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Red flags suggest police could have prevented Jan. 6, and that Capitol security remains lax

Alleged intrusion by comedian Stephen Colbert employees renews debate about safety at one of America’s most sacred institutions.

Published: June 17, 2022 9:09pm

Updated: June 17, 2022 11:37pm

Allegations that Stephen Colbert’s comedy team breached security inside the U.S. Capitol complex this week are escalating debate about a question hardly discussed at the Jan. 6 hearings: Did Capitol Police and their minders in Congress learn from the tragedy 18 months ago and adequately harden security?

Former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik told Just the News he is deeply troubled by the Colbert incident Thursday night, as well as exclusive Just the News reporting that exposed that the $600 million a year police force that protects the Capitol failed to act after getting multiple warnings more than two weeks before Jan. 6 riot about potential violence.

“It’s incomprehensible that’s the Capitol Police we’re not able to prevent the protest from escalating when they undoubtably knew that problems were brewing,” Kerik said.

Just the News reported this week that Capitol Police received warnings from Homeland Security, the District of Columbia government and the FBI starting 16 days before the attacks that extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers were threatening violence like “a bloody war.”

There were threats to storm the Capitol, confront lawmakers and burn down the Supreme Court in online forums well before Jan. 6. But Capitol Police did not adjust security or inform front-line commanders and officers. Some of the warnings show bad actors had schematics of the Capitol grounds and possible entry points.

Kevin Brock, the former FBI assistant director for intelligence, told Just the News that the recent revelations about what Capitol Police knew in advance of Jan. 6 were “a little bit distressing” and require a much deeper exploration of intelligence and security failures.

“When you come across information that looks like the Capitol Hill police had actionable intelligence with great specificity -- we know when the events are taking place, we've got these bad actors talking about it on the internet, they're publishing schematics of the Capitol tunnel system and everything else -- that is a huge warning signal to any law enforcement or intelligence entity, that they have to take steps to prepare,” Brock said.

“So why did it break down from there? I'm sure we're going to find out.”

Brock said he was particularly troubled by the apparent lack of action related to a detailed eight-page warning that U.S. Homeland Security provided Capitol Police on Dec. 21, 2022, calling it the sort of “actionable intelligence” police since the 9-11 attacks usually crave to have for prevention.

“This one bit of information probably deserves its own hearings to find out why proper steps weren't taken well in advance of the January 6 events,” he said.

More than a dozen lawmakers interviewed by Just the News over the last week said that, while they deeply respect the frontline men and women of the Capitol Police, they have grave reservations that the department’s leadership has adequately fixed security for congressional buildings or learned from the mistakes of Jan. 6.

“Are things fixed? I'm not sure,” Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said in an interview Friday.

Biggs said the memos made public by Just the News “indicate a failure at the top, not the rank-and-file, not with even their captains -- but the very top echelon. And we need to find out where the breakdown was.”

“The problem doesn't just stem at the leadership of Capitol Police necessarily,” he said. “It actually goes to the civilian folks that are supposed to lead and provide oversight, whether it's the Sergeant at Arms, whether it's Nancy Pelosi as the Speaker of the House.”

The debate over what could have been done to act on intelligence and prevent Jan. 6 rages on the sidelines of the House committee hearings, which almost exclusively have focused on former President Donald Trump's efforts to block certification of the 2020 election result.

But now a new red flag has been raised over revelations that at least seven, and possibly as many as nine staffers for Colbert’s "Late Show" on CBS, twice entered the Capitol Complex without permission on Thursday.

“Little did we know that a TV comedian and his team were insurrectionists and domestic terrorists, but by current defined standards, that’s what an unauthorized breach of the Capitol complex and subsequent trespass labels you,” Brock, the former FBI executive, said. “We’ll see how consistently these standards are applied.

“On a more serious note, Colbert’s cynical intrusion exposes an ongoing concern that sufficient security protocols for the Capitol remain lacking,” he added “The Capitol Police did an admirable job of locking onto the Colbert team and stopping them. But questions remain how they were allowed to get as far as they did.”

Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., the top Republican on the House Administration Committee that oversees Capitol security, confirmed the arrests Friday evening after his staff received a briefing from police. "The only people arrested by Capitol Police for touring the House office buildings are the people that work for Stephen Colbert," he said.

Capitol Police declined to identify the seven arrested individuals but confirmed to Just the News that the arrests occurred at about 8:30 p.m. Thursday in the Longworth House Office Building, across Independence Avenue from the U.S. Capitol.

It was the second time the individuals had been spotted unauthorized in the building that day and all were taken into custody, police said. Congressional officials briefed on the matter said those apprehended were affiliated with Colbert's "Late Show" on CBS.

A spokesperson for Colbert's show, an agent for the comedian and a CBS corporate communications official did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment.

Capitol Police told Just the News the seven individuals were arrested on charges of unlawful entry into the complex.

"On June 16, 2022, at approximately 8:30 p.m., U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) received a call for a disturbance in the Longworth House Office Building," Capitol Police said in statement. 

"Responding officers observed seven individuals, unescorted and without Congressional ID, in a sixth-floor hallway. The building was closed to visitors, and these individuals were determined to be a part of a group that had been directed by the USCP to leave the building earlier in the day." 

"This is an active criminal investigation and may result in additional criminal charges after consultation with the U.S. Attorney," Capitol Police said.

In an interview with Fox News, Rep. Davis said police confirmed to his staff that the seven individuals had previously been ejected from the Capitol complex in a different House office building earlier Thursday and somehow made it back into the Longworth building at night, where they were creating a disturbance near the offices of some GOP lawmakers.

A senior law-enforcement official told Just the News that police are investigating whether staff for one or more Democrat congressmen helped facilitate the individuals re-entering the building. "This is being treated as a serious security matter and more charges could be brought depending on what prosecutors determine," the official said.

Davis said the incident is certain to renew Republicans’ determination to learn if the Capitol really is secure under Pelosi’s leadership.

“I'm going to make sure that when we get back to Washington next week, we're going to ask the questions that need to be asked,” he told Fox News on Friday night. “We'll ask the security officials why these arrests had to be made. What were they doing without an escort?” he said.

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