House Jan. 6 transcripts for D.C. Mayor Bowser, police chief Contee released

House Jan. 6 transcripts for D.C. Mayor Bowser, police chief Contee released

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The mayor of DC told lawmakers investigating the January 6, 2021 attack that the Capitol Police were unprepared for the violent attack because of a mistaken belief that white supremacists would not harm them.

“People thought they were friendly to law enforcement and that they loved their country,” Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said in her January 2022 interview with the House committee, a transcript of which was released Thursday. She said, however, previous D.C. rallies by “white nationalist groups … showed us that they were antagonistic to law enforcement.”

In interviews with the House committee, Bowser and D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III also faulted the Defense Department for not responding more quickly to the Capitol as rioters stormed the building, while explaining their reservations about putting federal personnel on the streets. of the city. Bowser also described an attempt by President Donald Trump to take over the city’s police force in the summer of 2020, with some details emerging publicly for the first time with the release of her testimony.

The transcripts of Bowser and Contee’s interviews were part of the latest release of materials by the House select committee on Jan. 6, which this month released its final report on the attack and recommended that Trump be charged with sedition and obstruction of Congress. .

Trump has blamed Bowser for the Jan. 6 chaos, saying she refused help from the National Guard. But Bowser and Contee said it made sense for the city to request before Jan. 6 only unarmed Garda backup to help with traffic and relieve police of potential chaos. Federal officers also have jurisdiction over Capitol grounds, not DC police.

“It wasn’t for the Capitol. This is a separate request. It wasn’t for the White House. This is a separate request,” said Contee. “I don’t need military people with long guns, you know, taking out people coming out of the Metro.”

Even this limited request from the District was met with what Contee described as an “unusual” response from Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy. Unlike governors, the DC mayor cannot deploy National Guard troops on his own. McCarthy said the D.C. National Guard could not be stationed east of Ninth Street NW — nine blocks from the Capitol — or moved at all without express permission from the Army.

Contee called that restriction “strange,” but said he assumed federal authorities would call for National Guard support as needed and “pivotal” in response to an emergency.

“My lesson learned, everybody doesn’t necessarily turn around as quickly as the Metropolitan Police Department does,” he said.

National Guard troops requested by Capitol Police at 2:30 p.m. did not arrive at the building until three hours later. Steven Sund, the Capitol police chief at the time of the breach, told the committee that his request before Jan. 6 for National Guard support had been denied.

In contrast, Contee said D.C. police were at the Capitol less than 20 minutes after being asked, even though the chief had not heard directly from Sund. Bowser said she later told McCarthy, who made a clear Capitol Police request for troops, “Your Capitol is being invaded. I don’t even have permission to be up there, but MPD is there… they need for help.”

When D.C. police arrived at the Capitol, Contee said, he was surprised and concerned to see a small and “dispersed” Capitol police force.

Tim Barber, a spokesman for the Capitol Police, led an investigation Thursday into a statement the department released to The Washington Post in the fall of 2021.

That statement said the Capitol Police “expected and planned violence from some protesters with ties to domestic terrorist organizations, but no one in the law enforcement or intelligence communities envisioned, apart from this threat, Americans not affiliated with them groups would cause chaos. to metastasize to an uncontrollable volume for any single law enforcement agency.”

Yogananda D. Pittman, who led Capitol Police intelligence at the time of the unrest and was later named acting chief after Sund resigned, told a congressional committee in February 2021 that there was “no evidence” that race played a role a role in January planning. 6.

Both Bowser and Contee said, as reported in the days after the attack, that the Army secretary was concerned about the “optics” of having “boots on the ground.” Bowser said she also thought there were concerns within the Defense Department that Trump “would try to use the United States military to attack the Capitol.”

McCarthy, whose interview was also released Thursday, told the committee he was concerned about “soldiers acting to certify the election” when Trump supporters — including former administration official Michael Flynn — were calling for martial law.

The Jan. 6 Select Committee on Dec. 19 unanimously agreed to send supporting records for the committee’s criminal referrals to the Department of Justice. (Video: Washington Post)

They said Army officials suggested D.C. turn to federal officers for backup, an idea Bowser and Contee flatly rejected.

“A guy who normally, you know, goes after career criminals, or whatever he’s doing in his federal job that day, now armed with a long gun, going out into, you know, crowds of thousands of people ” is “a recipe for disaster,” Contee said.

Unidentified staff from the Bureau of Prisons and other federal agencies were stationed in DC during racial justice protests last summer without any coordination. Federal police had forcibly cleared protesters from Lafayette Square in front of the White House on June 1, 2020, about 30 minutes before Trump walked through the area for a photo. Trump had publicly complained that the D.C. police and Bowser had lost control of the city, and The Washington Post reported that Trump had threatened to take over the 3,800-member D.C. police force to control the protests.

In her deposition, Bowser gave a more detailed and candid account of how that proposal was formed and played out over several tense hours. The mayor said the proposal to federalize the D.C. police and Secret Service clashed over the protests.

The mayor said she was told of the plan by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone on the line.

“I’m telling them it would be a complete disaster; we’re going to lose the city,” Bowser said. “I was worried that we would have a riot in [District]. I mean, a real one. A real riot.” Bowser said that “the underlying tenor of Meadows was that this was going to happen; there was nothing I could do about it.”

Federal law allows the president to take control of DC police officers in certain emergency situations. But Bowser said city officials backed down in what she described as a “heated conversation.” She said Trump officials told her “they didn’t want protests outside the White House.”

Trump had expressed anger at officials in several states as protests turned turbulent, but had little leverage over them.

“The president didn’t want any of these protests to happen in any American city,” Bowser said. “And the only place he could stop it was DC”

The Washington Post reconstructed who did what to clear protesters from Lafayette Square, which is north of the White House, on June 1. See how it unfolded. (Video: Sarah Cahlan, Joyce Lee, Atthar Mirza/The Washington Post)

The mayor said Trump’s offer “harkens back to the country’s ugly segregationist past [District], which won limited home rule just 50 years ago. “Everything added up to this is bad for our democracy and it’s bad for our self-government.”

In the end, the Trump administration did not follow through on its threats. Bowser later praised Attorney General William P. Barr for “leading the charge against some pretty outrageous behavior” and said the fact that he was out of the White House until Jan. 6 was “problematic,” even though he was involved in the 2020 protest The answer criticized her.

The mayor said she never spoke to Trump himself: “I believe we had a president who spoke on Twitter and that’s how we spoke to him.”

Bowser and Contee both said they were prepared for a large and unruly protest on Jan. 6, 2021. The director of D.C.’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency had warned them on Dec. 30 that some Trump supporters wanted “to attack the Capitol and occupy buildings to stop the vote.”

But both said that instead of memos circulated within the agencies, there should have been a meeting of relevant officials making it clear that organized and violent extremists planned to descend on the Capitol, as described in a memo from the office of FBI in Norfolk on January 5th.

“I don’t think I want to be notified of Armageddon through an email,” Contee said.

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