‘Bloody War.’ Capitol Police first warned about violence two weeks before Jan. 6 riots, memos show

Emails, intel document flagged social media posts on Dec. 21, 2020 warning of troubling threats

Published: June 15, 2022 7:28pm

Updated: June 15, 2022 11:06pm

Capitol Police received alerts from both U.S. Homeland Security and District of Columbia authorities about potential violence at the Capitol more than two weeks before the Jan. 6 riots, a pre-Christmas warning that flagged online chatter about waging a “bloody war,” concealing guns, and burning down the Supreme Court, according to internal memos obtained by Just the News that reveal much earlier and persistent red flags about the tragedy.

“Right-wing extremists are talking about tunnels below the Capitol Complex and the allegiances of USCP officers,” Capitol Police intelligence expert John T. Nugent Jr. wrote in an e-mail Dec. 21, 2020 sent to a distribution list of the department's Intelligence and Interagency Coordination Division.

Nugent’s email forwarded information from the District of Columbia’s intelligence analyst that stated a social post “had garnered quite a bit of interest online” about Jan. 6 because it included a map of the Capitol grounds. The post was “showing the tunnel system underneath the campus, and the thread has several mentions of digging, probing security, carrying tools to the Capitol,” the email said.

Two days later, another Capitol Police official, Matthew N. Hurtig, sent a series of attachments in an email summarizing recent “domestic terrorism” threats. His email warned that “militia members discuss attending a January Pro-Trump-Rally and that one of the militias, the Oath Keepers, was asking Trump ”not to concede, warns of ‘bloody war’ if he doesn’t invoke the Insurrection Act” and “seize all databases of the CIA, FBI, NSA, DNI.”

The Oath Keepers and their founder have been accused of playing a key role in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach, with 11 figures charged with “seditious conspiracy” by the Justice Department.

The same day as the DC government warning, the Department of Homeland Security sent Capitol Police an extensive dossier about online and social media chatter suggesting the Jan. 6 event could be violent.

The warning, summarized in an “Investigative Research and Analysis Report” obtained by Just the News, shows Capitol Police were given access to a non-public blog where maps of the Capitol and the tunnel systems were shared and Jan. 6 attendees made several comments that “promote confronting members of Congress and carrying firearms during the protest.”

“On December 21, 2020, DHS notified USCP of a blog referencing tunnels on US Capitol grounds used by members of Congress. The discussion is posted to a website for supporters of President Trump... The full websites were preserved as a PDF and attached to this report for safe viewing,” the intelligence report stated.

The report offered eight-pages of specific vulgar and violent threats that were being made by potential attendees of the rally even before the New Year started, including:

  • “Burn the f---king Supreme Court down. It’s useless anyways.”
  • “Anyone going armed needs to be mortally prepared to draw down on LEOs. Let them shoot first, but make sure they know what happens if they do.”
  • “Nerve gas. That is Ok.”
  • “Absolutely bring you gun. Sling it over your back and wear a big puffy coat over it if you have to.”

The intelligence also made clear that attendees wanted to confront lawmakers and stop them from casting the votes that would certify Joe Biden as the winner of the November 2020 election and the next U.S. president. One specifically referenced House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“I hope to be all up in her face before she can get to that meeting,” one of the attendees wrote anonymously in the blog flagged by Homeland Security.

Rep. Jim Banks, one of the GOP lawmakers who has investigated the security failures that preceded Jan. 6, said the new memos make clear Capitol Police had extensive reason to suspect widespread violence would occur that day and had more than two weeks to prepare for it.

He added it is incumbent to learn what, if anything, Democratic leaders who controlled security for the Capitol, including Pelosi and Senate Democrat Leader Chuck Schumer, were told from those intelligence assessments before a decision was made Jan. 4, 2021 to turn down the Trump administration’s offer of National Guard troops.

“USCP and DHS were internally warning of serious threats to the Capitol three weeks before the riot," Banks told Just the News. "I simply don’t understand how Speaker Pelosi’s Sergeant at Arms could’ve repeatedly denied requests for National Guard troops from both the Pentagon and the Capitol Police chief after seeing just a small inkling of this intelligence. It proves incredible negligence."

Multiple inquiries have faulted Capitol Police for intelligence and security failures, mostly focused on turning down the Guard request and failing to react to intelligence that came in from the FBI on Jan. 5 warning about protesters planning to block congressional tunnels, confront members and storm the Capitol. But few provide the detail that was contained in the earliest warnings that pre-dated Christmas.

A Senate investigation did reference intelligence from December as one of many points of failure.

“Internal records and USCP officials’ testimony confirm that USCP began gathering information about events planned for January 6 in mid-December 2020. Through open-source collection, tips from the public, and other sources, USCP IICD knew about social-media posts calling for violence at the Capitol on January 6, including a plot to breach the Capitol, the online sharing of maps of the Capitol Complex’s tunnel systems, and other specific threats of violence. Yet, IICD did not convey the full scope of known information to USCP leadership, rank-and-file officers, or law enforcement partners,” it noted.

But the emails and intelligence threat reports show just how extensive the information was, surprising even veteran executives from Capitol Police.

A senior Capitol Police official who witnessed Jan. 6 told Just the News he did not get briefed on the December intelligence and that it was shockingly clear the department and congressional leaders had more than two weeks to prepare for the very real potential of violence -- yet did not.

“This is the sort of stuff operations and patrol and the civil disturbance units should have been read into and been preparing for,” the official said, speaking only on condition of anonymity because of confidentiality requirements from the department. “While it doesn’t have the specific names of suspects, it paints a clear threat assessment that the very violence that occurred on Jan. 6 was being discussed weeks earlier, right down to the tunnels. The failure to get this into front-line hands is a failure of leadership.”

A weekly intelligence report the department did prepare on Dec. 23, 2020 pointedly excluded much of what was transmitted to Capitol Police from DHS and DC government, downplaying the threat environment. It mentioned some protesters planned to come armed but that Jan. 6 was likely to be "similar to the previous Million MAGA March protests in November and December” that were mostly uneventful.

The December intelligence reports also included many references to plans to surround the Capitol as a means of stopping certification, a warning that apparently did not get to the police permitting officials who approved multiple protest permits that essentially created a ring around the Capitol on Jan. 6 that became impossible for Capitol Police to contain.

“We can't give them a chance,” one of the flagged posts from December stated. “Overwhelming armed numbers is our only chance.”

In the end, a $600 million annual police force became overwhelmed in what was one of the darkest days in congressional history.

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