Capitol Police ignored intelligence warnings ahead of Jan. 6 riots, watchdog report finds

Alex Moe and Adam Edelman
Members of U.S. Capitol Police try to fend off a mob of supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump as one of them tries to use a flag like a spear as the supporters storm the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, January 6, 2021.
Leah Millis | Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Capitol Police ignored critical intelligence ahead of the Jan. 6th riot, including overlooking a warning that, "Congress itself is the target," according to an internal watchdog report obtained by NBC News.

The police force tasked with protecting the U.S. Capitol also lacked policies and procedures that left them severely unprepared to deal with the deadly insurrection, the 104-page report prepared by the Capitol Police's inspector general found. The report has not been made public.

The findings offer a devastating account of the Capitol Police preparation ahead of and response to the deadly attack that unfolded on Jan. 6th when a crowd of supporters of then-President Donald Trump descended on the building to try to stop the certification of President Joe Biden's election victory.

The report also makes several recommendations about how the Capitol Police can be better prepared in the future.

NBC News reviewed the report on Wednesday ahead of a public hearing on Thursday before a House Administration subcommittee to discuss its findings. The watchdog's findings were first reported by The New York Times.

In perhaps its most damning finding, the inspector general found that the Capitol Police's intelligence unit warned three days before the riot that supporters of Trump, who believed his false claims that the 2020 election had been stolen, had made specific plans to target Congress on Jan. 6 and were "actively" promoting violence.

"Unlike previous post-election protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counter-protesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th," a Jan. 3 threat assessment said, according to the report.

The inspector general quoted the intelligence warning as saying, "Stop the Steal's propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members and others who actively promote violence may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike."

The report found that the Department of Homeland Security had also issued a warning to the Capitol Police, and notified them that it had identified a map of the U.S. Capitol's tunnel system on message boards where Trump supporters congregated. In addition, the report found that an FBI field office also warned the Capitol Police.

The Capitol Police watchdog Michael Bolton, however, found in his report that Capitol Police wrote in a plan that "no specific known threats known related to the joint session of Congress."

The police department "did not have adequate policies and procedures" for the responding unit that would define "its responsibilities, duties, composition, equipment, and training," the report states.

The Civil Disturbance Unit "was operating at a decreased level of readiness as a result of a lack of standards for equipment, ... a lapse in certain certifications, an inaccurate CDU roster, staffing concerns for the unit, quarterly audits that were not performed, and property inventories not in compliance," the report's executive summary states.

The watchdog report also found that Capitol Police leaders told officers to avoid using the most aggressive possible responses at the time.

"Heavier less-lethal weapons … were not used that day because of orders from leadership," Bolton wrote.