- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 25, 2021

Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman told lawmakers Thursday that the government was aware that armed extremists were planning mayhem at the Capitol on Jan. 6, but the intelligence grossly underestimated the scope of the attack.

Chief Pittman said had there been better intelligence, she likely would have suggested then-Vice President Mike Pence not come to the Capitol to oversee the certification of the presidential election results. Mr. Pence was a target of the insurrectionists angry over former President Donald Trump’s loss in the November election.

“The [Capitol Police’s] preparations were based on the information it gathered from its law enforcement partners like the FBI and others within the intelligence community, none of which indicated that a mass insurrection of this scale would occur at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6,” she said in testimony before the House Appropriations Committee.

Chief Pittman is the latest Capitol security official to blame intelligence agencies for the attack, in which a violent pro-Trump mob overwhelmed law enforcement and breached the building. 

On Tuesday, her predecessor, former Chief Steven Sund, and the former House and Senate sergeants-at-arms told a Senate committee that the intelligence community missed warning signs about the attack.

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies did not include a specific credible threat that the Capitol would be under attack, Chief Pittman told lawmakers. 

She saw four intelligence assessments leading up to the riot, but only the final bulletin warned that members of militias, White supremacists and other extremist groups would be participating in a pro-Trump rally and planned to be armed, according to her testimony. 

But Chief Pittman said the intelligence did not accurately forecast the size of the mob, warning of a protest but not a coordinated attack. 

“Indeed, the United States Secret Service brought the vice president to the Capitol for the election certification that day because they were also unaware of any specific credible threat of that magnitude,” she said.

Still, lawmakers scolded her, saying that the Capitol Police should have been more prepared, given the amount of online chatter and media reports about the threat of violence that day. 

“How could the security planning policies and procedures, apparently, be so lacking, and ill-prepared? This event was widely promoted on social media weeks in advance, and your own report specifically shows the department was monitoring these posts,” asked Rep. Tim Ryan, Ohio Democrat. 

Chief Pittman responded that the Capitol Police took extra steps to mitigate the threat, but did not anticipate the sheer number of protesters who arrived at the Capitol. She insisted that her department did not ignore the intelligence it received, but that intelligence was wrong.

“There’s evidence that some of those who stormed the Capitol were organized, but there’s also evidence that a large number of everyday Americans who took on a mob mentality, because they were angry and desperate. It is the conduct of this latter group that the department was not prepared for,” she said. 

Chief Pittman estimated that more than 10,000 protesters appeared on the Capitol lawn while about 800 people entered the building on Jan. 6.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Washington Republican, discussed the video footage that appeared to show the Capitol Police officer who shot and killed a protester trying to break into the House chamber, unaware that backup was coming. Ms. Herrera Beutler said it was clear that officers were not receiving instructions from department leadership. 

A second Capitol security official also pointed a finger at the government intelligence agencies.

Acting House Sergeant-at-Arms Timothy Blodgett, in his testimony before the same committee, said the intelligence bulletins often contradicted each other.

For example, he said, one bulletin suggested that protesters would become violent. But a later one assessed the protests to be similar to previous pro-Trump rallies, which were not violent. 

“The intelligence provided to the Capitol Police and other law enforcement did not anticipate a coordinated attack,” he said. “Warnings should not be qualified or hidden.”

Lawmakers pressed Chief Pittman about the failure to call in the National Guard when it was clear that the Capitol Police were overwhelmed. She responded that she only knew the request was denied, but was unsure of the reasons. 

Mr. Blodgett said the delay was because the Capitol Police board needed to approve the request. 

That testimony echoed the comments of Mr. Sund, who told the Senate on Tuesday that he could not request National Guard troops without the board’s approval. 

Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut Democrat, blasted the board as useless.

“It’s like your appendix. It’s just there. It doesn’t have any real function,” she said.

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