Although the House Jan. 6 committee has presented evidence of the carnage law enforcement faced at the Capitol that day, little time has been devoted to law enforcement’s failure to predict and prevent the attack — at least not publicly.
But behind the scenes, sources tell NBC News, those failures have not been from forgotten. As the committee prepares for an additional round of public hearings in September, they’re expected to put more focus on the intelligence and law enforcement failures at the FBI and Department of Homeland Security that left police woefully underprepared for the mob that stormed the Capitol. Those failures will also be a key component of the committee’s final report on Jan. 6.
One of the online sleuths who has worked with both the Jan. 6 committee and the FBI has a little story that helps illustrate a lot of the bureau’s challenges in the sprawling federal investigation into the Capitol attack and why the bureau didn’t do more to make sure law enforcement was prepared ahead of the Capitol attack, given all the alarm bells going off all across the web.
When they needed to send a large file to the Jan. 6 committee, they popped the files over on Dropbox.
When they needed to give something to the FBI, a special agent drove over to their home to transfer the files manually.
Due to late-breaking revelations, the committee’s public presentations in June and July skewed more towards Trump’s actions before and during the Capitol attack. But there’s a lot that got left on the cutting room floor, including new information gathered by the “blue team,” which is focused on law enforcement failures leading up to the attack, as NBC News reported back in January.
A committee aide told NBC News last week that this team of investigators are singularly focused on the preparedness of and response by law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and the military.
“The team has conducted more than 100 interviews and depositions touching on these matters of security and intelligence across several federal and local agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, Fusion Centers, Office of Intelligence & Analysis, among others,” the aide said. “The team is looking into what intelligence these agencies had at their disposal; how that intelligence was analyzed, stitched together, and distributed; and whether law enforcement operationalized that intelligence.”
The “blue team,” a separate source told NBC News, is headed by Soumya Dayananda, who spent more than a decade as a federal prosecutor — and worked the case against Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman — before joining the committee.
Liz Cheney said in an interview on Fox News Sunday last week that the Blue team’s work will be featured in committee’s final report and would “likely” be featured in upcoming hearings.
“What we aren’t going to do… is blame the Capitol Police, blame those in law enforcement, for Donald Trump’s armed mob that he sent to the Capitol,” Cheney said. “Clearly there were intelligence failures, clearly the security should have operated better than it did. But this was a mob Donald Trump sent to the Capitol, and I think that’s important to keep our eye on.”
The FBI has been generally defensive about its preparations ahead of Jan. 6, and noted in the past that they took some actions to discourage extremists from traveling to D.C. ahead of the attack. But a new FBI statement to NBC News indicated the bureau had “increased our focus on swift information sharing” and “improved automated systems established to assist investigators and analysts” since Jan. 6.
There’s a limited timeframe to help call attention to the need to fix the intelligence failures. If Republicans take back the House in the midterms, as many analysts expect, oversight could very quickly flip from examining FBI shortcomings to investigating alleged law enforcement overreach against those who stormed the Capitol on Trump’s behalf. Instead of trying to understand how to make sure the FBI can make sure they are prepared for domestic extremist violence in the future, some congressional Republicans have downplayed the insurrection, protested the pre-trial detention of some Jan. 6 rioters whom they recast as “political prisoners,” and flirted with the “fedsurrection” conspiracy that posits the FBI instigated the attack to set up Trump supporters.
The potential for lethal violence because of Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election wasn’t a big secret. Law enforcement officials raised concerns about the lethal danger of Trump’s rhetoric both in the lead-up to and immediately after the November 2020 election. NBC News ran a story on the night of Jan. 5, 2021 about the violent threats spreading across Twitter, TikTok, Parler, and TheDonald message board.