The Department of Justice has warned that national security secrets may have been stolen from the Capitol after hundreds of Donald Trump‘s mob ransacked its offices.
Rioters were pictured at the desks of high-ranking members of Congress, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with unfettered access to dossiers, computers and phones.
It comes amid questions over the lax security and claims from a Metro DC cop that off-duty military and police personnel were among the thugs and ‘flashing their ID badges’ at their on-duty colleagues.
Michael Sherwin, acting US attorney for the District of Columbia, said ‘items, electronic items were stolen from senators’ offices, documents and … we have to identify what was done to mitigate that.’
The prosecutor said an investigation could take ‘several days to flesh out exactly what happened, what was stolen, what wasn’t.’
Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said at least one laptop had been stolen from his offices, while another protester was seen brandishing Pelosi’s mail outside the Capitol in the aftermath.
The Senate Parliamentarian’s office was ripped apart by the rabble, with footage showing the floor of her rooms covered in files taken from drawers and cabinets.
It comes as an image of a police officer has emerged showing him appearing to take a selfie with one of the Trump supporter’s during the riot which left five people dead – including four protesters and a policeman.
Other photos reveal officers chatting freely with the Trump supporters as terrified lawmakers barricaded themselves inside rooms throughout the building.
A serving Metro DC police officer took to Facebook to claim that off-duty members of the police and military were flashing their ID cards and badges as they walked by law enforcement.
‘If these people can storm the Capitol building with no regard to punishment, you have to wonder how much they abuse their powers when they put on their uniforms,’ the officer wrote.
‘The fact that police officers from other agencies have aligned themselves with such terorristic groups shows how scary it is to be BLACK in America … They weren’t trying to hide who they are because they know nothing will happen to them.’
US Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, under pressure from Schumer, Pelosi and other congressional leaders, was forced to resign.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asked for and received the resignation of the Sergeant at Arms of the Senate, Michael Stenger, effective immediately. Paul Irving, the longtime Sergeant at Arms of the House, also resigned.
‘There was a failure of leadership at the top,’ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.
It is not clear how many officers were on-duty Wednesday, but the complex is policed by a total of 2,300 officers for 16 acres of ground who protect the 435 House representatives, 100 U.S. senators and their staff. By comparison, the city of Minneapolis has about 840 uniformed officers policing a population of 425,000 in a 6,000-acre area.
There were signs for weeks that violence could strike on January 6, when Congress convened for a joint session to finish counting the Electoral College votes that would confirm Democrat Joe Biden had won the presidential election.
On far-right message boards and in pro-Trump circles, plans were being made.
The leader of the far-right extremist group Proud Boys was arrested coming into the nation’s capital this week on a weapons charge for carrying empty high-capacity magazines emblazoned with their logo. He admitted to police that he had made statements about rioting in Washington, local officials said
Trump and his allies were perhaps the biggest megaphones, encouraging protesters to turn out in force and support his false claim that the election had been stolen from him. He egged them on during a rally shortly before they marched to the Capitol and rioted. His personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, a former New York mayor known for his tough-on-crime stance, called for ‘trial by combat.’
Law enforcement’s intelligence estimates of the potential crowd size in the run-up to the protests ‘were all over the board,’ from a low of 2,000 to as many as 80,000.
So the Capitol Police had set up no hard perimeter around the Capitol. Officers were focused on one side where lawmakers were entering to vote to certify Biden’s win.
The ransacked office of the Senate Parliamentarian: pic.twitter.com/E7PsSgoAEX
— Ali Zaslav (@alizaslav) January 7, 2021
Barricades were set up on the plaza in front of the building, but police retreated from the line and a mob of people broke through. Lawmakers, at first unaware of the security breach, continued their debate.
Soon they were cowering under chairs. Eventually they were escorted from the House and Senate. Journalists were left alone in rooms for hours as the mob attempted to break into barricaded rooms.
Sund, the Capitol Police chief, said he had expected a display of ‘First Amendment activities’ that instead turned into a ‘violent attack.’
But Gus Papathanasiou, head of the Capitol Police union, said planning failures left officers exposed without backup or equipment against surging crowds of rioters.
‘We were lucky that more of those who breached the Capitol did not have firearms or explosives and did not have a more malign intent,’ Papathanasiou said in a statement. ‘Tragic as the deaths are that resulted from the attack, we are fortunate the casualty toll was not higher.’
The Justice Department, FBI and other agencies began to monitor hotels, flights and social media for weeks and were expecting large crowds. Mayor Muriel Bowser had warned of impending violence for weeks, and businesses had closed in anticipation. She requested National Guard help from the Pentagon on December 31, but the Capitol Police turned down the January 3 offer from the Defense Department, according to Kenneth Rapuano, assistant defense secretary for homeland security.
‘We asked more than once and the final return that we got on Sunday the 3rd was that they would not be asking DOD for assistance,’ he said.
The Justice Department’s offer for FBI support as the protesters grew violent was rejected by the Capitol Police, according to the two people familiar with the matter.
They were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.
By then, it was too late.
Officers from the Metropolitan Police Department descended. Agents from nearly every Justice Department agency, including the FBI, were called in. So was the Secret Service and the Federal Protective Service. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sent two tactical teams. Police from as far away as New Jersey arrived to help.
It took four hours to evict the protesters from the Capitol complex. By then, they had roamed the halls of Congress, posed for photos inside hallowed chambers, broken through doors, destroyed property and taken photos of themselves doing it. Only 13 were arrested at the time; scores were arrested later.
In the aftermath, a 7-foot fence will go up around the Capitol grounds for at least 30 days. The Capitol Police will conduct a review of the carnage, as well as their planning and policies. Lawmakers plan to investigate how authorities handled the rioting.