov. 4. He could see some protesters openly brandishing rifles and handguns.

“You had folks with very extreme views armed,” Holt said. “It wasn’t just an airing of grievances, but some went with intention to intimidate.”


Protests organized under the hashtag #StopTheSteal soon spread to Atlanta, Harrisburg and Las Vegas. The movement was being promoted on a website called stopthesteal.us, which listed all of the protests in each state. The site was run by Ali Alexander, a far-right activist who had been invited to the White House social media summit in 2019 after questioning whether then-Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) should be called a Black American.

On Nov. 7, major news organizations called the race in Pennsylvania for Biden, putting him above the 270 electoral votes needed to secure victory. As Democrats celebrated, members of the self-styled militia group the Three Percenters, as well as followers of the QAnon extremist ideology, and others converged on state capitals. In Harrisburg, hundreds of supporters of an assortment of anti-government self-proclaimed militias stood alongside Republican lawmakers on steps to the statehouse, chanting “Donald Trump won” and “hold the line.”

That day, an FBI intelligence analyst in Alabama issued a warning over email to other agents. The analyst cited threats spotted on TheDonald.win and other Internet forums by the SITE Intelligence Group, a private service that monitors online extremism and counts employees in the FBI among its subscribers. An FBI agent in Seattle received the warning and blasted it out to dozens of his contacts, including local and state law enforcement officials.

One section was particularly alarming: “Death Threats: Militia groups are espousing increasingly violent rhetoric, expressing a new level of escalation by declaring, ‘The fight is now.’ On a popular militia forum, users called to execute Biden, Democrats, tech company employees, journalists, and other ‘rats.’”

“Waves of ‘#StopTheSteal’ and similar hash-tag events are being organized across the country as various voter fraud theories gain momentum among Trump supporters,” the agent continued, adding: “Please stay focused and safe.”

12

As the vote counting continued, the results were changing the calculus for Pelosi and House Democrats. Although Trump had lost, he had done better than they expected, and Republicans gained seats in the House. That allowed Republicans to keep their edge in the number of state delegations they controlled — and provided Trump a path to win a vote in the House on Jan. 6 if somehow the electoral college vote could be challenged.

53 days to go

As Trump refused to concede, angry supporters and self-styled militias geared up to fight. Quickly, plans for a “Million MAGA March” in Washington on Nov. 14 galvanized figures known for their hard-edge rhetoric.

Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the anti-government Oath Keepers, who declared in September that “civil war is here, right now” because of violence rattling Portland, Ore., said he was prepared to engage in violence on Trump’s command should he invoke the Insurrection Act — a rarely used law that gives the president the power to use the military to suppress uprisings and civil disorder that the police alone cannot control.

Days before the march, Rhodes appeared at a Stop the Steal rally in Northern Virginia. Live-streaming the event on the Oath Keepers’ YouTube channel, Rhodes told the audience that Trump supporters “must declare that Joe Biden is not … anyone’s president. He’s a usurper.”

Rhodes urged all citizens to be ready to fight while Trump “is commander in chief and has a narrowing window” to act.

Stewart Rhodes

“He must call up all of us, not just the veterans, but all of us to serve as the militia to suppress it while he is commander in chief and has a narrowing window to suppress the insurrection …. You no longer have a functioning representative government without clean elections. We must fight this.”

YouTube

Extremists associated with the Three Percenters planned to join the Oath Keepers on Nov. 14. Nicholas Fuentes, leader of the white-nationalist “Groyper” movement, and who was present at the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, called on his allies to join him in Washington.

At Georgetown University’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, Mary McCord watched the plans for the protest with growing apprehension. A former acting assistant attorney general for national security, she had begun coordinating with Brookie’s lab. She shared what his researchers had found in Nov. 11 letters to D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) and federal prosecutors in Washington. Based on public and private social media posts, she wrote, it appeared that groups with “track records of violent activity” were heading to D.C. and were likely to be met by counterprotesters, “increasing the potential for conflict.”

Racine would go on to pass the information to the mayor and other elected D.C. officials, and asked McCord to keep his office updated. The prosecutors flagged it for the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

13

Inside Capitol Police headquarters, officials beefed up numbers of available patrol officers and made plans to station civil disturbance units — which use shields, helmets and other protective crowd-control gear — along the east side of the Capitol, where protesters were expected.


One of the units was led by Capt. Carneysha MendozaCapt. Carneysha Mendoza A 19-year veteran of the Capitol Police, Mendoza led officers battling rioters in the Rotunda of the Capitol on Jan. 6., a former soldier known for arriving at the office as early as 3 a.m. to run flights of stairs.

Mendoza, a 19-year veteran of the force, had a knack for finding herself in the middle of disaster. She had been stationed at the Pentagon on 9/11, and was the watch commander in 2017 when a gunman opened fire on members of Congress practicing in Virginia for an exhibition baseball game.

On Nov. 14, Mendoza and her team lined up outside the Capitol near dusk and watched as Proud Boys and other protesters paraded across the Capitol grounds. It seemed to her that they were eyeing her officers, sizing them up as they walked past.

14

As night dragged on, the extremists and groups of counterprotesters began to scuffle — they were soon brawling in the street between the Capitol and the Supreme Court.

====

There and across the city, the fighting went on for hours. Near midnight, members of the Proud Boys managed to take over the newly dedicated Black Lives Matter Plaza north of the White House and unfurl a massive banner that read “Trump Law and Order.”

By the time it ended, one person was stabbed, four officers were injured, police took eight firearms off protesters, and more than 20 people had been arrested, many for inciting violence.

The fighting was so intense that Mendoza could barely move when she awoke the next morning. The next night, she texted a colleague who had been there: "My whole body is sore, but…knees and thighs hurt the most. Nov 15 2020 11:24p by Mendoza

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Washington Post BEFORE, DURING, AFTER 1/6th

BEFORE

48 days to go

At the White House, Trump was growing more agitated by the day as informal advisers and outside allies fed him increasingly wild claims, including that the vote may have been manipulated from overseas and that some voting machine software had weighted Biden ballots to count more than Trump ones. Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of Trump’s personal lawyers, and attorney Sidney Powell passed along purported evidence of fraud that one senior White House official who reviewed the material called “a joke.” On Nov. 14, the same day as the protest, researchers on Trump’s own campaign circulated a 14-page memo refuting many of their theories, including the notion that the company Dominion Voting Systems had ties to Venezuela or antifa, a loosely knit group of far-left activists.

But the president was so enamored with the conspiracy theories that he asked advisers if the government could research them — particularly whether foreign countries such as China hacked the vote.

And he gave Giuliani and Powell an ample platform to promote their claims, sidelining his campaign lawyers. On Nov. 19, the duo stepped before reporters at the Republican National Committee and laid out a dizzying explanation of how the election was rigged.

“We cannot let this happen to us,” Giuliani said, predicting doom if the election was not overturned. “We cannot allow these crooks, because that’s what they are, to steal an election from the American people. They elected Donald Trump. They didn’t elect Joe Biden. Joe Biden is in the lead because of the fraudulent ballots.”

Watching at home in Tampa as dark hair dye dripped down the side of Giuliani’s face, Paul HodgkinsPaul Hodgkins The 38-year-old crane operator from Tampa traveled to Washington to show his support for Trump after absorbing false claims that the election was rigged — a decision that would drastically upend his life. suspected rightly that the scene would become fodder for late-night comedians. But his overriding impression was of two nationally recognized former federal prosecutors making very serious allegations on behalf of the president of the United States.

Hodgkins had fallen into a deep depression after the election. He felt distant from longtime friends and family members who disdained Trump, including his mother, brother and sister, and closer to friends he made on the campaign, who believed the election was stolen.

Yes, Trump could exaggerate, Hodgkins knew, but the growing number of voices agreeing with the president was convincing.

“Lawyers like Giuliani and Sidney Powell are not known to chase fairy tales,” Hodgkins recalled thinking. “I don’t think they were just making up the claims. I am pretty sure if you were going to hire them to represent you, they are not going to be cheap. These are not ambulance chasers.”

He soaked up false allegations of election fraud on Fox News and the right-wing website Daily Caller. He took notice of Stop the Steal rallies popping up around Tampa.

The new movement helped Hodgkins shake off his post-election funk. He wrote a $10 check to the Trump campaign and attended a campaign meetup.

He was ready to help the cause.

36 days to go

Though it was clear that Trump’s rejection of the election was stirring his supporters to action, senior law enforcement officials at the FBI and Justice Department were feeling boxed in.

The president was increasingly irate that officials would not support his unfounded claims of voter fraud. Trump’s threats to Wray rankled. The FBI chief wasn’t looking for any more confrontations with the president.

15

At the Justice Department, Attorney General William P. Barr was falling out of step with the president he had long defended. Barr had spent much of the run-up to the election echoing Trump’s claims that there could be mail-ballot fraud. After Election Day, he eased the rules for federal prosecutors to launch their own election investigations, and sided with FBI agents who wanted to run down at least one of the president’s fraud claims. But none of it had turned up evidence of manipulation that could have affected the outcome.

Justice Department and FBI officials stayed quiet in the face of mounting recriminations coming from the White House and the president’s Twitter feed. Some senior law enforcement officials felt Trump’s demands would eventually abate, while others argued that, if push came to shove, Barr himself could end it with a public statement.

“We can stop this whenever we want, but we’d rather not do that. It’s not our place,” said one senior official at the time.

A second senior Justice Department official familiar with Barr’s thinking said the attorney general wasn’t optimistic about that, although he felt that as long as Trump’s lawyers were focused mostly on state-related election issues, the Justice Department could steer clear of the fray.

In the latter half of November, some Senate Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), privately pressed Barr to make some kind of public statement knocking down the baseless claims about massive vote count errors.

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Barr put them off, but on Nov. 23, he privately told Trump the claims of major problems with voting machines were nonsense.

After Thanksgiving came and Trump publicly chided the attorney general on Fox News for not turning up fraud, Barr decided to speak out. On Dec. 1, he gave an interview to the Associated Press, whose stories circulate in thousands of television and newspaper markets across the country. “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” the attorney general declared.

Barr and his advisers knew the statement would infuriate Trump but hoped it would also “breathe some reality into the situation,” the second official recalled, and shift the burden of proof back to the president’s lawyers. Instead, it marked the beginning of the end of Barr’s tenure. Two weeks after the statement, he announced he would leave the job.

Soon, Ali Alexander, Amy Kremer and Trump’s other backers were promoting a second rally in D.C. for Dec. 12 — two days before members of the electoral college would meet in state capitals across the nation.

Jared Holt, at the Digital Forensic Research Lab, was picking up intensely violent imagery in the calls for Trump allies to return to D.C. On Telegram, the Philadelphia Proud Boys, a chapter that had made repeated headlines for engaging in violence, shared an image of men in helmets and black tactical gear with assault rifles. A caption in large type on the bottom half of the picture read “Shatter Their Teeth.”

A New Hampshire Proud Boys group leader calling himself “biggdaddy” promoted the event on Parler and told members not to miss making history to “support our President.”

Rhodes published a national call for Oath Keepers to travel to D.C., specifically calling on law enforcement officers to join the cause, noting they were allowed to carry concealed weapons.

“We especially need LEO and military veterans with pertinent backgrounds for security (combat arms veterans, for example), or civilian equivalents,” Rhodes wrote.

Discussions Holt could see on the social network service MeWe suggested the number of militants who would be traveling to D.C. this time was far greater than in the previous month.

“They’re meeting up with like 750 Proud Boys over there,” wrote one user on a chat group for self-described Three Percenters in Pennsylvania.

Some of the groups were already making clear they wanted to pressure lawmakers where they worked. On Nov. 18, Alexander joined Fuentes, the Groyper leader; Tarrio of the Proud Boys; and Alex Jones, the far-right conspiracy theorist of Infowars; at a rally outside the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta.

“Who’s going to be ready to storm the Capitol with us in a couple of minutes?” Alexander called out through a megaphone. “Peacefully,” Jones added. “Peacefully,” Alexander said, laughing. The crowd then filed inside, chanting “special session,” urging state legislators to convene to investigate the 2020 election.

Alexander and other protesters returned to the Georgia Capitol each day for the next three days. On Nov. 21, Trump tweeted his approval. “Big Rallies all over the Country,” he wrote. “The proof pouring in is undeniable. Many more votes than needed. This was a LANDSLIDE!”

Donald J. Trump

@realdonaldtrump

Watch: Hundreds of Activists Gather for ‘Stop the Steal‘ Rally in Georgia https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2020/11/21/watch-live-hundreds-of-activists-gather-for-stop-the-steal-rally-in-georgia/ via BreitbartNews Big Rallies all over the Country. The proof pouring in is undeniable. Many more votes than needed. This was a LANDSLIDE!

Nov. 21, 3:34 p.m.

In Georgia, the torrent of fraud claims by Trump and his allies had triggered a wave of threats against election officials. Among them was a young technician for Dominion Voting Systems working in the Atlanta suburbs, who was spotted on a video transferring routine files between computers. Online, QAnon-affiliated accounts claimed the technician was manipulating votes, targeted him with an Internet GIF of a swinging noose and called for him to be hung for treason. He briefly went into hiding.

Gabriel SterlingGabriel Sterling A top official in the office of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger ® who warned that Trump’s rhetoric could inspire violence. , a top official in the office of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, had had enough.

The longtime Republican official stood before the television cameras at a Dec. 1 news conference at the state Capitol, his voice shaking with anger: “It. Has. All. Gone. Too. Far.”

“Mr. President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia,” Sterling continued, and then added: “Stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone is going to get hurt. Someone’s going to get shot. Someone is going to get killed.”

Days later, Alexander, the Stop the Steal activist, raised the stakes in a tweet: “I am willing to give my life for this fight,” he wrote. The post was retweeted by the Arizona GOP — which asked its followers whether they, too, were willing to die.

25 days to go

On Dec. 12, just as they had a month earlier, thousands of pro-Trump supporters and protesters converged on D.C., including what police estimated were — as advertised in advance by extremists — about 700 Proud Boys.

“This isn’t over, this is just beginning,” Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson told the crowd.

Watching the rally on a computer propped open in her kitchen in the Washington area, Rep. Liz CheneyRep. Liz Cheney The GOP congresswoman from Wyoming worked behind the scenes to make sure the Jan. 6 electoral count was not disrupted. Afterward, she paid a steep political price. (R-Wyo.) couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Her thoughts flashed forward to Jan. 6, and she started to fear just how far Trump’s most avid supporters might go. Cheney imagined a bomb threat halting the count to certify the election.

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“We have to count the votes that day,” she said to herself. Cheney soon began a shadow effort to block Trump. She recruited 10 former secretaries of defense, from Republican and Democratic administrations, to sign an op-ed published in The Post that warned military officials to steer clear of any effort to use soldiers to thwart the peaceful transfer of power. And she began working on what would become a 21-page memo detailing why Congress had no constitutional right to block Biden’s victory.

At the rally, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was urging the president to declare martial law and redo the election, urged the crowd to keep fighting. “There are still avenues” for a Trump win, he said ominously. “The courts aren’t going to decide who the next president of the United States is going to be. We the people decide.”

Alexander told those assembled that if the electoral college endorsed Biden’s victory, his Stop the Steal organization would turn its attention to pressuring Republicans to object to the certification on Jan. 6.

Trump flew over the crowd in a helicopter and cheered on his supporters.

Donald J. Trump

@realdonaldtrump

Wow! Thousands of people forming in Washington (D.C.) for Stop the Steal. Didn’t know about this, but I’ll be seeing them! #MAGA

Dec. 12, 9:59 a.m.

With nightfall came chaos.

Tarrio, the Proud Boys leader, paraded a Black Lives Matter banner that someone had ripped from the side of Asbury United Methodist Church, a historic Black church in downtown Washington, and he and others set it on fire.

Protesters in helmets and bulletproof vests marched through downtown in militaristic rows, shouting “Move out!” and “1776!” They rushed down side streets and alleys, trying to reach counterprotesters. Hundreds of police in riot gear moved with them, trying to keep the militants away from their apparent targets.

Eventually, the two sides brawled. At least four people were stabbed, including members of the Proud Boys. Eight people, including two police officers, ended up in D.C. hospitals. Six protesters were charged with assaulting officers, and dozens more were arrested, including four charged with rioting and one for carrying an illegal Taser.

The day after the Dec. 12 melee, D.C. police officials gathered and began reviewing the violence. Along with the vandalism of the church, officers reported several Proud Boys had worn earpieces and seemed to be communicating with one another to identify targets.

Within the FBI, many would draw the wrong lesson from that night — that the principal danger posed by Proud Boys or other extremist groups was street clashes. It would prove to be a grave miscalculation.

“Jan. 6 will be the MPD’s problem,” one federal law enforcement official said in December, referring to the D.C. police and echoing an oft-repeated and widely held belief within the FBI at the time.

As it turned out, much of the planning for Jan. 6 was preparation for the wrong kind of violence, in the wrong place.

Counterterrorism had been the FBI’s primary mission since 9/11, and out of the ashes of that intelligence failure, the bureau had rebuilt itself with the central goal of getting “left of bang,” the term investigators used for disrupting terrorism plots before they unleash violence. For more than a decade, though, when the FBI talked about terrorism, it primarily meant violence inspired by foreign groups.

A generation of senior FBI executives rose through the ranks of the International Terrorism Operating Center, located in a sprawling modern complex of buildings called Liberty Crossing in Northern Virginia. Domestic terrorism, by contrast, was a far smaller operation, focused around cramped, old office space in downtown Washington.

It wasn’t just that the international terrorism agents got more money and personnel, both in Washington and in the FBI’s 56 field offices around the country. The FBI also required agents to clear higher hurdles just to open an investigation.

Domestic terrorism cases are the only type of terrorism cases that require explicit authorization — and regular reauthorization — from the senior lawyer in an FBI field office to proceed. The rule is designed to keep a tight rein on agents who might cross legal lines and investigate constitutionally protected speech. Federal agents also had fewer legal options with which to charge domestic terrorism suspects than a person inspired by the Islamic State or al-Qaeda. For example, the charge of material support for a foreign terrorist has no legal equivalent for someone eager to commit violence for domestic extremists. As a result, domestic terrorism investigators often settle for filing gun or drug charges, and often in state, not federal court, which can mask the severity of extremist violence.

From 2016 to 2019, the annual number of domestic terrorist suspects arrested fell from 229 to 107, before jumping up to 180 in 2020. Wray has said that in the past 19 months, he has more than tripled the number of agents and analysts working on domestic terrorism cases, in order to handle the growing caseload.

In the week after the Dec. 12 protest, the FBI tweeted that it was partnering with local police, adding $1,000 to the reward D.C. had offered for information about suspects from that night. Outwardly, the FBI did little else — even as the bureau received a tip Dec. 17 that protesters were encouraging shooting at police at the joint session.

“Please be in DC, armed, on the 6th,” read an online post highlighted in an FBI memo shared with Capitol Police and local law enforcement. “You might have to kill the palace guards. Are you okay with [that]?” read one comment. Another said: “Drop a handful, the rest will flee.”

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19 days to go

By mid-December, the electoral college had met and formalized Biden’s victory. Trump had just one more move: disrupting Congress’s count of the votes on Jan. 6.

“Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election,” the president tweeted on Dec. 19, sending out the pivotal message that set the congressional certification as the final showdown: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

The exhortation, more than almost any other words or action by Trump after the election, seemed to electrify his most devoted followers in chat groups and websites like TheDonald.win. Some took it as an order.

A confidential informant voluntarily sent his FBI contact dozens of exchanges the next day between self-described members of the Three Percenters. Trump’s tweet, combined with a video the president later posted, titled “Fight for Trump,” were “literally” taken together as a “call to arms,” the informant said.

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Among the messages the informant flagged from a MeWe chat group for members of the self-styled militia:

American Patriots III% Recruiting (MeWe chat group)

January 6th is the last opportunity we will ever have. For a brief moment, we still hold power, we have the opportunity of a disputed election, and a call has gone out from our President. This, here, in two weeks is the fight. This is what all the preparation has been for.

On that same day, Dec. 20, the FBI received a call alerting them to Trump supporters making plans online to bring arms to Washington and arrest lawmakers. The Sunday afternoon call was handled by the bureau’s National Threat Operations Center, a clearinghouse for tips about crimes, according to a document titled “Threats to Take Guns and Overrun the DC Police January 4th-January 20th.” The file was updated the following afternoon by an FBI employee seeking to reclassify the information: “More DT [domestic terrorism] than Criminal in nature… Criminal has received a significant number of Guardians as a results of threats to Congress and other government officials.”

The caller, according to the FBI document, said people were “planning on meeting in certain areas and sneaking guns into DC in an attempt to overrun the DC police, beginning January 4th-20th." On three different sites, "there is discussion about recruitment, where to meet at, bringing guns, and arresting Senators and members of Congress to hold trials outside in public areas.”

Logistics — down to shopping malls in Scranton, Pa.; Louisville; and Columbia, S.C.; where people would meet to travel to D.C. — were being plotted on Discord, one of those websites. Posters were inserting iterations of the word “peaceful” to prevent their comments from being deleted by moderators, the caller said, citing the example, “Mitt Romney peacefully gets it first.” The tipster provided the screen name of one person who was encouraging others to violence.

Here, in a short, simple government form, was a warning about a threat identifying a potential place, period of time and a specific target: a senator from Utah.

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Later that same night, the FBI received a similar call, which was written up with the title: “Additional Information on Washington, D.C. Protest Jan 6 2020.” In that tip, the caller told the FBI that the website TheDonald.win “is calling for violence on 01/06/2021 regarding the election results.”

Of the combined tips, an FBI official wrote: “None of these sites have specifics on what they’re going to do once they overturn the DC police. These sites are wanting to do this ‘because it will stop the steal.’ ”

By Tuesday morning, Dec. 22 – less than 48 hours after the first call was recorded in the FBI’s system — the threat assessment was closed, marked at the top: “Does not warrant further investigation at this time.”

An FBI official said that before closing the issue, the bureau first checked its databases and took “other follow up action,” including sharing the information with local police, Capitol Police and federal agencies. Most of the tips they received contained “vague and primarily First Amendment-protected speech,” the official said. The bureau documents show the pro-Trump site TheDonald.win appeared many times in the Bureau’s tip and investigative files: the FBI’s Guardian system had 190 results for the site, and a separate FBI database for tracking investigations, called Sentinel, had 128 results for the site.

Romney’s office could not locate a record that it had been alerted about the tip. An FBI official noted that the tip was shared with the Capitol Police.

Meanwhile, activist Ali Alexander’s team was launching multiple websites, including MarchToSaveAmerica.com, to promote rallies in D.C. on Jan. 6. The site explicitly called on supporters to march from the White House to the Capitol at 1 p.m. “Take a stand with President Trump and the #StopTheSteal coalition,” the website stated. “The fate of our nation depends on it.”

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The site listed a coalition of groups it said was backing the effort, including Amy Kremer’s Women for America First; Turning Point Action, a group run by Trump ally Charlie Kirk, who promised to send 80 buses of young people to D.C. on Jan. 6; and the Rule of Law Defense Fund, the nonprofit fundraising arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association, which sent robocalls urging people to go to D.C. for the day’s events.

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Stop the Steal also secured permitted space for a rally on the east side of the Capitol on Jan. 6. The organization had applied under a different name.

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On extremist chat groups, Brookie, Holt and McCord saw a new tone of desperation take hold. Trump supporters were going further than before — talking about being citizen soldiers who might have to die for their cause.

On Dec. 21, McCord shared their research with D.C. officials. She was concerned enough that she also sent a copy to her former colleagues at the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington and a senior counterterrorism official at the FBI. She was assured the warnings were being shared with key law enforcement authorities.24

Holt focused on the explicit talk of violence, writing in his report that Oath Keepers were “ramping up” pressure on their peers to join them in settling the election by force, “preferably with guns.”

“Nothing is going to happen unless we MAKE it happen,” began an exchange he highlighted in the report, which was passed along to the FBI.

“How much more of this s— do you need to see … There is only one way. It’s not signs. It’s not rallies. It’s f—ing bullets!,” read the post from a person identifying as an Oath Keeper.

Holt and Brookie soon spotted a shift from threats to planning.

Members of self-styled militias from all over the country were sharing plans for protester convoys to Washington. A map was being circulated on MeWe showing three rally points — code-named Cowboy, Minuteman and Rebel — for the “MAGA Cavalry” that would ride on Jan. 5. Proud Boys and others shared the meetup spots up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
(Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

At the White House, Pence began telling advisers that he knew he was in the crosshairs — Trump would expect him to act.

The president at first took a conciliatory tack. My people are telling me you have more power than you think you have, he told Pence in a meeting a few days before Christmas. Repeatedly, Pence responded that he did not believe there was an avenue for him to stop the certification — but he said he would take a look at the arguments.

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Soon the vice president and his team were being lobbied by a clutch of pro-Trump lawyers including John Eastman, a conservative attorney who had written an op-ed questioning Harris’s U.S. citizenship and whether she was eligible to run for vice president.

Behind the scenes, the White House chief of staff was also spurring on a looming confrontation between Trump and his vice president.

Mark Meadows “was talking out of both sides of his mouth, telling Pence: ‘We know how this goes. We’re going to calm everything down. Don’t worry. We’re turning the temperature down,’ ” said a senior administration official. “And then he would tell Trump: ‘I’m telling Pence he has to do this. Pence is going to do it. It’s going to be great. Eastman is right. We’ll get him [Pence] to do it.’ ”

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Still, many White House and campaign aides did not view Jan. 6 as a critical day and were not worried about violence. The goal of Trump’s tweet in which he said Jan. 6 would “be wild,” they believed, was simply to attract a big crowd to give the television cameras a counternarrative to the coverage of the Capitol that day.

One senior administration official said he only realized how much Trump’s focus on Jan. 6 was activating his supporters when his mother, who lives in a Southern state, told him in late December that her friends were coming by bus. “A lot of people from the church are going to D.C. on January 6 — are you going to be there?” she asked him.

16 days to go

Three days before Christmas, D.C. police hosted their first teleconference to begin coordinating for Jan. 6. Among the agencies on the call: the FBI, Secret Service, U.S. Park Police and Capitol Police. Analysts from the fusion center run by Donell HarvinDonell Harvin As the head of intelligence at D.C.'s homeland security office, Harvin led a team that spotted warnings that extremists planned to descend on the Capitol and disrupt the electoral count. did not participate.

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For gun-carrying agents at the FBI and elsewhere, the nation’s network of fusion centers set up in response to 9/11 had long been viewed as producing uneven work. Some even disparagingly referred to them as “confusion centers.” Their mission was to keep tabs on open-source information and to make sure tips didn’t get lost between agencies. Yet early on, some social media posts that centers had flagged sent police on wild goose chases. “These guys often couldn’t find their lanes,” said one senior federal law enforcement official who was on the Dec. 22 call with the FBI and others.

The dynamic was particularly fraught in D.C. The National Capital Region Threat Intelligence Consortium, or NTIC, as the fusion center is known, is supposed to share intelligence from all law enforcement entities in the region. But D.C. is home to the FBI and the country’s other preeminent law enforcement and intelligence agencies, turning the pecking order upside down.

The FBI put more stock in the analysis of its own agents. Plus, D.C.’s fusion center is one of only a handful in the country housed in a civilian agency and not a police department, making law enforcement reluctant at times to distribute sensitive intel about ongoing investigations.

Still, D.C. officials relied on it for intelligence, and Harvin assigned an analyst to each new permitted protest that might turn violent and tasked them with gaming out whether the city would be able to handle it.

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Washington Post BEFORE, DURING, AFTER 1/6th

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Washington Post BEFORE, DURING, AFTER 1/6th

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7 days to go

On the last weekend of 2020, the FBI lost access to Dataminr, a third-party service that can alert agents and analysts to important social media posts about breaking news, as well as when, where and how often key words and phrases appear in online posts.

The shutdown had been months in the making. The bureau advertised in early 2020 that it wanted to sign a new contract for “social media alerting,” describing the service as “mission-critical.”

But the end-of-the-year changeover limited the FBI’s understanding of what was happening online at a key juncture, just as extremists were mobilizing. FBI agents started using an alternative service known as ZeroFox that was unfamiliar to many in the bureau. The change came as a surprise, causing confusion about how to use the new system.

Some agents and analysts felt the new service was a significant downgrade, particularly when it came to tracking things on Twitter. Within the FBI, some frustrated agents quickly started using a derisive nickname for ZeroFox — replacing the “Fox” with a similar-sounding expletive, to indicate how little use it seemed to have.31

“It wasn’t that we were blind, it just turned out to be a bad time to have less visibility into what was happening online, because we were changing systems and a lot of people didn’t really know the new system,” said one person familiar with the matter.

On New Year’s Eve, Harvin’s team set up a call with analysts at the Capitol Police. The growing intensity of online threats reminded John K. “Jack” Donohue, the new director of intelligence for the police department, of a foreign terrorism operation. As a young New York Police Department officer, Donohue had been an intelligence analyst and had trained in the methods of the Islamic State and related foreign terrorist groups after 9/11. He understood how isolated followers could be activated online, drawn to a violent cause that gave them purpose.

Donohue was especially worried by the volume of well-known white-supremacist groups whose members said they planned to come, as well as a sense among them that they had the approval of, if not a direct order from, the president of the United States.

But Donohue was new to the job. Since taking over in November, he and his newly arrived deputy, Julie Farnam, a longtime Department of Homeland Security division chief, had been working to professionalize a Capitol Police intelligence unit that was widely seen as an embarrassment. Capitol Police leaders feared letting their intel unit brief other agencies because its work product was so shabby. The department didn’t routinely share its collected intelligence with rank-and-file officers, something Donohue was planning to change. He kept studying the threatening online posts.32

All the while, Trump was keeping the pressure up, seeking a soft spot in the system.

In tweets, interviews and statements, he harangued the FBI, governors, state lawmakers and even local election officials. “The 2020 election was rigged. It was a scam and the whole world is watching and they’re laughing at our country. They’re laughing at us,” Trump said when he called into a hearing of Republicans in Arizona to discuss purported fraud.

Behind the scenes, the president zeroed in on three maneuvers in his attempt to overturn the election. He pressed Justice Department officials to assert there were irregularities in the vote. He goaded state officials to reopen the counts. And as a last resort, he kept lobbying his vice president to simply cast the results aside on Jan. 6.

In a Dec. 27 phone call, Richard Donoghue, a senior Justice Department official, took notes on the president’s brazen efforts. William Barr’s replacement, Jeffrey Rosen, had just told Trump the department couldn’t “snap its fingers” and change the outcome of the election. Trump responded, asking the acting attorney general to simply play along: “Just say the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressman,” Donoghue wrote.

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The president’s supporters were following his lead, bombarding Republican officials in states such as Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona to take action. “It’s pretty apparent you don’t know everything that is going on,” Arizona Senate President Karen Fann ® reassured one constituent in a Dec. 29 email, adding that the Senate had gone to court to enforce a subpoena on Maricopa County, in part to inspect its voting machines.

“We have the full support of Trump and Giuliani,” she added.

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Clint HickmanClint Hickman As chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in 2020, the longtime Republican resisted Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results. , the Republican chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, was enjoying a New Year’s Eve dinner in Phoenix with his wife and some friends when his phone rang at about 8 p.m. It was a Washington number.

He let the call go to voice mail, then, curious, ducked out of the loud restaurant to check the message. It was from a man who said he was an operator at the White House switchboard, calling to inform Hickman that the president wanted to speak to him.

Hickman didn’t know what to think — he’d been receiving a lot of prank calls since he and the other board members voted to certify Biden’s win amid a flood of vitriol and protests. If it really was the White House, he wasn’t eager to speak to Trump. He returned to the table and announced incredulously to the group, “Well, that was the president.”

Three nights later, Hickman’s phone rang again. The Washington Post had just published a recording of a phone call that weekend between Trump and another Republican election official, Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state. On the call, Trump urged Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat.

Now — after midnight in Washington — the president appeared to want to talk to the Maricopa County chairman.

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VOICEMAIL
Hickman again did not respond: “My mom always warned me nothing good happens after midnight.”

6 days to go

In Florida, Paul HodgkinsPaul Hodgkins The 38-year-old crane operator from Tampa traveled to Washington to show his support for Trump after absorbing false claims that the election was rigged — a decision that would drastically upend his life. had made the decision to go to Washington. He found a pro-Trump women’s group offering a package deal for about $300, which included a bus ride from Sarasota, Fla., to D.C. and two nights at the Westin Crystal City Reagan National Airport hotel.

Hodgkins put his blue Trump tights on for a New Year’s Eve party.

“As it got closer to Jan. 6, the people I talked to said it was important,” Hodgkins said. “That it was going to be a historical event, maybe the biggest political turnout ever in Washington.”

Ronald “Ronnie” Sandlin, a 34-year-old living with his parents in Memphis, was equally motivated. Sandlin had never been very political, but he was making plans to drive to D.C. and was calling for others to join him. In a post on Facebook, Sandlin vowed “to do my part to stop the steal and stand behind Trump when he decides to cross the rubicon.”

By New Year’s, Sandlin was in touch with around a dozen other Trump supporters making similar plans, including a 34-year-old Idaho man named Josiah Colt and a 31-year-old Las Vegas resident named Nathaniel DeGrave.

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Theirs was one of numerous plans that coalesced in mostly public view. On Facebook, Sandlin posted what appeared to be an image of him holding a semiautomatic rifle and asking for financial help to pay for the trip. “Every penny is a boot in the a-- against tyranny.”

On the same day, DeGrave asked for help learning how to shoot a gun. Who “can shoot and has excellent aim and can teach me today or tomorrow,” DeGrave wrote on Facebook. “I want somebody special forces or ex fbi to teach me … this is for a very patriotic cause.”

Other ominous messages were posted on Parler, which had recently begun communicating with the FBI after its attorneys had decided some posts were so threatening that they required law enforcement notification.

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On Dec. 22, Parler had sent the FBI three screenshots from a user who threatened to kill politicians. On Jan. 2, the company passed along more, including a series of posts by a user making threats about Jan. 6. “This is the final stand where we are drawing the red line at Capitol Hill. I trust the American people will take back the USA with force and many are ready to die,” the user wrote, adding: “don’t be surprised if we take the #capital building.”

By early January, larger social media companies in Silicon Valley were also flagging scores of posts daily to the fusion center in Northern California. For companies to reach the threshold to report its users to law enforcement, such posts typically imply violence or the use of a weapon. Sena, the fusion center director, told the companies his office couldn’t keep up with the surge and asked them to start sending the concerning posts directly to the FBI’s analysis center in West Virginia.

On Jan. 1, an amateur historian of architecture in Washington who maintains a website on tunnels, including those under the Capitol, filed a report on the FBI’s website about an unusual spike in hits to his site from outside the D.C. area, including from the domains TheDonald.win, AR15.com and MyMilitia.com. He traced some of the traffic back to posts about Jan. 6.

In another batch of messages to the FBI, a bureau informant in the Midwest characterized the talk among members of self-proclaimed militias as heavy on planning to travel to D.C., and said the tone had become significantly more “anti-law enforcement.”

In defending their decisions, FBI officials said the bureau makes a key distinction between “aspirational” speech about violence and what they called “a specific intent to commit violence.” Aspirational talk is protected by the First Amendment, said a senior FBI official.

“Broad claims and online chatter often lack specificity or detail about concrete plans and participants and, therefore, are not susceptible to disruption,” said an FBI official.

3 days to go
On Jan. 3, leaders at the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as Robert C. O’Brien, Trump’s national security adviser, joined one in a series of conference calls to go over security concerns about Jan. 6. The group discussed the possibility of protesters targeting federal buildings. Most officials saw the biggest risk to be what one called the “same old” fighting between pro-Trump protesters and liberal demonstrators that had occurred at earlier rallies, particularly after sunset. O’Brien thought the biggest danger would be the counterprotesters — what the president referred to as antifa.

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Miller, the acting defense secretary, couldn’t believe the Justice Department wasn’t more concerned.

Unknown to him, Rosen was consumed with a separate but related crisis. The pressure campaign against the acting attorney general had reached a boiling point. Minutes before the call, Rosen learned that Trump intended to replace him with Jeffrey Clark, a mid-level department attorney who had just made clear he would do Trump’s election bidding.

Miller, the acting defense secretary, couldn’t believe the Justice Department wasn’t more concerned.

Unknown to him, Rosen was consumed with a separate but related crisis. The pressure campaign against the acting attorney general had reached a boiling point. Minutes before the call, Rosen learned that Trump intended to replace him with Jeffrey Clark, a mid-level department attorney who had just made clear he would do Trump’s election bidding.

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Clark had drafted a letter to officials in Georgia, falsely declaring that the Justice Department had “identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states” and recommending state legislatures convene in special session to consider appointing new presidential electors.

“The Department will update you as we are able on investigatory progress, but at this time we have identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple States, including the State of Georgia.”

Jeffrey Clark

In the hours that followed, Rosen and the upper tier of the Justice Department would vow to resign should the president push forward with installing Clark.

“Jeff Clark will be leading a graveyard,” Justice official Steve Engel told the president in the Oval Office. White House Counsel Pat Cipollone warned Trump that Clark’s letter was “a murder-suicide pact” that would “damage anyone and anything that it touches.” Cipollone said he, too, would resign.

Still, Clark encouraged Trump. “Mr. President, we can do this,” he told Trump. “We can get it done. History is calling.”

After a three-hour standoff, Trump dropped the idea as unworkable, leaving only one person left who could help him set aside the election and retain the White House: Pence.

Unaware of the high-stakes moment playing out at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, officials at the Capitol were reaching their own fire-alarm moment.

Donohue and Farnam, of the Capitol Police, were sweating the final intelligence assessment for Jan. 6.

For weeks, their analysts had catalogued comments on TheDonald.win and other sites in which Trump supporters had discussed confronting members of Congress and police.

“Anyone going armed needs to be mentally prepared to draw down on” law enforcement officers, read a post highlighted back in a Dec. 21 internal report.

40

It had been a day after that when the FBI told Capitol Police it wasn’t investigating similar threats about overrunning police and arresting lawmakers.

Since then, Capitol Police had been following the lead of the bureau, which did not aggressively pursue many such posts out of First Amendment concerns. But the flow of troubling warnings now felt like a deluge. Since New Year’s Eve, there had been the debrief from Harvin, online chatter flagged by Donohue’s former intel contacts at the NYPD, and something else: The leaders of the two congressional chambers, Pelosi and McConnell, had had their homes vandalized with messages about a stimulus payment that Congress failed to approve, drawing heckles from Trump.

Police found a pig’s head, smeared with fake blood, on Pelosi’s driveway in San Francisco, along with the message “Cancel rent, we want everything” scrawled on the garage door. In Kentucky, officers discovered someone had spray-painted McConnell’s home with the phrases “WERES MY MONEY” and “MITCH KILLS POOR.”

It seemed a menacing signal: Angry people knew where the two leaders lived and were willing to break the law to get their message across. The number of officers assigned to each leader was increased, and the details were issued semiautomatic weapons.

Donohue and Farnam made a grim prediction in their final internal report: Jan. 6 would be far more dangerous to the Capitol and its occupants than the pro-Trump rallies in November and December.

Trump supporters had reached a desperate stage, Donohue and Farnam wrote, in which they believed the certification of the election at the joint session was their “last chance” to block Biden from becoming president. “Congress itself is the target,” they concluded, but the key analysis was tucked at the bottom of Page 13 of a 15-page report.

41

“…the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counter-protesters aas they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th.”

Capitol Police

Sund agreed not to press for a deployment — unaware of the new threat assessment being prepared by his own intelligence unit that very day.

2 days to go

On Jan. 4, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, reached out to the FBI. He was alarmed after hearing reports from his staff of widespread online chatter of violence surrounding the Jan. 6 ceremony. He wanted to make sure the bureau was seeing the threat, and to learn what it was doing to counter the danger.

David Bowdich, the No. 2 official at the FBI, heard him out but did not sound concerned. Don’t worry, he told the senator, the FBI was on top of it.

43

That day, the National Park Service allowed the number of people expected under a permit filed for the rally at the Ellipse to balloon from 5,000 to 30,000.

On Twitter, Trump kept hyping the event.

Donald J. Trump

@realdonaldtrump

I will be there. Historic day!

Retweeted Jan. 4, 9:46 a.m.

That same day, Sena held the call for fusion centers from around the country. No one from the FBI spoke, and Sena couldn’t tell whether anyone from the bureau had even joined. Kurt Reuther, a senior Department of Homeland Security official, piped up at one point, saying the department was standing by to help. It struck several as a hollow offer. There was already plenty to do. Officials from several fusion centers said on the call that they knew of groups mobilizing. “MAGA Drag the Interstates” rallies were planned, and analysts had picked up chatter of an “Occupy the Capital” movement.

44

There was so much material now bubbling up about Jan. 6 that bureau analysts running the FBI’s online portal where social media companies were reporting suspected criminal behavior had begun using a hashtag to track and organize incoming threats: #CERTUNREST2021.

In short, Sena wrote in an email to all 80 fusion centers, “a significant number of individuals plan to or are advocating for others to travel to Washington, DC to engage in civil unrest and violence.”

At the very same time as the fusion center call that day, a deputy chief for the Capitol Police scheduled a briefing

Separately, Sund, the Capitol Police chief, had begun to question whether his force was prepared. Hotel reservations were soaring and flights to D.C. in the time remaining before Jan. 6 were filling up. The chief took an unprecedented step. On Jan. 3, he asked his bosses to declare an emergency so he could request the National Guard to station troops around the Capitol as a show of force.

42

He met resistance from his superiors, the sergeants-at-arms for the House and the Senate — both former Secret Service agents who reported to Pelosi and McConnell. Paul Irving, of the House side, said the optics of bringing in the Guard probably wouldn’t be welcomed by leadership. Mike Stenger, on the Senate side, suggested Sund ask the D.C. National Guard to informally “lean forward” instead, so it could be ready to be summoned in case of an emergency.

for commanders and supervisors to discuss Donohue’s threat assessment that “Congress itself” was the target. Sund, the chief, was left off the invitation. Donohue gave his presentation, surprised that the chief wasn’t on the call. But even for those on the call, many didn’t hear a major shift in Donohue’s risk forecast or fresh cause for alarm.

45

It was part of a pattern of miscommunication, poor planning and sloppiness inside the department that left Capitol Police completely ill-equipped for what was to come.

Officers had left polycarbonate riot shields used to combat violent protesters in a hot trailer over the summer, making them more brittle and easier to crack. Smoke grenades and other crowd-control munitions had expired in a storage room. Of the 10 officers assigned to fire such less-lethal rounds, none had current certification to do so. The department didn’t even have an up-to-date list of officers who were in the voluntary riot-control units in order to call for backup if necessary. And they would be short-staffed. One in five officers wouldn’t be at the Capitol on Jan. 6 — scores were at home quarantined for covid or on previously scheduled leave or shift work.
46

For those who would be there, the department did not clearly communicate the threat they would face. A Capitol Police analyst had been researching the applicants approved for six different protests that would encircle the Capitol, and had grown suspicious that many, if not all, were front groups for the Stop the Steal campaign. But the possibility that one like-minded mass was going to descend on the Capitol was not shared with rank-and-file officers. In fact, some said they were told the groups were different, possibly adversarial, and to be on the lookout for counterprotesters. To keep them away, Capitol Police ringed the building with bike racks as a leading line of defense, but in many places no one tied them together or weighed them down.

47

Over at the Pentagon, officials remained worried about the level of preparedness.

On a Jan. 4 call with Cabinet members and top security officials, Milley questioned why protesters were being allowed on Capitol grounds at all, given the threats against Pelosi and McConnell, and noted that extremists had begun boasting on social media that they planned to come armed and attack lawmakers.

48

“Why are we granting permits to groups that have already indicated their intent to commit violence?” he asked. “Is there a process for going back and revoking these permits?” Some on the call cited free-speech concerns and the challenge of revoking permits for properly registered protests.

That same day, Trump met with Pence and John Eastman in the Oval Office. Eastman, then a professor and former law school dean at Chapman University, had written that Pence could exercise unprecedented powers over the certification process. In what he later said was one early draft, he argued the vice president could set aside the electoral college votes and gavel Trump in as the next president. In a second memo, he suggested several options, including that Pence could delay the count so lawmakers could further assess fraud claims, potentially also upending Biden’s electoral lead and allowing Trump to win.

49

https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-apps/imrs.php?src=https://arc-anglerfish-washpost-prod-washpost.s3.amazonaws.com/public/24F57QZNSBBXPMVCAGD3IULWAE.jpg&w=200

“BOLD, Certainly. But this Election was Stolen by a strategic Democrat plan to systematically flout existing election laws for partisan advantage; we’re no longer playing by Queensbury Rules, therefore.”

John Eastman

Eastman’s allies, including Giuliani and former White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon, were huddled blocks away in a makeshift war room at the Willard Hotel, conferring about how to put the plan into motion.

Yet even the professor himself did not think the gambit was likely to work. When Cipollone pressed Eastman after one meeting on whether he truly believed his legal theory would clear a path for Pence to overturn the election results, Eastman admitted that he thought it probably wouldn’t work. Furious, Cipollone exploded, berating the lawyer.

50

On the afternoon of Jan. 4, the vice president quizzed the professor on his plan to disrupt the electoral college count. Eastman said that it was an “open question” whether Pence had the ability to unilaterally decide which votes to count.

“You heard him say that, right?” Pence said to the president. Trump did not seem to be paying attention.

The vice president said the law seemed to leave him no choice but to preside over the formalization of Biden’s victory. But, Pence assured the president, he was still willing to read any materials on the topic that Trump wanted him to see.

38 hours to go

On Jan. 5, Hodgkins got off work in Tampa around 12:30 a.m. He’d slept only a couple of hours when he got up, collected his bag and a red Trump flag on a pole, and left for the bus terminal in Sarasota.

The flag wouldn’t fit in his bag, so he carried it in the car and, when he got to the bus, stowed it in the luggage compartment underneath. The mood inside among the mostly older, unmasked women was festive. Hodgkins was the youngest person and one of the few men. He had brought trail mix and beef jerky, and bought his favorite grilled chicken nuggets and a Blizzard milkshake at a Dairy Queen later that day.

His spirits were tempered by a text from his mother, accusing him of being blind to reality.

Also traveling north were DeGrave and Sandlin, and along the way, they were making good on a pledge made on Facebook to financial supporters to document their journey. They posted pictures and videos, including an eight-second clip of the two coughing when a can of bear spray accidentally discharged in DeGrave’s pocket.

“Nate’s bear mace was going off in his pocket and it started filling the van (with) bear spray,” Colt wrote in a caption posted with the picture. In another video, the two and others are heard debating carrying guns the next day. “For the camera’s sake,” DeGrave said, “we’re not going to carry.”

Late in the afternoon, in Des Moines, Douglas Jensen prepared to go, too.

The father of three, who had slipped deep into the QAnon extremist ideology over the previous four years, had become convinced that Trump would deliver big news to his supporters — possibly fulfilling the “Q” prophesy that corrupt politicians would someday be arrested en masse. After finishing a full shift at his construction job, Jensen and a friend embarked on a 16-hour overnight drive, estimating they would get to D.C. just in time for Trump’s speech.

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WAPO - article on BEFORE, DURING and AFTER 1/6th.

BEFORE - the day before

As Trump’s supporters converged on Washington, his allies anticipated the unrest that would follow. “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow,” Bannon told listeners of his podcast on Jan. 5.

Across the city, officials charged with the nation’s security had wildly different expectations about what the next day would bring.

The lead attorney on the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee, which had convened several hearings on domestic extremism over the previous two years, told his committee staff to stay home. He packed snacks and clothes, unsure of whether it would be safe to leave the building the next night.

Miller also packed a gym bag with an extra set of clothes to bring to the Pentagon, on the off chance the situation spiraled out of control.

At Justice, Rosen told much of his staff they could work from home, reflecting a general sense of unease about possible traffic disruptions and disorder, but no serious concern that democracy itself could be at risk.

All day, a crowd kept growing blocks from the White House, where Trump surrogates took turns at a microphone declaring the election results were about to be overturned.

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell urged Trump supporters to pray for Pence to “make the right decision for our country.” On Jan. 6, the country would experience a “miracle” and “great cleansing of evil,” Lindell said to applause.

In the crowd, a man thrust a sign in the air that read “Trump Won! Complete the American Revolution.” A woman waved a huge red flag with the numbers “1776 2.0.” As Lindell spoke, D.C. police surrounded a converted school bus that drove past a police line a couple blocks away. After searching the bus and finding firearms, officers cuffed the three occupants. Trump supporters walking nearby booed.

That evening, the multibillion-dollar security apparatus built in the wake of 9/11 to protect the country’s most critical functions produced a single, stark, final warning of the looming danger — much of it echoing the report the FBI received more than two weeks earlier. An intelligence analyst at the FBI office in Norfolk filed a situational information report describing alarming calls for violence circulating on TheDonald.win — it included more talk of the “MAGA Cavalry” and people heading for D.C.

The FBI analyst’s report cited one post that declared: “Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their … 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.”

The report noted people had shared maps of tunnels underneath Congress, and planned rendezvous spots in the eastern part of the United States to travel together to Washington.

The memo — like the others before it — was jarringly prescient. But it also betrayed the FBI’s long-running institutional unease with investigating domestic extremism. The document cautioned that the people who had made the threatening posts “have been identified as participating in activities that are protected by the First Amendment. … Their inclusion here is not intended to associate the protected activity with criminality or a threat to national security.”

To some inside the FBI, that cautionary language was a telling example of how the bureau tempered its reaction to threats of violence from White, middle-aged and middle-class Americans.

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BEFORE - the day before

@realdonaldtrump

I hope the Democrats, and even more importantly, the weak and ineffective RINO section of the Republican Party, are looking at the thousands of people pouring into D.C. They won’t stand for a landslide election victory to be stolen. @senatemajldr @JohnCornyn @SenJohnThune

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Jan. 5, 5:12 p.m.

The crowd outside suddenly roared loudly. “They’re fired up. They’re fired up,” Trump said. The president looked at Scavino: He didn’t want violence the next day, he said.

Several in the room took Trump’s comment to mean he didn’t want counterprotesters brawling with his supporters as the two sides had in November and December, sending Trump into a rage at the time against D.C. police for what he claimed was soft handling of protesters.

Soon a third tweet finished his thought:

Final presidential tweet

Antifa is a Terrorist Organization, stay out of Washington. Law enforcement is watching you very closely! @DeptofDefense @TheJusticeDept @DHSgov @DHS_Wolf @SecBernhardt @SecretService @FBI

Jan. 5, 5:25 p.m.

For nine weeks, the coda to Trump’s presidency had blared like a siren song. His false claims of election fraud had lured followers to act on their worst instincts. A wave of them had come to Washington, and more were on the way.

Trump turned to an aide and asked what he thought the crowd wanted to hear at the next day’s rally. The aide suggested Trump should highlight all of his accomplishments. “I mean, you’ve had an incredible four years,” he said.

“No, no,” Trump interrupted. “These people are upset. They’re angry.”

He issued a final message on Twitter:

tweet

I will be speaking at the SAVE AMERICA RALLY tomorrow on the Ellipse at 11AM Eastern. Arrive early — doors open at 7AM Eastern. BIG CROWDS! https://t.co/k4blXESc0c

Jan. 5, 5:43 p.m.

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Massive undertaking by Washington Post to describe events BEFORE, DURING and AFTER 1/6th Insurrection at the US Capitol

This is the DURING the insurrection section on 1/6/2021

During: Bloodshed

For 187 minutes, the commander in chief stands back and allows an attack on a branch of the U.S. government.

Key findings:

Escalating danger signs were in full view hours before the Capitol attack but did not trigger a stepped-up security response

  • Hundreds of Trump supporters clashed with police at the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial on the morning of Jan. 6, some with shields and gas masks, presaging the violence to come.
  • D.C. homeland security employees spotted piles of backpacks left by rallygoers outside the area where the president would speak — a phenomenon the agency had warned a week earlier could be a sign of concealed weapons.

Trump had direct warnings of the risks but stood by for 187 minutes before telling his supporters to go home

  • For more than three hours, the president resisted entreaties from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, other Republican lawmakers and numerous White House advisers to urge the mob to disperse, a delay that contributed to harrowing acts of violence.

His allies pressured Pence to reject the election results even after the Capitol siege

  • John C. Eastman, an attorney advising Trump, emailed Pence’s lawyer around 9 p.m. to argue that the vice president still should reject electors from Arizona and other states.
  • Earlier in the day, while the vice president, his family and aides were hiding from the rioters, Eastman emailed Pence’s lawyer to blame the violence on Pence’s refusal to block certification of Biden’s victory.

The FBI was forced to improvise a plan to help take back control of the Capitol

  • After the breach, the bureau deployed three tactical teams that were positioned nearby, but they were small, specialized teams and did not bring overwhelming manpower.
  • As the riot escalated, acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen scrambled to keep up with the deluge of calls from senior government officials and desperate lawmakers.
  • Senior Justice Department officials were so uncertain of what was occurring based on chaotic television images that Rosen’s top deputy, Richard Donoghue, went to the Capitol in person to coordinate with lawmakers and law enforcement agencies.

President Donald Trump had just returned to the White House from his rally at the Ellipse on Jan. 6 when he retired to his private dining room just off the Oval Office, flipped on the massive flat-screen television and took in the show. At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, thousands of his supporters were wearing his red caps, waving his blue flags and chanting his name.

Live television news coverage showed the horror accelerating minute by minute after 1:10 p.m., when Trump had called on his followers to march on the U.S. Capitol. The pro-Trump rioters toppled security barricades. They bludgeoned police. They scaled granite walls. And then they smashed windows and doors to breach the hallowed building that has stood for more than two centuries as the seat of American democracy.

The Capitol was under siege — and the president, glued to the television, did nothing. For 187 minutes, Trump resisted entreaties to intervene from advisers, allies and his elder daughter, as well as lawmakers under attack. Even as the violence at the Capitol intensified, even after Vice President Mike Pence, his family and hundreds of Congress members and their staffers hid to protect themselves, even after the first two people died and scores of others were assaulted, Trump declined for more than three hours to tell the renegades rioting in his name to stand down and go home.

During the 187 minutes that Trump stood by, harrowing scenes of violence played out in and around the Capitol. Twenty-five minutes into Trump’s silence, a news photographer was dragged down a flight of stairs and thrown over a wall. Fifty-two minutes in, a police officer was kicked in the chest and surrounded by a mob. Within the first hour, two rioters died as a result of cardiac events. Sixty-four minutes in, a rioter paraded a Confederate battle flag through the Capitol. Seventy-three minutes in, another police officer was sprayed in the face with chemicals. Seventy-eight minutes in, yet another police officer was assaulted with a flagpole. Eighty-three minutes in, rioters broke into and began looting the House speaker’s office. Ninety-three minutes in, another news photographer was surrounded, pushed down and robbed of a camera. Ninety-four minutes in, a rioter was shot and killed. One hundred two minutes in, rioters stormed the Senate chamber, stealing papers and posing for photographs around the dais. One hundred sixteen minutes in, a fourth police officer was crushed in a doorway and beaten with his own baton.

1

All in the first two hours.

Trump watched the attack play out on television and resisted acting, neither to coordinate a federal response nor to instruct his supporters to disperse. He all but abdicated his responsibilities as commander in chief — a president reduced to mere bystander. The tweets Trump sent during the first two hours of rioting were muddled at best. He disavowed violence but encouraged his supporters to press on with their fight at the Capitol. And throughout, he repeated the lie that the election was stolen.

2

His “Make America Great Again” army was on the march, just as he had commanded at the rally. The president had directed his followers to head to the Capitol in a forceful show of “pride and boldness” to pressure lawmakers to try to overturn the results of an election he falsely claimed had been rigged. And there they were, literally fighting to keep Trump in power.

“He was enamored with [how] ‘all these people are coming to fight for me,’ ” said a senior Republican close to him. “I don’t think he appreciated what was going on.”

3

An investigation by The Washington Post provides the richest understanding to date of Trump’s mindset and the cost of his inaction as democracy came under attack. It also reveals new aspects of an extensive pressure campaign by the president and those around him to get Pence to block certification of the election results — including a last-ditch appeal on the night of Jan. 6, after the riot was over, by attorney John C. Eastman, who urged Pence to reject electors as Congress reconvened.

In a statement, Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich disputed The Post’s findings as “fake news” and falsely cast people who entered the Capitol that day as “agitators not associated with President Trump.”

4

The Post’s investigation also found that signs of escalating danger were in full view hours before the Capitol attack, including clashes that morning among hundreds of pro-Trump demonstrators and police at the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. The mounting red flags did not trigger stepped-up security responses that morning, underscoring how unprepared law enforcement authorities were for the violence that transpired. Yet some officials knew what to expect; Rep. Liz CheneyRep. Liz Cheney The GOP congresswoman from Wyoming worked behind the scenes to make sure the Jan. 6 electoral count was not disrupted. Afterward, she paid a steep political price. (R-Wyo.) had hired a personal security detail out of fear for her own safety.

As Trump watched on television as rioters broke into the Capitol, he raged to those around him about the vice president. At 2:24 p.m., the very moment that Pence and his family were endangered by violent marauders calling him a traitor — “Hang Mike Pence!” some of them chanted — Trump made clear in a tweet whose side he was on:

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!

Jan. 6, 2:24 p.m.

Two minutes later, Trump called Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a newly elected Republican from Alabama who had been one of the president’s more outspoken allies propagating election fraud claims. “Coach, how’s it going?” Trump asked the former Auburn University football coach.

“Not very good, Mr. President,” Tuberville responded. “As a matter of fact, they’re about to evacuate us.”

“I know we’ve got problems,” Trump responded.

Amid the mayhem, Tuberville abruptly ended the call. “Mr. President, they just took our vice president out,” the senator said. “They’re getting ready to drag me out of here. I got to go.”

5

Keith Kellogg, Pence’s national security adviser, who spent the day at the White House and was in and out of the Oval Office talking to Trump, had related to the president that the vice president was safe in the Capitol basement with his wife and daughter. But Trump had no reaction. Trump instead stayed focused on the television.

6

Many others tried to influence the president. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), a Trump booster, called him and said, “You have to denounce this.” Trump falsely claimed to McCarthy that the rioters were members of antifa, but McCarthy corrected him and said they were in fact Trump supporters.

“You know what I see, Kevin? I see people who are more upset about the election than you are. They like Trump more than you do,” the president replied.

“You’ve got to hold them,” McCarthy said. “You need to get on TV right now, you need to get on Twitter, you need to call these people off.”

Trump responded, “Kevin, they’re not my people.”

McCarthy told the president, “Yes they are, they just came through my windows and my staff is running for cover. Yeah, they’re your people. Call them off.”

7

Seven hours to go

The morning of Jan. 6, Donell HarvinDonell Harvin As the head of intelligence at D.C.'s homeland security office, Harvin led a team that spotted warnings that extremists planned to descend on the Capitol and disrupt the electoral count., the head of intelligence at D.C.'s homeland security office, pulled onto the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to head downtown from suburban Maryland and was surprised to find himself in heavy traffic. Then Harvin noticed the car in front of him had an out-of-state license plate. So did the one beside that. He realized he was surrounded. Every car he could see in front of him and in the rearview mirror had flags, bumper stickers or other pro-Trump paraphernalia.

Harvin called in to the city’s homeland security center to report what he was seeing. “This is going to be twice as big as anything we thought,” Harvin told one of his deputies. It was the second such call to come in within minutes: Another employee had reported a similar scene on highways heading into the city from Virginia. From every direction, Trump supporters were converging on the nation’s capital.

8

Across from the FBI’s headquarters downtown, some bureau personnel began the day mixing with MAGA protesters at an Au Bon Pain as they ordered coffee and breakfast. One official noticed a young man wearing a tactical vest and briefly wondered what made him think he needed to wear military-style gear to a political rally.

Rep. Liz CheneyRep. Liz Cheney The GOP congresswoman from Wyoming worked behind the scenes to make sure the Jan. 6 electoral count was not disrupted. Afterward, she paid a steep political price. also anticipated the potential for danger. The congresswoman from Wyoming had emerged as the de facto leader of anti-Trump Republicans and believed the campaign to “Stop the Steal” was not merely violating the Constitution but fomenting violence. As the No. 3 in House Republican leadership, she did not receive a round-the-clock security detail from the U.S. Capitol Police, so Cheney arranged for her own protection. A former Secret Service agent greeted Cheney that morning to escort her to and from the Capitol.

9

Cheney took to Twitter at 7:11 a.m. to denounce the effort by a growing number of her Republican colleagues to try to give Trump a second term by rejecting the electoral college results.

Liz Cheney

@Liz_Cheney

We have sworn an oath under God to defend the Constitution. We uphold that oath at all times, not only when it is politically convenient.

Congress has no authority to overturn elections by objecting to electors. Doing so steals power from the states & violates the Constitution.

Jan. 6, 7:11 a.m.

On the drive to work, Cheney spent much of her time trying to lock down assurances from fellow House leaders that she and any other Republican voting to certify Biden’s victory would be able to speak on the House floor during the day’s proceedings.

Down by the Ellipse, the park area near the White House where Trump was planning to speak at a “Save America” rally at noon, the crowd assembled early. At 8:06 a.m., an internal Secret Service alert said that roughly 10,000 people were waiting to go through magnetometers and some were “wearing ballistic helmets, body armor and carrying radio equipment and military-grade backpacks.”

10

Nearby, Paul HodgkinsPaul Hodgkins The 38-year-old crane operator from Tampa traveled to Washington to show his support for Trump after absorbing false claims that the election was rigged — a decision that would drastically upend his life. perched on a tree to get a good view. Worried about street skirmishes, he had come prepared: Hodgkins had wrapped his forearms in leather gauntlets he had worn in wrestling matches.

A few blocks away, at the Washington Monument, a mob of Trump supporters overran police at 9 a.m. One U.S. Park Police officer radioed:

11

DISPATCH

Within minutes, the dispatches from officers on the scene worsened.

Then, at 9:46 a.m., an even more frightening report came in from the Lincoln Memorial. Park Police officers radioed in to say there were 500 to 800 people gathered, some with giant banner flags.

DISPATCH

Just then, another officer at the Washington Monument radioed in:

These were bright red flags presaging the bloodshed to come. There were still two hours to go before Trump addressed the rally — and three hours before Congress was to convene to formally certify Joe Biden’s election as president. And yet law enforcement authorities declined to take action.

Instructions came over the radio to all Park Police officers:

An officer explained the strategy of restraint: “We’re not going to agitate them.”

At the White House, Trump issued an unambiguous instruction at 8:17 a.m. to Pence, who was preparing to preside over the joint session of Congress at 1 p.m.

Around 9 a.m., four of Pence’s top aides — Chief of Staff Marc Short, Legislative Affairs Director Chris Hodgson, counsel Greg Jacob and press secretary Devin O’Malley — met up with the vice president at his Naval Observatory residence. They reviewed for the last time the formal letter they had drafted for Pence to send to members of Congress notifying them of his intention to follow his constitutional duty and oversee certification of the electoral college results. The three-page document outlined Pence’s interpretation of the Constitution, including his obligations as presiding officer and the limits of his power to move to alter the results.

12

Five hours to go

Around the city, there was a carnival atmosphere at the various gatherings of protesters who believed they were not just witnessing history, but helping create it, with Biden’s victory about to be undone.

Employees from D.C.'s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency fanned out from the White House to the Capitol in “mobile situational awareness teams” around 9 a.m. Teams near the White House reported an unusual sight: piles of backpacks, hundreds of them, from rallygoers leaving them outside rather than taking them through magnetometers and Secret Service checkpoints for Trump’s speech. The report resonated at D.C.’s homeland security center. During a tabletop exercise that the department had held a week earlier, discarded bags were an indication of possible concealed weapons.

In the Oval Office later that morning, Trump hung around with family members and aides, alternating between watching the television in his private dining room to check on the size of the crowd assembling at the Ellipse and reviewing with speechwriter Stephen Miller the scripted remarks he was set to deliver. Some of those around Trump, including Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., indulged the fantasy that Pence would help overturn the election results.

Guilfoyle argued to Trump that the swelling crowd outside represented a national consensus. “They’re just reflecting the will of the people,” she told him. “This is the will of the people.”

13

Trump and Pence spoke by phone that morning. It was a terse call, as Pence reiterated what he had told the president the day before when they met face-to-face in the Oval Office: that he had no choice but to oversee the certification of the electoral college. Speaking from the Naval Observatory, Pence explained that the vice president’s duty was ceremonial and that his authority was limited, no matter how badly Pence may have wanted them to serve a second term.

Trump was unforgiving. “You don’t have the courage to make a hard decision,” he told Pence.

14

As the noontime festivities drew near, there were more red flags. At 10:58 a.m., police recovered two firearms from an unattended vehicle north of the Mall. At 11:11 a.m., police found a vehicle near L’Enfant Plaza with a rifle and scope in plain view. And at 11:26 a.m., the Capitol Police investigated a tweet that said a militia was being formed on Capitol Hill.

Outside the Capitol around 11:30 a.m., a conspicuously large contingent of Trump supporters arrived with a rowdy swagger: the Proud Boys, a far-right group that engages in political violence. They stood out from the rest of the MAGA crowd, dozens moving in semi-organized formation — loose columns of five across — as if they were militiamen. They were overwhelmingly male and almost exclusively White. Body armor bulged from under hoodies and jackets. They wore patches or gaiters with Confederate flags, Punisher skulls and other extremist symbols.

As they arrived on the scene, murmurs of “the Proud Boys are here” went through the crowd, and people moved to make a clearing. “Praise God!” one woman said.

At 11:39 a.m., Trump departed the White House by motorcade for the quick drive to the Ellipse, where he gathered with aides, allies and family members beneath a white tent before taking the rally stage.

And still more warnings appeared. As Trump and his entourage were partying backstage under the tent, D.C. police were responding to reports of a man with a rifle nearby at 15th Street and Constitution Avenue. At the same time, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported that the vehicle near L’Enfant Plaza contained two handguns as well as the rifle and scope.

15

Trump began speaking at the Ellipse at 11:57 a.m. Midway through his speech, the president publicly pressured his vice president, telling his supporters: “If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election. … Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us, and if he doesn’t, that will be a sad, sad day for our country.”

Two hours to go

Around noon at the Capitol, Rep. Liz CheneyRep. Liz Cheney The GOP congresswoman from Wyoming worked behind the scenes to make sure the Jan. 6 electoral count was not disrupted. Afterward, she paid a steep political price. headed into the GOP cloakroom, an anteroom just off the chamber floor where members gather to relax. Inside, along the wall, sat tables with stacks of paper on them. Republican members lined up to sign the sheets. Cheney poked her head around to see what they were signing. They were registering as co-sponsors to contest Biden’s victory in six key states.

Only one House member and one senator needed to sign to prompt the chambers to split apart and debate the merits of each contested state. Still, many Republicans wanted to have proof that they supported these contests, so dozens upon dozens signed their names. “The things we do for the orange Jesus,” one of them muttered aloud as he signed.

16

The situation outside was deteriorating. At 12:29 p.m., a Capitol Police officer reported hearing a Taser weapon fired near the Senate. And at 12:33 p.m., Park Police reported that they detained a person with a rifle on 17th Street, near the World War II Memorial, not far from where Trump was speaking on the Ellipse. Cheney’s phone rang. It was her father, former vice president Richard B. Cheney, who had been watching Trump invoke her by name. Now he feared for Liz’s safety. They discussed whether she should tone down the remarks she planned to deliver in support of Biden’s victory.

“Should it affect what you’re going to do?” her father asked.

After some discussion, they agreed she should press on.

“You can’t let that sort of threat stop you from doing what’s right,” he told his daughter.

17

At 12:36 p.m., Pence arrived at the Capitol. As the motorcade drew near, one of his staffers was struck by the scale of the crowd.

Pence’s team did not imagine the scene would turn violent; none of the relevant agencies had briefed the vice president or his team about what to expect.

18

Pence brought his wife, Karen, and daughter Charlotte along with him to the Capitol, where they were joined by his brother, Greg, a Republican congressman from Indiana. The vice president didn’t have them accompany him to enjoy a historic day. He knew he might need them by his side for emotional support.

As Pence entered the Capitol, his office released the letter to Congress. The finality of its conclusions sent shock waves through Trump’s orbit and beyond.

Midway through Trump’s speech, about 12:45 p.m., Capitol Police officers, along with agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, were dispatched to investigate reports of a pipe bomb with a timer found outside the Republican National Committee headquarters and suspicious packages at the Supreme Court and near the Democratic National Committee headquarters — all offices close to the Capitol.

The activity proved a distraction for officers guarding the Capitol. A D.C. homeland security official assigned to keep eyes on the swelling crowd was sitting in a black SUV on the east side of the Capitol, by a row of Capitol Police bomb-squad trucks. Suddenly, officers jumped into several of the trucks near him. Half pulled away to the south. Several more took off to the west. The official realized his SUV was now one of the last remaining vehicles and that fewer than 10 officers remained between the Capitol and the growing number of protesters.

The official called Donell HarvinDonell Harvin As the head of intelligence at D.C.'s homeland security office, Harvin led a team that spotted warnings that extremists planned to descend on the Capitol and disrupt the electoral count., who said the bomb squads were responding to the suspicious package reported near the RNC building. The two flashed back to their tabletop exercise on Dec. 30, and how an analyst had imagined a scenario in which improvised explosive devices could be used to distract law enforcement before an attack on the Capitol. “Is this really happening?” the official asked Harvin.

Trump continued roaring at the Ellipse, but some in the crowd there started migrating to the Capitol. At 12:46 p.m., Capitol Police began executing protocols to keep the peace. Officers were dispatched to block side streets as a precaution against possible vehicle rammings. This essentially created a protected funnel for the protesters, straight toward the Capitol.

Just before 1 p.m., at D.C.’s homeland security agency headquarters, about four miles south of the Capitol, Harvin and his analysts were watching a variety of live-stream footage broadcast from some of the people they had been most concerned about coming to the city. One angle showed rioters pushing in toward the scaffolding for the inauguration stage. Harvin ran out to the larger emergency operations center room. The crowd looked like it was storming the Capitol.

A city official pointed to CNN, which was displaying images of Pence and Congress meeting inside. “That’s not what’s on television,” the official said.

“It’s going to be,” Harvin fired back.

At 1:03 p.m., Capitol Police found an unoccupied red pickup truck with Alabama tags containing a trove of weapons, including an M4 carbine assault rifle, loaded magazines of ammunition, and components to make 11 molotov cocktails.

Back at the Ellipse, Trump was finishing his speech, and the leader’s edict rang through the city like a call to arms.

“If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” he said. “We are going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue — I love Pennsylvania Avenue — and we are going to the Capitol.”

And then, at 1:10 p.m., he told the crowd to march to “try and give [lawmakers] the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”

60 minutes to go

Douglas Jensen hadn’t come to Washington planning to enter the Capitol, but he obeyed Trump’s call to march down Pennsylvania Avenue. Jensen hadn’t slept in more than a day when he started walking toward the white dome and was determined to make it inside and witness what he called “the storm” — a declaration of martial law and the arrests of lawmakers who insisted on certifying Biden as the next president.

Jensen thought Pence would be the first to be arrested. When a friend texted to tell him that Pence had just “banged the gavel” to open the joint session, Jensen replied with photographs of Trump supporters streaming past the Washington Monument en route to the Capitol and a short message.

19
Near the Capitol, a throng of Proud Boys stood around listening to a live stream of Trump’s speech. It was hard to hear the president’s words over the noise of the crowd, but when he urged demonstrators to descend on the Capitol, the news quickly spread from person to person. It was received as a command among the Proud Boys, who were openly radioing with each other over the walkie-talkie app Zello and casting themselves as revolutionaries.

“1776!” one man called out.

“1776!” fellow marchers responded.

“Whose Capitol? Our Capitol!” they chanted.

Law enforcement officials heard people chant “F— Biden” and “Pelosi’s a pedo,” a reference to baseless claims about pedophilia that had spread widely among QAnon followers. Inside the FBI’s decaying concrete Brutalist headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, agents and analysts working at their desks could hear the loud chants of Trump supporters walking toward the Capitol. “FBI traitors!” they shouted. “F— the FBI!”

The closer people got to the Capitol building, the more frenzied and out of control the mob became. The only visible security were police in the distance. Largely unimpeded, protesters pushed through barrier after barrier. At 12:55 p.m., Capitol Police directed all available units to the western front of the Capitol to assist with breaches, and officers inside were instructed to lock some doors. Protesters clashed violently with the few police officers they encountered on the scene.

By 1 p.m., Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund realized things weren’t going well: “I’m watching my people getting slammed.”

20

As police rapidly lost control outside the Capitol, lawmakers and staffers were gathered inside the House chamber for the joint session, which had gotten underway at 1 p.m. The procedural tallying of vote counts began state by state in alphabetical order but was quickly interrupted by a Republican challenge to Arizona’s tally.

Lawmakers seated in the upstairs gallery for coronavirus distancing purposes grew restless. Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) turned her gaze to gallery doors that were open onto a hallway. She could see a few police officers moving briskly down the hall. Wild began to feel nervous.

21

Other members shifted in their seats as they refreshed the Twitter feeds on their phones to see live reports and videos from outside. The scene appeared to be growing angrier. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) texted her husband, Steve Williamson, at 1:28 p.m.:

22

About 1:30 p.m., Capt. Carneysha MendozaCapt. Carneysha Mendoza A 19-year veteran of the Capitol Police, Mendoza led officers battling rioters in the Rotunda of the Capitol on Jan. 6. was at home in suburban Maryland. She had just pulled meatloaf from the oven and sat down with her 10-year-old son, Christian, before he was to spend the rest of the day with babysitters. The commander for a Capitol Police civil disturbance unit, Mendoza was about to head into work for her shift in the Capitol starting at 3 p.m.

But sitting at the table, Mendoza’s phone rang. It was a fellow captain. Things were bad. A few minutes later, another call: “You better come in.” Mendoza left in her workout clothes and started driving up Pennsylvania Avenue. She made her way through the traffic and flashed her badge to drive around a makeshift roadblock to get to Capitol Hill.

23

By then, hundreds of people were encroaching on the Capitol. People climbed trees, jumped on scaffolding, scaled walls and searched for staircases — looking for any way inside the building. Pepper spray wafted over the crowd, creating an acrid haze.

“Break open the gate!” one man yelled, his voice bellowing over the crowd. “We’re not going to be scared! We’re not backing down! You mess with American people, this is what you get!”

This was a full-blown riot.

3 Likes

DURING the 1/6/2021 insurrection - continued from Wapo.

Trump did not join his adherents in marching. Despite having said he would go to the Capitol, there was no apparatus set by the Secret Service or White House staff to make his movement happen. Some aides checked to see whether there had been a change of plan, but there was not one.

At 1:19 p.m., the president returned safely to the White House, where he raged to aides about how the Ellipse rally was set up. Always attuned to stagecraft and optics, Trump argued that the crowd should have been positioned differently. Yet he also bragged relentlessly about how large it was. He sat in his private dining room off the Oval Office to watch cable news coverage of the day’s proceedings, railing to those around him about how disloyal Pence was to oversee certification of the electoral college results.

24

At 1:45 p.m., rioters discovered that the path leading to the Senate side of the Capitol was unguarded. Men in militia-style gear helped direct people toward that entrance, pushing through at least three more layers of flimsy portable barriers. A lone Black officer in a Capitol Police uniform walked toward the scene. His radio crackled. “Oh, it’s blocked off,” he muttered in surprise, shaking his head. He took one look at the amped-up White mob before him and left.

At 1:50 p.m., the D.C. police commander declared a riot at the Capitol.

Outside the Capitol, some rioters tried to reason with about 10 officers who were struggling to stand their ground on the building’s steps. “This is not going to end well for you,” one of them told the officers. “Look at the numbers. Just go now before it gets ugly. Just stand down.” The officers smirked but kept fighting to hold back the rioters. Within minutes, however, they were overpowered. The path to the doors was clear.

“Get ’em!” people shouted, charging into battle. “Trump! Trump! Trump! Trump! Trump!”

At 1:59 p.m., the first rioters reached the Capitol’s windows and doors and attempted to break inside. At 2:05 p.m., the first fatality was declared: Kevin Greeson, a Trump supporter from Alabama, suffered a heart attack just outside the building on the Capitol grounds.

By now, the joint session had disbanded over objections from Republicans to Arizona’s vote tally, and the two chambers split to debate the matter individually. In the Senate chamber, where Pence was presiding at the rostrum and Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) was delivering a speech arguing against certifying the vote, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) received a text message from aide Chris Marroletti: “They’re inside the Capitol.”

The Capitol is breached

At 2:11, the first rioters gained access to the building by using lumber and a police shield to break a window. Romney walked off the floor and headed in the direction of his small hideaway office but, at 2:12 p.m., encountered Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, who had been running down a second-floor hallway outside the Senate chamber. Goodman motioned for Romney to turn around to avoid rioters. “There are people not far. You’ll be safer inside,” Goodman told Romney. Shaken, he returned to the Senate floor.

At 2:13 p.m., Pence was hastily removed by his Secret Service detail and rushed through a side door to his ceremonial office nearby, along with his family members. The Pences came harrowingly close to danger, as rioters chanting his name charged up the stairs to that precise landing about a minute later. The Senate went into an emergency recess.

Around the same time, Goodman came across a crowd on the first floor, where he stood in a doorway shouting at the rioters to back up. Jensen, who was at the leading edge and had brought a pocketknife into the Capitol, stepped through the doorway toward Goodman. Goodman pushed Jensen in the chest and then used the moment of surprise to step back and pick up a baton that was lying on the floor. Goodman kept telling Jensen to get back, but Jensen kept advancing. Goodman turned to run up a set of stairs. Jensen gave chase.

25

At a landing, Goodman turned around and made as if he was going to hit Jensen with the baton. “Back up!” Goodman shouted.

“Hit me, I’ll take it,” Jensen said. “I will take it for my country.”

Goodman turned again to run. “Second floor!” he shouted into his radio as he took the stairs two at a time, warning fellow officers that the crowd was on the move. Jensen ran after him, his arms pumping.

At 2:14 p.m., Goodman reached the second floor. He turned around again to face Jensen and the crowd. He was standing only a few feet away from a set of doors to the Senate chamber, and less than 100 feet from the office where Pence was hiding.

Goodman looked to his left, toward that office. Then he pushed Jensen in the chest and started walking toward the right, where a line of police officers was waiting. Jensen followed, and so did the rioters behind him.

“What’s the point of stopping us at this point?” Jensen said to one officer, in an exchange captured on video obtained by The Post, as rioters’ yells echoed off the marble walls.

“That’s as far as it’s going to go,” the officer declared.

“Then go arrest the vice president!” Jensen said.

About 2:15 p.m., officer distress calls crackled over Capt. Carneysha MendozaCapt. Carneysha Mendoza A 19-year veteran of the Capitol Police, Mendoza led officers battling rioters in the Rotunda of the Capitol on Jan. 6.’s radio. “Capitol Rotunda.” “10-33.” That is the department’s call of last resort, alerting that officers are in trouble. Mendoza turned around and sped to the southeast corner of the Capitol. She wanted to get to the Rotunda stat. She entered through a ground-floor entrance known by Capitol Police as Memorial Door, because of a plaque affixed to a wall there honoring two officers killed in 1998.

Mendoza stepped through an inner set of glass doors and came face-to-face with a crowd of roughly 200 rioters blocking her path to the Rotunda. She turned back to exit and find a safer route. But in the seconds that had elapsed, the crowds were now outside. Mendoza could hear banging on the door and yelling outside. She was trapped. With no protective gear, Mendoza raised her arms and started pushing her way through the crowd, yelling as she had taught her riot-control teams to do: “Get back! Get back! Get back!”

Mendoza made her way through a hallway to a line of police officers near the Rotunda who were trying to keep the crowd from penetrating deeper into the building. She fell in line and tried to help, but the police were already being pushed back. Mendoza’s arm got wedged between a railing and the wall, but a sergeant was able to pull her free.

At 2:19 p.m., Capitol Police emailed an urgent bulletin to all congressional staff:

From: U.S. Capitol Police

To: All congressional staff

Sent: Jan. 6, 2:19 p.m.

Capitol staff: Due to a security threat inside the building, immediately:

  • Move inside your office or the nearest office.
  • Take emergency equipment and visitors.
  • Close, lock and stay away from external doors and windows.
  • If you are in a public space, find a place to hide or seek cover.
  • Remain quiet and silence electronics.
  • Once you are in a safe location, immediately check in with your OEC.
  • No one will be permitted to enter or exit the building until directed by USCP.
  • If you are in a building outside of the affected area, remain clear of the police activity.
  • Await further direction.

On the House side, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had been presiding when her security detail pulled her from the rostrum, and the House suddenly adjourned at 2:20 p.m.

At the White House, Trump was watching the spectacle play out on television. He was pleased by thousands of his supporters storming the Capitol. Trump tweeted at 2:24 p.m.:

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!

Jan. 6, 2:24 p.m.

At this very instant, the Secret Service was scrambling to keep Pence safe, producing a remarkable moment of tension between agents and their protectee. Tim Giebels, the lead special agent in charge of Pence’s protective detail, had twice asked the vice president to evacuate, but he refused.

“I’m not leaving the Capitol,” Pence had told Giebels. He feared the image of his departing motorcade might provide vindication to the insurrectionists.

When Giebels asked a third time, at 2:26 p.m., it was an order. “They’re in the building,” the special agent told Pence. “The room you’re in is not secure. There are glass windows. I need to move you. We’re going.”

The vice president and his family and aides were led on a safe path down a staircase to a secured subterranean area that rioters couldn’t reach. Pence’s armored limousine was parked there, and Giebels asked him to get inside.

“I’m not getting in the car, Tim,” Pence said. “I trust you, Tim, but you’re not driving the car. If I get in that vehicle, you guys are taking off. I’m not getting in the car.”

26

The vice president and his entourage found safety in a secured underground area of the Capitol, where they would wait out the rioters.

Meanwhile, Eastman, a conservative attorney advising Trump on how to try to overturn the election results, emailed Jacob, Pence’s counsel. He accused the vice president of causing the violence by refusing to block certification of Biden’s victory.

Eastman, who had been working out of a “command center” of rooms in the Willard hotel with Rudolph W. Giuliani and other Trump lawyers and advisers, wrote to Jacob, who was hiding from the mob with the Pences and other senior aides: “The ‘siege’ is because YOU and your boss did not do what was necessary to allow this to be aired in a public way so that the American people can see for themselves what happened.”

Eastman said his message was a response to an email in which Jacob told him that his “bull----” legal advice was why Pence’s team was “under siege.”

27

The Senate and House leaders also had been evacuated by Capitol Police and taken to an undisclosed location, but many lawmakers remained in their chambers for a few minutes before they were led to safety in the Hart Senate Office Building. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham was irate that senators were forced to flee their own chamber. He yelled at the Senate sergeant-at-arms. “What are you doing? Take back the Senate! You’ve got guns. Use them.” The South Carolina senator was adamant. “We give you guns for a reason,” he repeated. “Use them.”

28

The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), called the FBI’s deputy director, David Bowdich — the same official who just two days earlier had tried to reassure Warner that the FBI was on top of the Jan. 6 security issue.

Warner was furious with Bowdich and demanded he come to Capitol Hill immediately to brief the Intelligence Committee members, who were hunkered down in the Hart Building. Bowdich said he couldn’t do that, as he was still overseeing the FBI’s emergency response. Bowdich did speak privately with Warner later that day after the chaos had ended, but it would take weeks to repair the relationship.

29

30 minutes in

Inside the House chamber, scores of lawmakers were worried for their own safety and unsure what to do. Some members of Congress rapidly lost faith about their security when they saw Capitol Police officers stationed with them anxiously trying to determine who had the keys to lock the doors from the inside.

“It seemed like they knew less about what was happening than we did,” Jayapal said. “Everyone felt unprotected, but we were stuck there.”

The House chaplain led a prayer. A Capitol Police officer said that the backs of lawmakers’ seats were bulletproof and that if rioters broke into the chamber, people should hide behind them. “Get down under your chairs if necessary,” the officer instructed. “Just be prepared. Stay calm.”

The Capitol Police directed members to put on their gas masks because tear gas had been deployed outside. The order was met by blank stares from members who had never been trained to use the masks. Some did not even know where they were located. Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), a trained emergency room physician, helped Wild rip off the zipper and remove thick foil inside the bag to unveil the mask. As Rep. Paul A. Gosar (Ariz.), a Trump acolyte who just before the attack had led an objection to the certification of Arizona’s results, struggled with his, Rep. Liz CheneyRep. Liz Cheney The GOP congresswoman from Wyoming worked behind the scenes to make sure the Jan. 6 electoral count was not disrupted. Afterward, she paid a steep political price. walked over and helped him get it out of the bag and put it on.

Cheney also encountered Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), another Trump supporter trying to overturn the results. He told her: “We need to get the ladies away from the aisle. Let me help you.” Cheney told him: “Get away from me. You f—ing did this.”

30

Commotion broke out on the floor as police officers yelled to rioters who had punched through doors directly under the balconies. “Get down to the ground,” the officers instructed as members quickly dropped and continued to crawl toward an escape.

At 2:44 p.m., a shot echoed in the halls. A Capitol Police officer killed Ashli Babbitt as she attempted to force entry into the Speaker’s Lobby adjacent to the House chamber.

Inside the chamber, lawmakers assumed the worst and realized they could soon be overrun by violent intruders. Jayapal thought the rioters were shooting into the chamber.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) comforted her friend Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) in prayer.

Rep. Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala.) called her mother.

Rep. Daniel Kildee (D-Mich.), who has since disclosed lasting mental trauma sparked by his experience, called his family and began to say goodbye after understanding the gravity of the situation; there was a chance he would not make it out alive.

Wild pulled out her phone to find dozens of texts from her son and daughter as they watched news reports from home. She surprised herself as she figured out how to FaceTime her 28- and 25-year-olds. Her son said, “How can you say you’re okay if we can hear the gunshot and the glass shattering?”

After hanging up with her children, Wild homed in on possibly dying and becoming “a source of worry” for her children. Wild told herself: “You’re going to make it out of here, Susan. You’re going to get out of here because your kids need you to get out of here.”

Soon Wild was lying on the ground. Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) held her hand.
Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) comforted Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.). (Tom Williams/CQ/Roll Call/Getty Images)

Suddenly, pounding noises were coming from the opposite side of the chamber doors closest to members. Fight-or-flight instincts began to kick in for Jayapal as she moved her walking stick to her right hand — her dominant one — so she could hit anyone who came near her. “I was starting to plan that I might die, and if I was going to, then I was going to go down fighting,” she said.

Members discussed how they would position themselves if the mob were to burst through the doors. Crow suggested that members take their pins off so that the rioters could not identify them as the elected officials they wanted to kill.

Just removing a pin was not a solution for every lawmaker, however. While all were under threat, the danger was particularly acute for lawmakers of color, whose identity made them a visible target for the overwhelmingly White throng.

“For many of us, we can’t hide what we look like,” Jayapal said. “We can’t run over and hide in a group of Republicans, and we can’t take off a jacket to blend into a White crowd, which was a very, very real dynamic as we were watching Confederate flags being raised with horrible racist messages.”

As rioters pushed their way into the Speaker’s Lobby, their hatred and zeal was evident. When Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn ordered them to leave the Capitol, some yelled back:

“President Trump invited us here!”

“Nobody voted for Joe Biden!”

In a rare instance of injecting politics into his job, Dunn replied: “I voted for Joe Biden. Does my vote not count? Am I nobody?”

Rioters then hurled racial epithets at Dunn, who is Black.

“You hear that, guys?” one woman said. “This n----r voted for Joe Biden!”

About 20 people screamed at Dunn, “Boo! F—ing n----r!”

31

45 minutes in

Law enforcement authorities scrambled. In the weeks leading up to Jan. 6, as the FBI had received more and more reports of threats of violence on far-right online forums and social media channels, Bowdich, the agency’s deputy director, had decided to have three tactical teams ready to deploy — a SWAT team in Washington, a Baltimore-based SWAT team positioned just outside the District, and a Hostage Rescue Team also a short drive away. They all responded to the Capitol that day, but they were small, specialized teams, not the kind of overwhelming manpower necessary to turn the tide of a riot.

“FBI and ATF agents can be accountants, lawyers, chemists,” said Marc Raimondi, a former longtime Justice Department spokesman. “They’re not trained in riot control or traffic control. Obviously they are versatile, but when the Justice Department is your 911 plan for a riot, something’s gone drastically wrong.”

The federal government’s top law enforcement official, acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen, was alone in his office. He’d given much of his staff permission to work from home, on the assumption that street closures, the rally and general concern about possible unrest could make it difficult to get downtown, in addition to the preexisting coronavirus concerns. But now, with the siege beginning, Rosen juggled an onslaught of phone calls, hopping back and forth between his desk phone in one hand and cellphone in the other.

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) called Rosen from their secure location to ask him to urgently send reinforcements to the Capitol. Rosen assured them that he already had instructed any nearby federal agent to rush to the scene.

“Call the president!” Schumer yelled at Rosen. “Tell him to call off his people! Tell him to tweet that they have to stop this!”

32

Rosen — who a few days earlier barely survived an attempt by Trump to fire him and replace him with a loyalist willing to echo the president’s wild claims about voter fraud — considered Schumer’s suggestion impractical. Rosen spoke to senior White House officials that day, including counsel Pat Cipollone, but never to the president.

33

Frustrated by what they felt was Rosen’s noncommittal answer to their demand, Schumer and Pelosi issued a joint statement urging Trump to call off the rioters.

Some lawmakers who were unable to reach Rosen called others they knew who used to work at the Justice Department — anything to get a live voice on the line and ask for help. And it was hard at times for senior Justice Department officials to understand exactly what was happening from the chaotic images on television. Rosen’s top deputy, Richard Donoghue, went to the Capitol to try to get a better understanding of the situation and to coordinate with lawmakers and law enforcement agencies.

34

At the same time, a series of urgent conference calls were underway among law enforcement, military, municipal and congressional officials. Sund had called Maj. Gen. William Walker, commander of the D.C. National Guard, before 2 p.m. to request immediate help. Walker relayed the request to the Pentagon, where only the acting secretary of defense, Christopher C. Miller, could give the okay. But after a half-hour, no approval had come. Around 2:30 p.m., Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt, director of the Army staff, told D.C. officials on a conference call that it would not be his best military advice to send in the Guard. He argued that soldiers ringing the Capitol would create bad “optics.” The Army was not denying the requests, Piatt later testified. The service just wanted a clear plan in place before taking what leaders saw as a serious step to deploy armed guardsmen at the Capitol.

At the Pentagon, Miller, Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy huddled to discuss how to mobilize the Guard.

35

Before 3 p.m., units of reinforcements from federal and neighboring law enforcement agencies arrived to help the beleaguered Capitol Police. Members of a specially trained D.C. police disturbance unit commandeered a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority bus to get close to the Capitol. Officers from Prince George’s County, Md., arrived to help gain control of the north side of the West Terrace, while officers from Montgomery County, Md., and Arlington County, Va., pressed up a staircase on the west side. Virginia State Police officers battled rioters under the mid-level terrace on the west side.

At 2:52 p.m., the first FBI SWAT teams arrived at the Capitol. In total, 520 federal agents from a hodgepodge of agencies responded to an urgent call to help at the Capitol from the Justice Department. It was throwing bodies at a crisis.

Shortly after 3 p.m., with Miller’s assent, McCarthy verbally approved a full mobilization of the D.C. National Guard. But with just a few hundred Guard members already on duty and no plan in place, police continued to fight off rioters on their own. Guard members already on duty elsewhere in the city — wearing patrol caps and carrying no armor for a narrow mission agreed upon with the office of D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) ahead of time — were called back to the D.C. Armory to get ready.

36

60 minutes in

Also around 3 p.m., Paul HodgkinsPaul Hodgkins The 38-year-old crane operator from Tampa traveled to Washington to show his support for Trump after absorbing false claims that the election was rigged — a decision that would drastically upend his life., who had watched Trump speak at the Ellipse, made his way into what he eventually realized was the Senate chamber. Police had locked the doors, but mistakenly left one in the gallery unlocked, which some of the rioters used to enter. The chamber looked smaller in real life than it did on television. About two dozen other Trump supporters were inside. “Guys, please don’t wreck anything in here,” Hodgkins told his compatriots.

Hodgkins walked among the desks on the Senate floor and took a selfie to document his place in what felt like a once-in-a-lifetime moment. “It felt like some kind of dream,” he said.

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Hodgkins made his way to the well, holding his Trump flag right next to the desk where Pence had been sitting just 40 minutes earlier to certify Biden’s win.

“Let’s all say a prayer in this sacred space,” declared the shirtless, face-painted “QAnon Shaman,” Jacob Anthony Chansley, who stood behind the desk wielding a bullhorn as several other men bowed their heads.

“Thank you, heavenly father, for gracing us with this opportunity. … Thank you, heavenly father, for this opportunity to stand up for our God-given, unalienable rights. … Thank you for filling this chamber with patriots that love you and that love Christ.”

Hodgkins beat his chest twice with his right hand, as his left hand held the flag. He raised it in salute as the prayer ended and the group said “Amen!”

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Police would soon enter the chamber, and by about 3:15 p.m. Hodgkins would follow their orders to leave. “I couldn’t believe that I walked into the Senate so easily,” Hodgkins recalled.

Trump’s refusal to act to stop the siege and his continuing abuse of Pence resonated among Republican lawmakers, some of whom privately confided that the president’s utter absence of empathy for his loyal No. 2 was appalling. “They never did anything about it, but it turned them off,” said one House Republican, describing a consensus view among many of his colleagues.

Several Republican members of Congress tried to get through to Trump in hopes of persuading the president to tell his supporters to go home. White House staffers received calls from dozens of lawmakers desperate for Trump to make the crowd leave. Many tried to remind Trump aides that they still supported the president, and some even promised not to certify the election, but said they and their staffers were hiding in offices and under desks and had seen people shatter windows and scream for politicians to be killed.

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Graham, the South Carolina senator who was one of Trump’s closest friends in Congress, called Ivanka Trump repeatedly with suggestions for what the president should say. “You need to get these people out of here,” he told the president’s daughter. “This thing is going south. This is not good. You’re going to have to tell these people to stand down. Stand down.”

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The president did not take many of the calls and saw only a few aides that afternoon. As advisers discussed what — or even whether — Trump should tweet about the riot, the president argued that he was not to blame and that his supporters would never commit such violence.

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Kellogg, Pence’s national security adviser, at one point told Trump: “You need to tweet something. … Once mobs get moving, you can’t turn them off. Once they start rolling, it’s hard to bring it under control. But you’ve got to get on top of this and say something.”

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Some aides huddled in the area just outside the Oval Office where Trump’s receptionist had her desk, hoping the president would wave them in and ask for their advice. But Trump was not seated behind the Resolute Desk; he was holed up in his private dining room, where the television was turned on, and some aides did not want to intrude on him there.

Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Trump’s longtime friend and adviser, tried but failed to reach the president, and so sought to deliver a message to him through the television by calling into George Stephanopoulos’s live broadcast on ABC. Two recently departed senior White House officials, former senior counselor Kellyanne Conway and former communications director Alyssa Farah, relayed messages to Trump through intermediaries.

Farah called and texted Mark Meadows, her former boss, practically begging the White House chief of staff to put out a statement or address cameras if the president wouldn’t. She wrote in one message:

2 Likes

More DURING the 1/6/2021 Insurrection from Wapo

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Meadows did not respond.

An adviser to Bowser called Conway with the city’s request for the National Guard, worried they were being denied by the Trump administration and hoping she could try to help. In addition, the D.C. mayor called Meadows to plead for the National Guard.

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Since rioters breached the security barricades outside the Capitol, some of the president’s most trusted advisers, including his daughter and Meadows, tried to persuade him to direct his supporters to disperse. They felt Trump’s 2:38 p.m. tweet telling people to “Stay peaceful!” missed the mark.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!

Jan. 6, 2:38 p.m.

Ivanka Trump shuttled between her second-floor West Wing office, where she watched the riot unfold on television, and the president’s dining room, where he was watching television, trying to persuade her dad to use stronger language to bring an end to the insurrection. But just when she thought she had gotten him into the right head space, Meadows would call her because the president still was unconvinced.

“I need you to come back down here. We’ve got to get this under control,” Meadows told Ivanka Trump on several occasions.

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Trump was being worked from multiple angles. This was around the same time that Kevin McCarthy, House minority leader, called the president practically begging him to denounce the riots.

At 3:13 p.m., Trump tweeted a new message, one that again fell short of what those around him felt was necessary.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!

Jan. 6, 3:13 p.m.

Ivanka Trump retweeted her father’s message at 3:15 p.m. and addressed the rioters as “American Patriots.” She deleted her tweet a few minutes later after it was roundly criticized.

Ivanka Trump

@IvankaTrump

American Patriots - any security breach or disrespect to our law enforcement is unacceptable.

The violence must stop immediately. Please be peaceful.

Jan. 6, 3:15 p.m.

Meadows and other aides strategized about fresh approaches to get Trump to say what they agreed needed to be said. Jason Miller, one of Trump’s top political advisers, drafted two tweets written in Trump’s voice. He hoped the president would agree to send one of them.

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Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Bad apples, like ANTIFA or other crazed leftists, infiltrated today’s peaceful protest over the fraudulent vote count. Violence is never acceptable! MAGA supporters embrace our police and the rule of law and should leave the Capitol now!

Draft

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

The fake news media who encouraged this summer’s violent and radical riots are now trying to blame peaceful and innocent MAGA supporters for violent actions. This isn’t who we are! Our people should head home and let the criminals suffer the consequences!

Draft

Both statements were belligerent and twisted the truth in redirecting blame for the riots, but nevertheless urged his supporters to end the insurrection. Trump sent neither.

Instead, Trump stewed in his grievance: over what he saw as Pence’s betrayal, over blame in the media of him and his supporters for the death and destruction at the Capitol and, ultimately, over the fact that his final attempt to overturn the election results was about to fail.

The second hour

As the afternoon hurtled on, the rioters were pushing through the Capitol with greater ferocity and in higher numbers. Gina Bisignano, a salon owner from Beverly Hills, Calif., egged on the violent crowd with a megaphone.

“Everybody, we need gas masks,” she said at one point. “We need weapons. We need strong, angry patriots to help our boys. They don’t want to leave.”

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She also said, “You are not going to take away our Trumpy-bear. You are not going to take away our votes and our freedom that our men died for.”

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Bisignano would later claim the violence that day was instigated by antifa disguised as Trump supporters, yet there she was — captured on video, stoking it herself. Bisignano said she had come to Washington because she supported Trump, believed the election had been stolen from him and didn’t want to be a “loser.”

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Authorities still had not regained control of the Capitol as the 4 o’clock hour arrived. The top House and Senate leaders had been evacuated to Fort McNair, an Army post in Southwest Washington along the Anacostia River. Rep. Liz CheneyRep. Liz Cheney The GOP congresswoman from Wyoming worked behind the scenes to make sure the Jan. 6 electoral count was not disrupted. Afterward, she paid a steep political price. and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), the Democratic caucus chairman, were the highest-ranking members of the House still on Capitol grounds and had been conferring through much of the afternoon. Outside a secure committee room across the street from the Capitol, Cheney saw Jeffries and brought up the topic of impeaching Trump.

“Look, we have to move articles,” she told her Democratic counterpart. “Immediately.”

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Trump still had not addressed the crisis on camera or instructed his supporters to go home when, at 4:05 p.m., Biden appeared on television from Wilmington, Del.

Senators from both parties watching from their secure room at the Capitol complex applauded. “It was like, wow, we have a leader who said what needed to be said,” Romney said.

Trump followed Biden by posting on Twitter at 4:17 p.m. a video of his own remarks about the siege. He had begun recording it in the Rose Garden before Biden’s live address, and Trump aides were upset that by speaking first, the Democrat came across as more statesmanlike. Trump’s message was ambiguous. He opened his speech by repeating his lie that the election was rigged. He told his supporters to “go home,” but immediately added: “We love you. You’re very special.”

During the videotaping, Trump did not stick to the script his speechwriters had composed and had to record at least three takes to get one that his aides felt was palatable enough to share with the public. “That was actually the best one,” a senior White House official said.

Just after Trump’s video aired on television, around 4:27 p.m., a wave of rioters attacked police who were standing guard inside the Capitol’s West Terrace archway. Police were trying to aid a rioter who had been trampled near the archway when another rioter grabbed an officer and knocked him off his feet. “F— you!” someone told the officer. “I’ll f—ing kill you!”

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The officer lay on his back in the middle of the archway, using his baton to fight off assaults. Footage shows Jeffrey Sabol, wearing a helmet, appearing suddenly and wrestling the baton out of the officer’s hand, leaving him to defend himself with only his hands.

Around the time Sabol took the baton, another rioter used a metal crutch to beat on police standing in the archway. The man wielding the crutch climbed over a low fence, grabbed a second officer and pulled him headfirst down a set of stairs and into the mob. Sabol was right there, his hand on the second officer’s back. Then, with a flagpole flying an American flag, a third rioter beat the second officer, who was captured on camera lying facedown in the crowd.

Sabol was photographed holding the stolen baton over the back of the second officer’s neck as he lay prone and defenseless. Later, Sabol described himself as a “patriot warrior” who was protecting the officer from his fellow rioters. But he said he couldn’t remember whether he had hit the second officer himself because, court records say, “he was in a fit of rage and details are cloudy.” In an August court filing, Sabol’s lawyer says he “vehemently denies” hitting the officer with the baton.

The officer from whom Sabol had stolen the baton was also dragged into the crowd, where rioters ripped off his helmet, Maced him and stomped on him. He required staples in his head.

At the Justice Department, Rosen watched images of violence unfurl across the television screen. He was horrified by the literal and spiritual damage being done to one of America’s most important institutions.

The final hours

Little by little, Capitol Police officers and their reinforcements made progress in containing the violence and controlling the insurrectionists. Pence remained secure in his underground hideaway, accompanied by Short, who called Meadows late that afternoon to alert the White House chief of staff that the vice president planned to push through with certifying the election results as soon as the Capitol could be cleared and Congress could reconvene.

“I think that’s the right thing to do,” Meadows told Short.

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Neither Pence nor Short spoke to Trump that day, and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, was the only congressional leader to communicate with the president. “What would have been the point?” an adviser to then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, adding, “Trump wasn’t going to be helpful.”

At 4:32 p.m., the Army received approval from Miller, the acting secretary of defense, to deploy the National Guard to the Capitol, more than two hours after the initial requests were made. At 5:40 p.m., roughly 150 members of the D.C. National Guard arrived to begin support operations, and a citywide curfew went into effect at 6 p.m., though skirmishes between police and rioters continued in the vicinity of the Capitol.

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Trump chimed in at 6:01 p.m. with a new tweet that, much like his Rose Garden video message, propagated his election fraud lie while telling the “great patriots” to “go home with love & in peace.”

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!

Jan. 6, 6:01 p.m.

Trump’s video and tweets enraged some Republican members of Congress, even loyal ones like McCarthy and Graham. “That was a bad tweet,” Graham said of Trump’s message excusing what had happened that day.

At 6:14 p.m., police and National Guard troops established a security perimeter around the west side of the Capitol, and by 7 p.m., FBI and ATF agents completed their sweep of the Capitol, going room to room looking for rioters, weapons or other security threats. Bowdich led the FBI team on one end of the building while Donoghue, of the Justice Department, led the ATF agents at the other. When they met in the middle, they had a quick conference call with Pence, Miller and congressional leaders. McConnell and McCarthy said nothing, and Pence was mostly quiet. The vice president offered only two words on the call: “Thank you.”

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At last, the Capitol was locked down. Capt. Carneysha MendozaCapt. Carneysha Mendoza A 19-year veteran of the Capitol Police, Mendoza led officers battling rioters in the Rotunda of the Capitol on Jan. 6. of the Capitol Police was finally at rest. Sitting on a bench in the Rotunda, she looked around and reflected on what had happened. Officers clumped on the floor all around the room. They all looked defeated. Mendoza’s Fitbit recorded her as having been in a workout for nearly four straight hours — a testament to the extreme physical demands on her and other officers.

Shortly before 8 p.m., Pence and senators returned to the Senate chamber to pick up where they had left off. Graham took Pence aside and said: “You’re doing the right thing. I’m proud of you.” The two men hugged.

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Visibly emotional from the day’s trauma, Pence gaveled the Senate back into session at 8:06 p.m.

When it was Graham’s turn to speak, the South Carolina Republican was animated as he wistfully described Trump as a friend who had drifted away, if only for a moment.

Even as the Senate returned to order, the pressure on Pence did not let up. Eastman, the attorney advising Trump, emailed Jacob, Pence’s counsel, around 9 p.m. to try to convince the vice president to move to not certify the election results.

In the past, Pence and his team had cited the Electoral Count Act, which laid out constitutional procedures for counting votes in presidential elections, as a reason he could not send electors back to states. But in the email to Jacob, Eastman argued that Pence had not precisely followed that law by allowing debate to extend past the allotted time — and therefore could disobey it by rejecting electors from Arizona.

Jacob told others he was amazed at the email and disregarded it. He did not respond to Eastman. Pence continued to oversee the counting of votes.

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For Lankford, the day’s trauma altered his journey. The Oklahoma Republican, who previously spent a decade as program director of a Baptist youth camp, was among the 12 senators who initially had opposed certifying electoral votes from some key states. But after his floor speech objecting to the Arizona count was interrupted by the Senate’s riot-induced evacuation, and after spending the afternoon in hiding from violent marauders, Lankford changed his mind. He voted to certify the results. In the end, just six senators objected to counting Arizona’s votes and seven objected to counting Pennsylvania’s.

Of the 12 senators who initially had opposed certification, Lankford said, “six after the riot still stuck with that and said, ‘Let’s keep pushing.’ The other six of us, myself included, said: ‘I’m not going to win this debate. We only have 12 of us to begin with, and clearly, after what’s happened in the Capitol today, this is not going to get better. We’ve got to find ways to pull the country together.’”

The House GOP was different. At 9:02 p.m., Pelosi gaveled the House into session. After everything that had happened, all the death and destruction, nearly two-thirds of the Republican conference — 121 members — voted against counting Arizona’s votes. Even more, 138 members, voted against counting the tally from Pennsylvania.

With their business completed in separate chambers, senators migrated to the House chamber to reconvene their joint session. At 3:24 a.m., Congress voted to confirm the election results. Pence, who was presiding, formally declared Biden the next president of the United States.

Before Jan. 6, the vice president — anticipating a divisive and emotional day — had specifically requested that Senate Chaplain Barry Black close the session in prayer. And so, at 3:41 a.m., Black, a retired Navy rear admiral, stood at the rostrum to deliver a prayer to a legislative body still shaken by the long day’s events. As lawmakers lowered their heads in silence, with Pence standing over his right shoulder, Black gave voice to their shared emotions.

“We deplore the desecration of the United States Capitol building, the shedding of innocent blood, the loss of life and the quagmire of dysfunction that threaten our democracy,” Black said.

He then sounded an unmistakable condemnation of the weeks-long campaign to infect the body politic with lies and disinformation about the election.

“These tragedies have reminded us that words matter,” Black continued, “and that the power of life and death is in the tongue.”

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After: Contagion

Menacing threats and disinformation spread across the country in the wake of the Capitol siege, shaking the underpinnings of American democracy.

Key findings:

Republican efforts to undermine the 2020 election restarted immediately after the Capitol attack

  • Eight days after the violence, state Republicans privately discussed their intention to force a review of ballots cast in Maricopa County, Ariz., setting in motion a chaotic process that further sowed doubt in the results and set off a wave of similar partisan investigations in other states.

False election claims by Trump that spurred the Capitol attack have become a driving force in the Republican Party

  • Nearly a third of the 390 GOP candidates around the country who have expressed interest in running for statewide office this cycle have publicly supported a partisan audit of the 2020 vote, downplayed the Jan. 6 attack or directly questioned Biden’s victory.
  • They include 10 candidates running for secretary of state, a position with sway over elections in many states.

Trump’s attacks have led to escalating threats of violence

  • Election officials in at least 17 states collectively have received hundreds of threats to their personal safety or their lives since Jan. 6, with a concentration in the six states where Trump focused his attacks on the election results.
  • Ominous emails and calls have spiked immediately after the former president and his allies raised new claims.

First responders are struggling with deep trauma

  • Those who tried to protect the Capitol are contending with serious physical injuries, nightmares and intense anxiety. “Normal is gone,” said one Capitol Police commander.

Contagion

Threats and disinformation spread across the country in the wake of

the Capitol siege, shaking the underpinnings of American democracy.

On the day after, the right side of Capt. Carneysha MendozaCapt. Carneysha Mendoza A 19-year veteran of the Capitol Police, Mendoza led officers battling rioters in the Rotunda of the Capitol on Jan. 6.’s face burned painfully where pepper spray and other chemicals had seeped into her pores. She could still picture the enraged faces of those who had attacked her and her colleagues under the Capitol dome. Some had worn fatigues like the ones Mendoza donned as an Army soldier stationed at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

That day, the United States had weathered a faceless attack orchestrated covertly from beyond the country’s borders. This time, Mendoza had faced a very different enemy: fellow Americans, many of them wrapped in red, white and blue, inflamed by a sitting president.

Mendoza waited in her office at the headquarters of the U.S. Capitol Police for news she did not want to hear. Capitol Police bike patrol officer Brian D. Sicknick, who had collapsed hours after responding to the riot, lay in critical condition at George Washington University Hospital. The 42-year-old had suffered two strokes, destroying the tissue at the back of his brain.

Just after 9:30 p.m., the call came. Sicknick had gone into cardiac arrest. He was gone. Mendoza rounded up other officers and headed to the hospital.

As they arrived, Sandra Garza, Sicknick’s partner of 11 years, stood alone in a room with his body, saying goodbye. A blanket covered him up to his chest. Garza touched his hand. It was already cold. She moved her fingers up his arm, where it seemed warmer, and let her hand linger.

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Near midnight, when it was time to remove Sicknick’s body, Mendoza and her fellow officers lined a hallway leading to a rear loading dock. They saluted as he rolled past, toward a van that would take him to the medical examiner’s office. Mendoza ordered the convoy first to drive by the Capitol.

Two thousand miles away, in the western suburbs of Phoenix, Clint HickmanClint Hickman As chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in 2020, the longtime Republican resisted Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results. woke up late on Jan. 7 in a house that was not his own.

After a grueling year as chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, the Republican had eagerly handed off his gavel at a long-planned ceremony on the morning of Jan. 6, only to arrive home to find two sheriff’s deputies waiting in an unmarked car in his driveway.

Their tone was urgent: You shouldn’t be home tonight, one said.

“It’s not that bad,” Hickman responded. As chairman, he had faced threats and a large protest outside his home after he and the board had certified Joe Biden’s win in the county in late November.

The deputy asked whether he had been listening to the news. There are massive protests in Washington, the deputy said. They’ve broken into the Capitol.

Hickman had to see for himself. Following his wife into the house, he looked at the scenes on the television and blanched. If President Donald Trump’s supporters were willing to attack the Capitol, who knows what they might do on a residential street in Phoenix. He and his wife rounded up their three children and relocated to a relative’s house, where he stayed up late, watching until Congress confirmed Biden’s victory.

Morning had come, and Maricopa County was quiet. Hickman was unsure if the threat had passed. He called his family farm. He wouldn’t be coming in to work today.

As their flight began its descent toward Denver on the night of Jan. 7, Salud Carbajal and Joe Neguse were on edge.

In nearly every seat, in every row, it seemed to the two Democratic congressmen, the other passengers were decked out in pro-Trump clothing. We’re surrounded by insurrectionists, Carbajal thought.

As the lawmakers headed back from Washington to their districts — Carbajal to the central California coast and Neguse to Boulder — they wore casual clothes, masks and winter coats. They did not display their congressional lapel pins, though they stood out from their mostly White fellow passengers in other ways: Carbajal had emigrated from Mexico as a child, and Neguse is the son of Eritrean immigrants.

he atmosphere on the plane was charged. Then a chant began, a few voices at first.

“F— Biden! F— Biden!”

Louder and louder it grew, as others joined in. The lawmakers sat stunned.

“F— Biden!”

“F— BIDEN!”

The plane touched down. As Carbajal waited for his connecting flight to California and checked his phone, his dismay turned to fury: Officer Sicknick was dead.

The violent insurrection aimed at thwarting the democratic transfer of presidential power quickly became known by its date: Jan. 6. But the forces that drove Trump’s supporters into the halls of the Capitol did not fade after that day.

Many of those who took part in the deadly attack returned home undeterred, still convinced Trump’s lies about the election were true. In the coming months, his supporters would push for new examinations of the results and demand more restrictive voting laws in the name of ballot security. Election officials around the country would receive hundreds of menacing emails and calls after Jan. 6, a Washington Post investigation found.

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Trump declined to address The Post’s findings about the spread of violent rhetoric. Instead, spokesman Taylor Budowich accused the media of failing to examine the 2020 election, leaving it “up to the people to seek the truth.”

After Jan. 6, Trump would emerge emboldened, bluntly threatening those who did not share his obsession with last year’s vote and positioning himself to retake the White House in 2024.

Most ominously, a deep distrust in the voting process would spread across the country, supplanting a long-standing acceptance of election results. That shift would shake the foundation on which the American experiment was built — the shared belief that the nation’s leaders are freely and fairly elected.

American democracy had held on Jan. 6. But the events that followed showed that day would not be the last test.

3

One day after

As his bus trundled south toward Florida on Jan. 7, Paul HodgkinsPaul Hodgkins The 38-year-old crane operator from Tampa traveled to Washington to show his support for Trump after absorbing false claims that the election was rigged — a decision that would drastically upend his life. felt uneasy.

The crane operator, then 38, had followed the mob into the Capitol and ended up in the well of the Senate, holding his Trump flag next to the desk where Vice President Mike Pence had been sitting just 40 minutes earlier. What felt like a strange dream in that moment had started to curdle into something far darker almost immediately. Emerging from the building, Hodgkins had seen people brawling and had learned that a woman had been shot.

Some of his bus mates clung to the hope that Trump would somehow remain president.

Hodgkins was skeptical. “I don’t see how that’s possible,” he recalled thinking. “We’re all going to have to eat the depression that he’s going to be leaving office.”

Word spread on the bus that Hodgkins had gone inside the Capitol. A couple of women asked him to share his experience, but he demurred.

A text came through from his mother, who had not wanted him to travel to Washington in the first place. She told him she never wanted to talk about what had happened at the Capitol that day.

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By the time Douglas Jensen returned to Iowa, viewers around the globe had watched a video clip of the 41-year-old construction worker in a QAnon T-shirt chasing Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman up a marble staircase outside the Senate chamber. Jensen’s wife had seen the news, too. Facing her displeasure, Jensen went to the Des Moines Police Department early on Jan. 8 and sat for an hours-long interview with two FBI agents.

Jensen told the agents he had not planned to go to the Capitol that day, but he went at Trump’s direction. He said he had wanted to witness the arrests of the vice president and members of Congress. He said he was a patriot. Although Jan. 6 did not end the way he had hoped, he believed that Pence and members of Congress still might be arrested on Inauguration Day. But he also hinted at his own doubt, asking the government agents conducting the interview whether he had been duped: “Can you guys let me in on that, if you know if these arrests are real?”

Some rioters exhibited a flash of remorse after the insurrection, but others remained in Trump’s thrall. Even as his supporters faced the consequences of their actions, they echoed the president’s never-ending false claims and came up with their own spurious theories about stolen ballots that they shared in their communities.

A day after the Capitol attack, a Longview, Tex., real estate agent named Ryan Nichols took to Facebook to clear up a rumor. In a video taken at the Capitol, he had bragged that he was taking part in a “second revolution.” Now he wanted people to know that it had been Trump supporters, not anti-fascist agitators, behind the violence.

“Sure, there may have been some ‘Antifa’ in DC, but there wasn’t enough to ‘Storm the Capital’ themselves,” Nichols wrote.

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With his time in the White House dwindling, Trump barreled forward — looking to channel his supporters’ fears toward a new cause. The president condemned the “heinous” violence at the Capitol in a Jan. 7 video. But in the same message, he issued a directive to his base and elected representatives.

“I continue to strongly believe that we must reform our election laws to verify the identity and eligibility of all voters and to ensure faith and confidence in all future elections,” Trump said.

Pence was more focused on the near-catastrophe he had just lived through. Two days after the attack, he sat down in his ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House, and wrote three sets of letters to people he counted among the heroes of Jan. 6. They included the Senate staffers who had grabbed the ornate wooden boxes containing the electoral college certificates documenting how each state’s electors had voted. Those staffers were protecting the papers Congress was relying on to complete its duties that day.

Pence’s letters were described by people familiar with the contents.

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“I want to thank you for your work Wednesday and Thursday during the joint session of Congress and express my sincere gratitude for carrying the boxes of electoral votes out of the Senate chamber when rioters stormed the Capitol,” the vice president wrote. “Your quick thinking and rapid response, ensuring the ballots were secured and work of Congress could continue, are testaments to your character and commitment.”

Pence sent similar missives to the House parliamentarian and the Senate chaplain, Barry Black. At the vice president’s request, Black had delivered a closing prayer just before 4 a.m. on Jan. 7, after Congress had reconvened and certified Biden’s victory. Pence signed all the letters by hand and arranged for their delivery by mail.

After an initial burst of bipartisan horror at the Capitol riot, many Republican officials fell back in line with Trump.

“He still had the base,” one GOP lawmaker recalled observing at the time. That conclusion was shared by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who had paused his regular phone calls with the president after the insurrection but resumed them a few days later when he realized Trump’s hold on the GOP appeared to be stronger than ever.

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Other Republicans’ condemnation faded quickly, too. Six days after Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) denounced Trump on the Senate floor, he accepted a ride with the president on Air Force One for an appearance along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who had blamed Trump’s “crescendo of conspiracy theories” for the Capitol attack, quickly came out against the impeachment proceedings that Democrats were already seeking.

Campaign advisers met with Trump in the Oval Office to devise a poll to test public support for impeachment, then circulated the results among Hill Republicans to prove such a move would be risky.

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“We got to everyone,” said a Trump aide. “We got McConnell, we got to McCarthy.”

The message: If you vote for impeachment, “you’re screwed.”

Six days after

Six days after the insurrection, Trump’s election lies bloomed anew in Phoenix. Republicans in the Arizona Senate subpoenaed Maricopa County, demanding that it turn over its nearly 2.1 million paper ballots, which had been packed up in cardboard boxes and stored away in a facility known as the Vault.

Trump had narrowly lost the state, thanks largely to Biden’s 45,000-vote margin in the county, home to Phoenix and more than 60 percent of Arizonans. A hand recount of a sampling of ballots had confirmed the accuracy of Biden’s victory. State and federal judges had rejected lawsuits challenging the results. In December, a state judge had knocked down a previous effort by the Senate to obtain ballot images and tabulating machines from Maricopa, saying the subpoena was improperly filed.

The Republican senators were undeterred.

Their new push surprised Stephen Richer, the recently elected Maricopa County recorder, whose responsibilities included leading the county’s elections office.

Richer, a Republican, had no reason to doubt the election tallies that had resulted in his own come-from-behind win in November. He had been trailing on election night, but after days of counting — marked at one point with a tweet from Trump to “STOP THE COUNT” — he had overtaken the Democratic incumbent.

On Jan. 14, Richer headed to the state Capitol for what he thought would be a one-on-one, get-to-know-you meeting with Senate President Karen Fann. He hoped a personal meeting might help bring the temperature down.

9

Instead, he found Fann in a conference room with five other members of the Senate’s GOP leadership. Skipping any small talk, the lawmakers immediately began lecturing him about the county’s obstinacy. Fann explained that her constituents were angry about the election and that she needed to respond. Another Republican, Sen. Vince Leach, cited a debunked claim that “kinematic artifacts” — essentially, folds in paper ballots — could prove whether they were fraudulent.

10

The Senate was in charge, they explained, and they would lead a new top-to-bottom review of the election. The senators were treating him like a petulant child, Richer thought to himself. His hopes of soothing tempers evaporated.

No one mentioned the violence in Washington.

Far to the north, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Houghton County Clerk Jennifer Kelly was also growing increasingly anxious.

For weeks, she had fielded complaints about Biden’s narrow victory in the state, many from people she’d known all her life. Trump had won Houghton County by 14 points, but that did not stop them.

At first, they sent sharp questions — direct but polite — to her official courthouse email account. But in the weeks following the attack on the Capitol, the complaints grew more heated.

Residents began accosting Kelly on the street, in Walmart and at the grocery store, angrily complaining that pro-Biden forces had manipulated machines made by Dominion Voting Systems — repeating one of Trump’s many unfounded claims. “You could feel their anger and disgust with an election they thought was corrupt,” she said.

The county tried to head off concerns by inviting Kurt Knowles, a representative of a Dominion subcontractor, to answer questions at a public meeting. On Jan. 12, Knowles appeared by Zoom and faced a barrage of queries about right-wing reports that machines in Houghton and nearby Keweenaw County had been manipulated to switch votes from Trump to Biden.

“That couldn’t happen,” Knowles answered confidently, explaining that the machines were not connected to the Internet. He then walked through the layers of precautions that would prevent vote switching.

11

Seated at a long wooden table next to the county’s five commissioners, Kelly hoped the detailed explanation from a knowledgeable outsider might finally subdue the suspicions.

It didn’t — not that day, and not even after Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

Weeks later, the Senate acquitted Trump on charges that he had obstructed the election and incited the riot. Just 10 Republicans in the House and seven in the Senate supported the impeachment effort.

12

29 days after

As the Georgia General Assembly prepared to convene a new session, Republican lawmakers found themselves inundated.

In emails and phone calls and in person, their friends and neighbors demanded new laws to stop the kind of fraud that Trump had convinced his supporters had caused his defeat. It was fresh evidence that the base was strongly behind the former president.

Several senators told Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan ® that they had to pass new election laws, even as some acknowledged they did not buy Trump’s claims of fraud.

“I get it that you think you’re responding to what you think is the will of your constituents,” responded Duncan, who presides over the state Senate. “But at the end of the day, you’ve got to be honest with them. When someone says the Earth is flat, you’ve got to vehemently disagree with them because you know it’s not flat.”

Like many of his GOP colleagues, state Rep. Alan Powell did not believe that evidence had emerged proving that fraud had tainted the 2020 election. But he did think it was possible that some fraud had occurred, and he supported tightening laws to make it harder to cheat in the future.

13

At a committee hearing in February, Powell tried to explain his view, saying that widespread fraud “wasn’t found — it’s just in a lot of people’s minds that there was.”

14

The hate mail and ugly phone calls poured in. One Trump supporter called from Massachusetts to tell Powell, “I know who you are and I know where you live because your address is public.”

Colleagues urged Powell to report the call to state law enforcement. Instead, he called back. The man, a retired police detective, assured him that he didn’t mean for his message to sound threatening. “I’ll take you at your word,” Powell replied.

The pressure was so great that House Speaker David Ralston ® gave his blessing to House Republicans to submit any election bills they wanted, no matter how severe. Ultimately, dozens of Republican lawmakers submitted bills in the name of securing Georgia elections.

Yet there was a limit: GOP leaders were eager to please Trump but did not want to hurt Republican turnout. When his colleagues floated the idea of banning drop boxes, Ralston squashed the notion after internal polling showed that many GOP voters liked that method of turning in absentee ballots.

In hearings that kicked off in early February, Georgians claimed without evidence that thousands of noncitizens had voted in the election, that the chain of custody had been broken for thousands of absentee ballots in the Atlanta area, that the length of time it took election officials to complete the count — about a week — was evidence of fraud. Some poll watchers testified that they didn’t trust the system not because they saw wrongdoing, but because they couldn’t see everything that was happening.

“They could have been building a warship back there and I wouldn’t have known the difference because you couldn’t get close enough,” said one woman, Ginger Bradshaw, a floral arranger from Fulton County, who described seeing “barricades” and “big blue shields” erected around workstations at the World Congress Center in Atlanta, where she had served as a poll watcher.

Bradshaw did not say that she had seen fraud. But sentiments like hers bolstered lawmakers who were pushing legislation granting new powers for poll watchers.15

Duncan felt a wave of dread when the first major bill came to the Senate floor — a bill so restrictive that House leaders had already indicated it was unlikely to prevail on their side of the building.

He couldn’t bear to preside over the Senate that day. Instead, he sat in his office and watched the debate on TV.>

41 days after

In the early morning of Feb. 16, more than half a dozen officers showed up at the door of Paul HodgkinsPaul Hodgkins The 38-year-old crane operator from Tampa traveled to Washington to show his support for Trump after absorbing false claims that the election was rigged — a decision that would drastically upend his life.’s Tampa home. Awakened by loud knocking, he grabbed a towel to put around his waist and opened the door.

“Hands!” yelled one agent, a hand on his gun holster. Hodgkins let the towel drop to the floor.

After an agent helped him into a pair of shorts, Hodgkins turned over his two phones, laptop, a tablet, the clothes he wore to the Capitol, the Trump flag, his backpack and the four guns he kept in his closet and truck. He was taken to the federal courthouse in Tampa, where he was released hours later on bond.

Hodgkins would be charged with five counts, including obstructing an official proceeding. The former Eagle Scout, who had never gotten in trouble with the law before, was mortified.

“People acted like children and destroyed a place because they didn’t get what they wanted, and when I realized it had turned into that, I felt rotten,” he said. “I didn’t feel wrong for wanting an audit or for supporting Donald Trump, but I do feel remorse for crossing the line. I wish I had just stayed home.”

After failing to anticipate the Jan. 6 attack, the FBI was now racing to track down the hundreds of people in the predominantly White crowd who had swarmed the Capitol that day and then walked out, unhindered.

Some within the FBI and Justice Department privately conceded the bureau had failed to grasp the scale of the threat. Officials simply didn’t believe that the kind of people showing up to a Trump rally would break the law, let alone act out violently.

16

“There was a bias,” said one person familiar with the FBI’s work before and after Jan. 6. “The bias was the belief that middle-aged, largely law-abiding people don’t burn, loot or throw things at police officers. We underestimated the desperation, anger and conspiratorial nature of the crowd.”

A senior FBI official said the bureau “strongly disagrees with this characterization. As our actions in the lead up to January 6 demonstrated, this was not business as usual. The FBI took the threats of violence seriously and responded accordingly.”

Inside a sand-colored office building north of the Capitol that houses the FBI’s Washington Field Office, the Jan. 6 investigation was turning into a round-the-clock job, seven days a week. Extra agents were brought on to help with the crushing workload — including an entire class of new graduates from the agency’s academy in Quantico, Va. The “Blue Whale” — one of a handful of FBI mobile command centers crammed with additional surveillance and communications equipment — sat outside.

At first, the FBI could barely keep up with what agents and prosecutors called the “low-hanging fruit” — the perpetrators who gleefully posted recordings of themselves breaking the law. Each day, thousands of new tips poured in, and the agency routed them to field offices around the country. Many proved useless, but a small portion produced valuable information, matching names and social media accounts to blurry faces on video.

The FBI quickly built a digital intake system to handle the leads, much like the system used effectively after the mass shooting at a Las Vegas concert in 2017. Now that model faced its greatest test.

Cellphone data from around the Capitol complex proved to be a fruitful investigative trove. Agents quickly sifted out numbers that appeared regularly and were likely to be lawmakers, staffers and lobbyists, focusing instead on those that popped up only on Jan. 6. The result was hundreds more suspects to check against social media accounts, E-ZPass toll records and credit card receipts.

Federal investigators also turned their attention to another deep well of information: the threatening social media posts that analysts, academics and former national security officials had flagged in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6.

FBI agents wanted to share leads with the D.C. homeland security department, whose officials had sought to pass along online threats before the attack. Donell HarvinDonell Harvin As the head of intelligence at D.C.'s homeland security office, Harvin led a team that spotted warnings that extremists planned to descend on the Capitol and disrupt the electoral count., the head of intelligence at D.C.'s homeland security office, who had invited the FBI to view material two days before Jan. 6, agreed to send two analysts to work full time with a federal task force identifying suspects.

In the first eight weeks of the investigation, federal authorities arrested hundreds of people on charges related to the Capitol attack.

The bureau also threw itself at one particularly ominous sequence of events from the day: the planting of pipe bombs outside the Republican and Democratic national committees’ headquarters on Capitol Hill. At the outset of the investigation, some law enforcement officials suspected the bombs might have been planted as a means to draw critical resources away from the surging crowds; other investigators found that unlikely because the bombs were planted overnight and the bomber could not know when they would be discovered.

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More from AFTER the 1/6/2021 Insurrection from Wapo

48 days after

On the Hill, lawmakers pressed Capitol Police leaders to explain how the agency had so badly let down its guard. Acting chief Yogananda D. Pittman acknowledged that the department had not stationed enough officers around the building, lacked sufficient pepper balls and other crowd-control weapons, and had not followed lockdown protocols, leaving the Capitol and its occupants exposed to the marauding crowds.

The rioters had also exploited two of the building’s vulnerabilities. The majority of the Capitol’s exterior windows featured shatterproof glass, but some Trump supporters smashed the few that were not reinforced, and they streamed into the building early on in the attack. And while security officials assured lawmakers as the siege unfolded that automatically locking exterior doors would keep out the mob, rioters who climbed through the windows were able to unlock the doors from the inside by pressing and holding release bars, triggering a fire-safety feature. Other rioters then poured through the doors.

17

Capt. Carneysha MendozaCapt. Carneysha Mendoza A 19-year veteran of the Capitol Police, Mendoza led officers battling rioters in the Rotunda of the Capitol on Jan. 6. told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee how she had rushed to help officers, becoming trapped among rioters as she pushed her way into the Rotunda. At one point, her arm was pinned in a railing and nearly broken.

“Of the multitude of events I’ve worked in my nearly 19-year career on the department,” she testified to a rapt committee in February, “this was by far the worst of the worst. We could have had 10 times the amount of people working with us, and I still believe this battle would have been just as devastating.”

At least 140 Capitol and D.C. police officers had been assaulted in the siege — emerging from the fight with broken limbs, concussions, cuts and chest pain. Two officers who battled the rioters took their own lives within nine days. Sicknick, who was doused with chemical spray, suffered two strokes. The medical examiner later found he had died of natural causes but noted that “all that transpired played a role in his condition.”

18

Mendoza was among the wounded. For weeks, she had tried to ignore the burns on her face, keeping a supply of fresh aloe leaves in her refrigerator to rub on her cheek for fleeting relief. But the pain worsened to the point that it awakened her in the night, so she finally visited the emergency room. Doctors diagnosed her with chemical burns and a skin infection.

She was prescribed antibiotics and was eventually on six medications, including one to break down and replace her top layer of skin. “I could feel my skin getting thinner when I put it on,” Mendoza said. “The healing was sometimes the most painful part.”

Protecting her son, Christian, then 10, presented an additional challenge. Mendoza initially had tried to keep the trauma of that day from him, leaving him with his uncle in the immediate weeks after Jan. 6 while she worked nonstop and struggled to sleep.

But after the hearing, Christian searched her name online and discovered her Senate testimony. “There’s now like a million pictures of you, Mom,” he said. And he mustered the courage to ask: “When are you getting a new job?”

Mendoza hadn’t prepared for the moment. “Look, this is my job,” she blurted out, before immediately regretting her words. “It pays the bills. What do you want, to be homeless?”

59 days after

Clint HickmanClint Hickman As chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in 2020, the longtime Republican resisted Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results. , the Maricopa County supervisor, could see the plume of smoke rising in the distance from 20 miles away, getting closer and closer as he sped west on Interstate 10 through the desert in his pickup truck in early March.

There had been fires before at his family’s egg farm outside Phoenix since his grandmother founded it in 1944 — a natural risk of the dust and the massive wooden chicken barns. But even from the cab of his truck, he knew this blaze was going to be the worst in the family’s history. The burning barn was packed with tens of thousands of hens.

All afternoon, firefighters fought the flames, which had started after a loader used to scrape chicken manure overheated. As Hickman worked to account for his employees, his phone was pinging with texts and calls from friends and colleagues. Along with messages of support, some posed an odd question: Had Hickman seen the Gateway Pundit story?

The headline on the right-wing website: “After Finding Shredded Ballots in the Dumpster Earlier Today — A Mysterious Fire Breaks Out at Maricopa County Official’s Farm.”

The innuendo-filled story claimed that Maricopa officials such as Hickman were scheming to hide 2020 presidential ballots before turning them over to the state Senate for an audit. “There better be a good investigation into these fires,” the story concluded, questioning whether shredded ballots could have burned in the chicken coops.

Hickman was flabbergasted.

“It was our darkest day,” he said. “And this was just jaw-dropping.”

The fire killed 165,000 hens. Even though officials quickly determined the cause and debunked the claim about shredded ballots, online speculation flourished. In one version, Hickman was said to have packed the barns with ballots and lit it on fire. Others theorized that he was about to blow the whistle on corrupt county colleagues and the fire was set to send him a message. In the strangest incarnation, Hickman was accused of grinding up ballots and mixing them in with the chicken feed — then setting the barn ablaze to cover up his misdeeds.

The angry emails and phone calls persisted for months.

From: Redacted

To: Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Chucri

Sent: March 6, 9:38 p.m.

Subject: Audit

I am not surprised that you and your fellow board members are continuing to thwart a transparent audit. Shredded ballots and now a fire? Good grief!! Now you are killing animals as well? We all know what you are up to and we are working to recall each one of you . I hope you are held fully accountable for committing treason against the country and betraying your fellow Americans. Shame on you!

Around the country, false theories about the election were percolating and simmering, growing ever more intricate as Trump’s supporters traded claims in Facebook groups and Telegram channels. Some speculated that tabulating machines had been hacked — by the Chinese or the Iranians or the Venezuelans or hordes of communists. Others proposed that Democrats had somehow used the expansion of mail-in balloting that had accompanied the pandemic to flood the system with fake ballots for Biden.

All of the theories were rooted, ultimately, in an inability by die-hard Trump supporters to accept that millions of their fellow citizens had rejected the president. After imbibing Trump’s dark warnings about “deep state” conspiracies for years, it seemed plausible to many that thousands of volunteers and public officials who administer the nation’s elections had rigged the entire thing.

Gabriel SterlingGabriel Sterling A top official in the office of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger ® who warned that Trump’s rhetoric could inspire violence. , a senior aide to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, even heard it from his own relatives.

A longtime Republican, Sterling had managed campaigns, worked for a GOP congressman in Washington and served on the Sandy Springs City Council in suburban Atlanta. He voted for Trump in 2016 and in 2020. But in the weeks after the election, amid the swirl of false claims of fraud in Georgia, he vocally denounced those promoting the unsubstantiated theories.

The public stance put him at odds with his conservative family. One relative peppered Sterling via Facebook messages.

“The fact that there were more votes than registered voters in the US will never be explained away,” the relative wrote in February.

“There were not more votes than registered voters,” Sterling replied.

“ALL Americans went to bed with Trump significantly leading across the board, only to wake up to see him at a considerable deficit,” the relative wrote in March, in a lengthy message that echoed false theories popularized by Fox News personality Sean Hannity and others that Biden’s win was a statistical impossibility.19

He concluded: “C’mon Gabe! You believe that BS?”

Again, Sterling replied patiently. “Most of the charges are [coming from] people who aren’t lying but don’t understand what they are seeing,” he wrote.

65 days after

As theories about the 2020 election results metastasized, numerous Republicans recast the Jan. 6 attack as peaceful, describing the rioters as patriots and political prisoners — tacitly sanctioning mob violence as an acceptable method of protest.

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson ® told a conservative radio host in March that he had never felt threatened because he knew “those are people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law.” A few weeks later, Trump told Fox News’s Laura Ingraham that the day had been a “lovefest,” where people were “hugging and kissing” the police.

The FBI was arresting an average of four Jan. 6 suspects a day. The day after Trump’s interview, a D.C. man was charged with striking police officers repeatedly with a long pole wrapped in red, white and blue. And a Texas man was arrested and accused of battling police with their own stolen shields, then lighting an object on fire and throwing it into a police line.

Some defendants were already signaling that they planned to blame their actions squarely on Trump.

“I went to Washington, D.C., because I believed that is what the President asked us to do,” Nichols, the Texas real estate agent, wrote to a judge in an unsuccessful attempt to be let out on bail. Nichols and a friend had egged on other demonstrators and engaged in violent, destructive acts and assaults on Capitol Police officers, according to court documents.

“I left when the President posted on Twitter and Facebook for everyone to leave. So I did,” Nichols told the judge.

20

To some judges, Trump’s rhetoric was not an excuse for rioters’ actions but rather an ongoing threat. His praise for the insurrectionists and his refusal to accept the election results could continue to radicalize his supporters, they warned.

“The steady drumbeat that inspired defendant to take up arms has not faded away,” U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson wrote, ordering one defendant remain jailed until trial. “The canard that the election was stolen is being repeated daily on major news outlets and from the corridors of power in state and federal government, not to mention in the near-daily fulminations of the former President.”

Indeed, even among those facing prison time, Trump’s ongoing pull was apparent.

Ronald “Ronnie” Sandlin of Tennessee, who allegedly plotted with two other men to bring weapons to the Capitol, had repeatedly told the judge that he regretted his actions. At one hearing, he could be heard weeping.

“Your honor, have mercy on me,” Sandlin said. “Please.”

But he conveyed a different message to friends and family.

“I’m in a cell block with all Capitol people,” Sandlin texted his mother on March 30. “I’m proud to call them my friends we stood up for what we believed in and sacrificed.”

“It may sound self serving but I truly believe I have a divine destiny to fulfill and I/we made history that day and the full implications of our actions [have] yet to be realized,” he wrote.

21

The implications were already clear for those contending with the aftermath. Mendoza and another officer tried to console each other in an ongoing text thread, sharing their nightmares and fears, often late at night.

Mendoza was working constantly, but when she occasionally had time for rest, she slept fitfully, plagued by a recurring dream that someone was breaking into her house.

106 days after

Across the country, the pressure from Trump and his supporters was getting results.

In mid-April, more than 2 million Maricopa County ballots and hundreds of tabulating machines were taken to the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, a concrete former basketball arena in downtown Phoenix.

A state court had ordered the county to comply with the subpoena issued by the GOP-controlled state Senate, which was determined to review the ballots cast in the presidential race despite the lack of evidence of problems with the vote.

The company tapped to run the project: a little-known firm based in Sarasota, Fla., called Cyber Ninjas, which had no previous experience administering or auditing elections. Its chief executive, Doug Logan, had touted claims that the election was marred by fraud.

Problems emerged nearly from the start. The company offered little explanation of its procedures, including the UV lights that workers shined on every ballot at one point. One audit worker told a reporter the light was intended to help shoot down a claim that some ballots had been smuggled in from Asia and could be identified by bamboo fibers in the paper.

Once predicted to last just a few weeks, the project dragged on.

22

The pro-Trump media outfit One America News (OAN) streamed footage from the arena floor online 24 hours a day, breathlessly covering the process as the start of a national movement that would lead to a reconsideration of the election results. Host Christina Bobb, who served as a volunteer lawyer with the Trump campaign after the election and huddled with the president’s attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani at a Washington hotel on Jan. 6, used airtime to raise private donations to help fund the ballot review.

Three months after the Capitol siege, Trump supporters had something to cling to.

“We need one state. They’re all going to fall like dominoes,” proclaimed Mike Lindell, CEO of MyPillow, who was spending millions of his own money on films and rallies promoting false claims about voter fraud.

The leaders of Maricopa County — nearly all Republicans — could not believe what they were seeing. The election had been strength-tested over and over again, and yet now their ballots were in the hands of amateurs with an agenda.

A distressed Stephen Richer, who had largely remained silent because he had not been in office in 2020, joined the county’s six other elected officials in a scathing public letter May 17 that denounced the process as a “sham” and a “spectacle that is harming all of us.”

Two days later, Richer received a disturbing message on his cellphone:

The spotlight on the Arizona recount was only growing, thanks in part to the former president.

Trump was transfixed as workers in brightly colored shirts unpacked ballots and loaded them onto spinning plastic trays. He began conferring privately with Lindell and Bobb.

23

“Incredible organization and integrity taking place in Arizona with respect to the Fraudulent 2020 Presidential Election,” Trump said in one of two statements he issued about the recount on a single day in late April. “They were among the earliest to see that this was a Rigged Election!”

Throughout the spring, at his private Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, the former president buttonholed visitors about what was unfolding in Arizona, recounting his grievances with the 2020 election over steak and lobster.

24

“You’re our president!” a man yelled out in April as he walked through the lobby. “Thank you,” Trump mouthed back.

At one dinner, Trump approached a table where the guests tried to engage him in small talk. But he was not interested, instead recounting in granular detail how he believed the vote was fraudulent in states such as Georgia and Arizona.

“Everyone is talking about the election,” he told them. “It’s the biggest story on earth.”

On another night, an ally tried to engage Trump in a discussion for plans about a future presidential library. “He was totally uninterested,” the person said. “And he just immediately launched into how the election was stolen.”

With the Arizona review underway, Trump began discussing how to secure election reviews in other states, such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Georgia.

Perhaps, he told allies, he could soon be back in the White House.

Republicans from other states began making pilgrimages to Phoenix to tour the recount operation inside the coliseum. Though they were mostly backbencher lawmakers and candidates for office, OAN and other pro-Trump media outlets described them as official state delegations, suggesting to viewers that those states would soon follow Arizona’s lead.

In public, Fann, the state Senate president, repeatedly said that no matter the recount’s outcome, Biden’s win in the state would not be overturned. But she did little to puncture the enthusiasm of those who believed the opposite, including members of her own caucus and Trump himself.

When one constituent emailed Fann to complain that the lawmaker refused to say the ballot review would result in Biden’s win being decertified, she responded cryptically: “Our only goal is to get this audit finished before they try to shut us down again. Sometimes honey does better than vinegar when you want to get something done. The vinegar will come at the end.”

25

160 days after

Michigan state Sen. Ed McBroom, a conservative lawmaker with a deep religious faith, is known by his colleagues as “the king of the Upper Peninsula” — a nod to his popularity in this remote region of the state.

In June, officials in Houghton County turned to the fourth-generation dairy farmer for help, hoping to put to rest the rumors still circulating in their community of hacked voting machines and Trump votes that had been flipped to Biden.

A Lindell-produced film called “Absolute Proof” that aired on OAN had stirred up local residents with false claims that bad actors had used remote manipulation to switch 1,143 of the roughly 18,500 presidential votes cast in Houghton County for Biden. The film asserted it was all part of a broad plot to hack the election.

On June 15, McBroom appeared via Zoom at a county commissioners meeting and tried to tamp down concerns. The allegations, he said, were “made up.”

“What keeps on being postulated is something that is just not possible,” he said.

Some residents in the audience were not satisfied and demanded a fresh audit of the results. “What can be the harm? Let’s settle this,” said one speaker to scattered applause.

Eight days later, McBroom’s Senate Oversight Committee released a report on the election — a withering 55-page dissection of unsubstantiated claims promoted by Trump and his allies. The conclusion: Citizens should be confident in the results of Michigan’s election.

The blowback was immediate. A few local GOP committees around the state passed resolutions censuring McBroom. One activist called him “a servant Satan.” Trump went after him personally, issuing a statement that claimed the report was a coverup and that McBroom was “really a Democrat.” The former president said Michigan voters would “not stand for Republican senators not to act on the crime of the century.”

McBroom received scores of angry calls, emails and text messages, some calling for him to be “strung up” or “shot.”

Disheartened, McBroom tried to take the long view. My reputation and image are in the hands of God, he told himself.

Truth-tellers were no longer welcome in the GOP. Nor were those who saw the insurrectionists as anything other than patriots.

Trump loyalists had ousted Rep. Liz CheneyRep. Liz Cheney The GOP congresswoman from Wyoming worked behind the scenes to make sure the Jan. 6 electoral count was not disrupted. Afterward, she paid a steep political price. (Wyo.), who had repeatedly denounced his “destructive lies,” from her House leadership post. Republican lawmakers torpedoed an attempt to form a bipartisan commission to examine the forces and failures that led to the assault. And on June 15, 21 House Republicans voted against a measure to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Capitol Police officers who had fought off the rioters.

A few days later, angry conservatives booed Pence and chanted “Traitor!” at a Faith & Freedom Coalition conference in Florida, an echo of the ominous shouts inside the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Cheney — a conservative standard-bearer and daughter of a Republican vice president — defied GOP leadership and agreed to work with Democrats on a committee to investigate Jan. 6. One summer evening, she walked off the House floor and onto the Capitol steps, where she was greeted by one of her new and unlikely allies, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a fellow member of the committee.

A knot of students visiting from Miami University of Ohio were lingering nearby. A young woman approached Cheney. “I’m not sure that I agree with you on many things,” she told the Republican congresswoman, but added that she wanted to join her new cause: “How can I fight alongside you?”

“Every single American has a responsibility,” Cheney told her. “Our institutions are very fragile. Every single person has a duty.”

26

The fallout was particularly acute for the handful of GOP state officials who had stood by the election results, such as Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state.

Days before the state GOP convention was set to convene in early June, Gabriel SterlingGabriel Sterling A top official in the office of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger ® who warned that Trump’s rhetoric could inspire violence. , the Raffensperger aide, ran into a pro-Trump activist at a Young Republicans event in Atlanta, who asked whether he and his boss were planning to make the trip to the coast for the party gathering.

No, Sterling replied.

That’s probably a good thing, the activist retorted. She and others were likely to throw rocks if they showed up.

27

At the convention at Jekyll Island, the crowd warmly welcomed two rivals going for Raffensperger’s job. U.S. Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), who voted against the electoral college count and had been talking to Trump regularly, showed up with boot-shaped “Boot Brad” pins. And David Belle Isle, the former mayor of Alpharetta, passed out fliers with an illustration of Raffensperger with devil horns.

“What happened in Georgia had a tremendous impact to the rest of the nation,” Hice said at the convention, embracing the false claim that Trump won the state. “We’re in the fight of our lives for this country. We are the tip of the spear in this battle.”

The delegates voted to censure Raffensperger. And Brian Kemp — the GOP governor who formally certified Biden’s win — was greeted with such loud boos that it was hard to hear him in some corners of the vast convention hall.

It didn’t matter that Kemp had signed a sweeping elections bill months earlier in response to the demand from Trump supporters. The law was not as harsh as Duncan and others had feared it would be, but it stripped some powers from the secretary of state and gave the state elections board and lawmakers new sway over local election administration.

Other GOP-controlled states raced to pass their own voting bills, citing the need to bolster public faith in elections. Florida Republicans enacted one of the most far-reaching laws, dramatically restricting mail balloting, even though the GOP had revolutionized the use of that voting method in the state. Texas passed legislation that added new criminal penalties for election officials and curtailed voting methods used in 2020 in Houston, where a surge of Black voters had turned out.

Several state legislatures passed bills granting new powers to partisan actors to challenge ballot counting and making it easier for the party in power to replace local election officials. The measures seemed built for a future when rejecting election results could be routine — and raised the prospect that partisan loyalists, rather than county professionals, could become arbiters of election disputes.

By the end of September 2021, GOP lawmakers around the country would introduce more than 400 bills restricting voting access — and would pass 33 laws in 19 states.

28

And Republicans lining up to run for office were echoing Trump’s false claims that he won the 2020 election. By the end of summer, nearly a third of the 390 GOP candidates who had expressed interest in running for statewide office publicly supported a partisan audit, downplayed the Jan. 6 attack or directly questioned Biden’s victory, according to a tally by The Post. Among them: 10 candidates running for secretary of state, a position with sway over elections in many states.

29

It was an overwhelming signal of Trump’s hold on the GOP.

199 days after

Inside the Arizona Federal Theatre in Phoenix on a Saturday in late July, Melissa Marsh, a landscape designer from Northern California, listened, rapt, as Trump championed the recount still underway in the state.

“The results will be so outrageous,” Trump said, promising the ballot review would spur action elsewhere.

“Now it’s turning out to be a revolution in this country,” he added.

Marsh, 60, had followed the fraud allegations since election night, when she had learned of a false claim that multiple states where Trump was ahead had stopped counting at 10 p.m. She became mistrustful of Fox News that night after the network called Arizona for Biden. She now relied on Telegram and MyPillow’s Lindell for information about the vote.

“Mike Lindell has shown through data scientists and facts and evidence of how the election is fraudulent, how the ballots are not matching up,” she said, adding: “The media’s fake. It lies.”

The 5,000-seat venue was filled to capacity for the event. The host: Turning Point Action, a conservative group run by Trump ally Charlie Kirk, which had organized seven buses to bring supporters to Washington on Jan. 6 through its Students for Trump project.

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Many of those in the audience were dubious that what had occurred in Washington amounted to an attack on a branch of the U.S. government.

Chris Park, a Scottsdale resident who works in marketing, echoed the unsubstantiated claim that FBI informants had encouraged people to enter the Capitol.

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“That’s not an insurrection,” he said. “There was no actual violence that took place except for one person that got shot at the hands of the people that were supposed to be there.”

“That’s not an insurrection,” he said. “There was no actual violence that took place except for one person that got shot at the hands of the people that were supposed to be there.”

Sitting in the third row of the theater was Michelle Witthoeft, the mother of Ashli Babbitt.

A Capitol Police officer had shot Babbitt as she tried to climb through a broken glass panel in the doorway leading to the Speaker’s Lobby, yards away from the House chamber, where lawmakers were still evacuating.

Several weeks before the Phoenix rally, Trump had called Witthoeft to praise her daughter, and she had encouraged him to speak out more about her death. He took her advice, telling Fox News days later that Babbitt was an “innocent, wonderful, incredible woman, a military woman.”

The Capitol Police would formally find that the officer who shot Babbitt may have saved lives through his actions. But Republicans followed Trump’s lead. Rep. Paul A. Gosar of Arizona, who had claimed at a congressional hearing that Babbitt had been “executed,” led a rousing ovation that night in Phoenix for Witthoeft. “Ashli! Ashli! Ashli!” the crowd chanted.

For Witthoeft, the moment was surreal and bittersweet. “There was a lot of love for Ashli,” she said.

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A few days later, Sterling, the Georgia election official, received a letter in the mail.

The note inside was written in cheerful, loopy penmanship, but its content was anything but upbeat:

“You sold out the state of Georgia and your country. You are guilty of voter fraud. You need to confess your part in this fraud or be tried for treason. You will not be able to walk the streets in peace or will your family untill you tell the truth!”

Sent to Gabriel Sterling

Sterling wasn’t alone.

In Maricopa County, the venomous and profanity-laced attacks had poured in for months. The emails and calls attacked the county officials as traitors and called for their execution by firing squad or public hanging. Some were laced with anti-Semitic slurs.

From: Redacted

To: Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers

Sent: May 18, 3:55 p.m.

Subject: your treason

We all know what you’re hiding you stupid motherfucker! I hope Patriots in Arizona catch you in a dark alley sometime because you deserve what you are going to get…and I hope there’s video of it when it happens so I can watch your worthless piece of shit ass cry and beg for your miserable parasitic life!
You are a disgrace to this Country and I hope you have a fucking heart attack soon you traitor bitch! Fuck You and Fuck your entire traitor family.
In a perfect world, traitors are hung by their scrawny little necks until dead!

A Post examination found that public officials in at least 17 states collectively received hundreds of threats to their personal safety or their lives since Jan. 6, with a concentration in the six states where Trump focused his attacks on the election results. The accounts shared with The Post show that ominous emails and calls often spiked immediately after the former president and his allies raised new false claims.

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When Trump went after McBroom, so too did his supporters. The following month, the former president singled out an Arizona Republican state senator who had resisted that state’s ballot review, saying that Paul Boyer had been “nothing but trouble.” Boyer got so many threats that he became frightened for his family’s safety and canceled an out-of-state trip that would have left them alone.

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This rising chatter, reminiscent of the disturbing rhetoric that emerged in the days before Jan. 6, alarmed federal officials in Washington.

On Aug. 6, the Department of Homeland Security issued a formal warning to state and local officials warning of an “increasing but modest level of individuals calling for violence in response to the unsubstantiated claims of fraud related to the 2020 election fraud and the alleged ‘reinstatement’ of former President Trump.”

Local officials didn’t need Washington to tell them what was happening. It was obvious every day when they checked their email and voice mail.

What can we do to reassure voters that we keep their ballots secure, thought Kelly, the Houghton County clerk, in advance of a usually sleepy municipal election in early August. She decided to take extraordinary precautions: She instructed her staff to record the serial numbers of voting machines, document the unbroken seals on tabulators and note in writing that no one had tampered with the equipment.

Without those measures, Kelly feared, the public would continue to doubt the results.

The low-turnout race went smoothly. But residents still peppered her with public records requests about the security of voting machines and debunked claims that Sharpie pens rendered ballots unreadable, a claim that first took root in Arizona. Months after 2020, and “we’re in the same spot,” Kelly said. “There is all this doubt, so many questions, so many suggestions that there was crookedness.”

213 days after

On the first Saturday in August, Capt. Carneysha MendozaCapt. Carneysha Mendoza A 19-year veteran of the Capitol Police, Mendoza led officers battling rioters in the Rotunda of the Capitol on Jan. 6., who had been promoted to the head of the Capitol Police civil disturbance units, was called into work for an unscheduled shift. Law enforcement had received intelligence that a group might try to break into the building.

It was at least the 30th time since Jan. 6 that such a threat had prompted the force to go on high alert.

In her office, Mendoza listened to her radio and typed away on her keyboard. Whiteboards on the wall behind her tracked her team’s progress in completing tasks the Capitol Police had identified as urgent in the wake of January’s attack. Among the items listed as complete: Get rid of aging shields. Joint training exercises. Write a new pepper-ball policy.

A note hung on one of the boards, scrawled by Mendoza late one recent night. “Tragedy is not the end of our story,” it read.

She wanted the reminder, not just for herself but for her officers. But she knew many were struggling, never able to feel fully off-duty even when home with their families.

That day’s alert turned out to be a false alarm. But one day soon, Mendoza knew, it might be the real thing again.

“There is no normal anymore,” she said. “Normal is gone. This is just it.”

Hard-edged and sometimes violent rhetoric about the election persisted, even drawing back in Trump supporters who faced possible jail time for their actions.

In mid-August, a court officer found Douglas Jensen alone in his Des Moines garage, using an iPhone to watch Rumble, a video-streaming site that has become home to many right-wing personalities claiming censorship by Big Tech.

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Jensen, who had been captured on video on Jan. 6 chasing a Capitol Police officer on Jan. 6, had been released from jail a month earlier. His attorney argued that he had disavowed conspiracy theories and recognized “that he bought into a pack of lies.” Under the terms of his release, he was not allowed to access the Internet while he awaited trial.

But Jensen admitted he had spent two days watching coverage of a symposium about alleged fraud in the 2020 election put on by MyPillow’s Lindell. He was ordered back to jail.

For his part, Paul HodgkinsPaul Hodgkins The 38-year-old crane operator from Tampa traveled to Washington to show his support for Trump after absorbing false claims that the election was rigged — a decision that would drastically upend his life. had agreed to plead guilty to obstructing the electoral count — becoming the first rioter to be sentenced for a felony for his role on Jan 6. At his sentencing, he asked for mercy. U.S. District Judge Randolph D. Moss said that carrying a Trump flag into the well of the Senate amounted to “declaring his loyalty to a single individual over the nation.”

“In that act, he captured the threat to democracy that we all witnessed that day,” Moss said.

As the reality of eight months behind bars set in, Hodgkins became increasingly agitated. His conviction cost him his job as a crane operator. He learned that because his sentence was for less than a year, he could not earn time off for good behavior. A friend from the Trump campaign set up a fundraising website for him. “Paul is a true patriot,” it stated. “He was unjustly sentenced to 8 months in federal prison for entering the Capitol for 15 minutes and taking a few selfies.”

Weeks before he was set to report to prison, Hodgkins hired a new attorney who had falsely argued on social media that antifa and Democrats instigated the chaos at the Capitol.

In court, the attorney — who had been practicing law for less than a year — laid the groundwork for an appeal and argued that Hodgkins’s signature on his plea agreement had been forged. The claim quickly drew a stern rebuke from Moss, who noted that Hodgkins had previously affirmed his signature under oath.

Within days, Hodgkins decided to abandon the idea of appealing.

On a Sunday in September, he got 10 inches of his long hair cut off, went to church and prepared to report to prison the next day.

Still, he didn’t blame the former president.

“I made my own foolish choice,” Hodgkins said. He would vote for Trump if he ran again. Maybe Trump would even pardon him one day.

229 days after

By the fall, 650 people had been arrested and charged in the Capitol attack, and law enforcement officials said they expected hundreds of more arrests. Justice Department officials, who had initially estimated the number of potential criminal suspects to be about 800 people, now calculated that between 2,000 and 2,500 people went into the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Investigators still had not found the person who planted the pipe bombs outside the offices of the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee. On two occasions, agents thought they might have identified a suspect. But further probing led them to dismiss those individuals as culprits.

But most Republicans, at least, expressed little interest in bringing the Jan. 6 rioters to justice. More than half said such prosecutions were very important in March. Just one quarter did by September.

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GOP leaders were also ready to move on from the Capitol attack. Graham, who had rebuked the president on Jan. 6, told a group of Michigan Republicans in September that he hoped Trump would run again.

For his part, Trump began quizzing candidates seeking his endorsement, wanting to first hear that they too believed the election was stolen before issuing his nod. He threw his weight behind those challenging Cheney and other Republicans who had voted for impeachment — and ramped up pressure to reexamine last election. By late summer, he had dialed up GOP leaders in a half-dozen states, applying a personal squeeze to those who wanted to stop re-litigating the 2020 vote.

In Pennsylvania, state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman ® — who had initially resisted such a review — announced in late August that there would be hearings into the election, which Biden won by more than 80,000 votes in his state. He sought to assure Trump voters that he had the former president’s support, telling conservative media personality Wendy Bell that he had spoken about the effort with Trump himself.

“I think he’s comfortable where we are headed,” Corman said. Within weeks, a legislative committee had moved to issue subpoenas seeking a wide range of data and personal information about the state’s voters.

In Wisconsin, where Biden edged out Trump by 20,000 votes, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos ® was also feeling the heat. He backed a review of the election, even hiring retired police officers at one point to investigate claims of illegality. But Trump said he had not gone far enough, accusing Vos of “working hard to cover up election corruption.”

On Aug. 23, Vos joined Trump on a private flight from the former president’s New Jersey golf club to a rally in Alabama and made his case. As they flew, Trump recounted to Vos all the problems he had heard about in Wisconsin’s 2020 vote. The assembly speaker tried to reassure him: They were working to fix the issues. He would stay in touch.

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Vos had appointed retired Wisconsin Supreme Court justice Michael Gableman to run an investigation. Gableman— who attended an election fraud forum put on by MyPillow’s Lindell as part of his inquiry — quickly raised the stakes. He began issuing subpoenas to local clerks who had refused to cooperate with his investigation.

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The burden would fall to election officials, Gableman said, to prove that the election was not tainted.

262 days after

During a congressional recess in early September, Carbajal drove past a political rally in downtown Santa Barbara. Carbajal, the House Democrat who had flown home to his district on California’s Central Coast the day after the riots surrounded by angry Trump supporters, pulled over to take a look.

The headliner was Larry Elder, the leading Republican candidate trying to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in the upcoming recall election, at the time about a week away. In the crowd, Elder supporters waving Trump flags and wearing “Make America Great Again” hats were already speculating about fraud.

If Elder loses, Carbajal realized with dismay, Republicans would say the vote was rigged. Again.

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A few weeks later, Clint HickmanClint Hickman As chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in 2020, the longtime Republican resisted Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results. closed the door to his office at the family farm, flicked on his computer and steeled himself to listen to the findings of the Arizona ballot review, which had finally drawn to a close.

A hand recount of nearly 2.1 million ballots had come up with nearly the exact vote totals as the certified result: Biden had won the county by more than 45,000 votes.

But the contractors hired to conduct the ballot review ladened their presentation to Fann, the state Senate president, with elaborate theories that the county could have improperly accepted some ballots or deleted data. They provided no evidence of fraud or wrongdoing but nevertheless called for more investigations — including a criminal probe by Arizona’s attorney general.

Frustration and weariness overtook Hickman’s relief.

“This is not going to be over for a long time,” he said to himself with a sigh.

Mark Finchem, the Trump-endorsed Republican running for Arizona secretary of state — which oversees the state’s elections — called for arrests and demanded that Biden’s win be decertified.

Trump jumped in the following day at a rally in Perry, Ga. “We won on the Arizona forensic audit,” he told thousands of screaming fans, “at a level that you wouldn’t believe.”

The former president said out loud the worst fears of his critics: that his obsessive focus on the past was about making it harder for him to ever lose again.

“I have great, great friends that really want what’s best for us,” Trump said. “They say: ‘Sir, you’re leading in every poll by numbers like nobody’s ever seen before. Think to the future, not to the past,’ ” he told the crowd. “And I say, if we don’t think about the past, you’ll never win again in the future because it’s all rigged. It’s all rigged.”

After predicting Republicans would win the 2022 midterms, he said there would be an “even more glorious victory in November 2024.”

That day in Phoenix, more than 100 Trump supporters gathered on the lawn of the state Capitol to protest the prosecution of the Jan. 6 rioters. A knot of people dressed in the Proud Boys’ signature black-and-yellow garb drew a shout-out from a GOP House lawmaker as he addressed the rally.

Out in the crowd, the demonstrators echoed Trump over and over again. The Jan. 6 rioters were patriots, some said. The system is rigged. Those in power are corrupt. The country is crumbling, and elections can no longer be trusted to fix it.

It was all so familiar: A year earlier, Trump supporters had voiced those same angry sentiments in the run-up to Election Day. Everything that had transpired since — the false claims about the vote, the president’s attempts to subvert the results, a violent assault on a branch of government — had only deepened the conviction of some of those gathered on the lawn that day.

To them, the options were dwindling.

“Short of bloodshed, I don’t know of any way to fix what we currently have going on,” said Wade Damms, a 47-year-old from Snowflake, Ariz., who works in construction.

“I’d take part in it,” he continued. “I’d just need someone else to be the leader.”

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