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Report renews Capitol outrage

Trump supporters work to breach a police barrier

Trump supporters work to breach a police barrier during the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot. Credit: AP / Julio Cortez

The details of mayhem at the Capitol on Jan. 6 are stunning.

Rioters disassembling a fence in front of the inaugural platform and using the pieces against officers. Cops without helmets who allegedly sustained brain injuries. A Capitol Police captain receiving chemical burns to her face that had not healed nearly two months beyond the attack.

These and more are collected in a harrowing, 127-page bipartisan report released this week by the Senate Rules and Administration and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees, perhaps the most comprehensive accounting to date of that disturbing day. Many of these images had been shared on social media but seeing them recounted in a formal government document renews the outrage. It calls the assault on the Electoral College certification "a violent and unprecedented attack on the U.S. Capitol, the Vice President, Members of Congress, and the democratic process."

The report includes distressing testimony from intelligence and law enforcement officials: Rioters smash through first-floor Capitol windows. An officer stops several men in full tactical gear who said they were en route "to get" the senators. There were racial slurs and a Nazi salute. One officer recalled the ground littered afterward with knives, baseball bats, flagpoles, banners, shields, and body armor.

Crucially, the report also found "critical breakdowns involving several federal agencies," including the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Defense. An intelligence division of the Capitol Police at multiple points assessed the likelihood of civil disturbance on Jan. 6 as "remote" to "improbable."

It’s clear there must be better communication and response to domestic terror threats, particularly when there’s a preponderance of posts like "Bring guns. It’s now or never," or "Surround every building with a tunnel entrance/exit." The report’s recommendation to give the Capitol Police more power to call the National Guard in emergencies is another worthwhile fix.

But one subject too little addressed was what brought many of these protesters and rioters to the Capitol in the first place: former President Donald Trump. His level of responsibility for the mayhem is little probed, likely for the same reason that Republicans in the Senate last month blocked a bipartisan 9/11-style commission. The GOP is still too attached to or afraid of the former president who spread lies about the election results weeks after the outcome was clear.

Some of the most revelatory information will likely come out of the hundreds of criminal prosecutions working their way through the judicial system. That’s where we may learn more about who and what drove and rallied so many Americans to try to overturn a presidential election. Already, we see ties to extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, and traces of the QAnon delusion. We’re hearing defendants cite Trump himself as part of the inspiration for their misdeeds.

This report details the policing and intelligence failures. The reckoning with who is culpable is just beginning.

— The editorial board