35+ Years of Freedom of Information Action

The Capitol Riot: Documents You Should Read (Part 1)

FBI poster on bus stop
Published: Jan 13, 2021
Briefing Book #735

Compiled and edited by Lauren Harper and Tom Blanton

For more information, contact:
202-994-7000 or nsarchiv@gwu.edu

January 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol now the subject of systematic National Security Archive Freedom of Information Act campaign

First installment of new Document Sourcebook features Pentagon timeline, State Department dissent, Homeland Security warning, FBI alert, and first court indictment

Washington, D.C., January 13, 2021 - The Pentagon’s timeline of its response to the January 6, 2021 mob attack on the U.S. Capitol features multiple discrepancies with the public record, while the first federal indictment of mob participants details the specific legal charges that likely will be brought against others, according to the documents in the National Security Archive’s first "January 6 Sourcebook" posted today.

The Sourcebook, subtitled “documents you should read,” includes:

* the Dissent Channel message signed by more than 100 State Department employees denouncing the attack as undermining the U.S. promotion of democracy abroad (published by Josh Rogin of the Washington Post in his Twitter feed);

* the earlier 2006 FBI report warning of white supremacists’ influence in far-right circles, released by the House Oversight Committee;

* the Department of Homeland Security threat assessment from October 2020 warning that violent white supremacy was “the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland” (published by Lawfare);

* the FBI poster “seeking information” on “violence at the U.S. Capitol”;

* the text of the speech by President Trump at the Ellipse just prior to the mob marching on the Capitol (published and annotated by the Washington Post);

* the Congressional Research Service report detailing the steps Congress was taking to certify the presidential election vote when the mob interrupted (posted by Steve Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists); and

* the federal grand jury indictment of one of the mob members, Mark Leffingwell, citing five different sections of the U.S. Code violated by the mob. (First reported by Josh Gerstein of Politico.)
 

The January 6 Sourcebook publication marks the beginning of a systematic campaign by the Archive, a champion of the Freedom of Information Act, to use the FOIA to open the documentary record of what the government knew and when, and what the government did and didn’t do and when, about the mob attack on the Capitol. Archive staff have already drafted more than 75 specific, targeted FOIA requests to multiple federal agencies.

The Pentagon timeline in particular has already drawn skeptical attention, with District of Columbia officials disputing the Pentagon’s account of exactly when it signed off on deployment of National Guard troops to the Capitol. The document itself exposes an unexplained almost two-hour gap (1:05 p.m. and 3 p.m.) between the acting Secretary of Defense, Christopher Miller, hearing from “open sources” that the mob attending Trump’s speech at the Ellipse was moving towards the Capitol, and Miller’s approval of any troop deployment. By that time, the mob had already taken the Capitol.

The Trump speech, which the president defended yesterday as “totally appropriate,” included multiple inflammatory sequences, according to the full transcript published and annotated by the Washington Post and the video published in the New York Times’ reconstruction of the riot timeline. “So we are going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue — I love Pennsylvania Avenue — and we are going to the Capitol." 

 

Read the Documents

 

Document 1

State Department diplomats lodge official dissent against President Trump’s incitement of a riot

State Department, Dissent Channel Cable (as presented on Twitter by Josh Rogin), circa January 7-8, 2021

Source: Twitter feed of Josh Rogin, The Washington Post

This dissent channel message, signed by over 100 State Department employees, states the authors’ emphatic opposition to President Trump’s ongoing, baseless accusations of voter fraud during the 2020 election, and his incitement of the fatal mob attack on the U.S. Capitol Building. The authors call on the Department to “explicitly denounce President Trump's role in this violent attack on the U.S. government.” The cable, which was first reported on Twitter by The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin, also states that the “Department's public statements about this episode should also mention President Trump by name. It is critical that we communicate to the world that in our system, no one -- not even the president -- is above the law or immune from public criticism.”

The text or existence of any Policy Planning response to this Dissent has not been made public.


 

Document 2

FBI warned of white supremacists in law enforcement 15 years ago

FBI, Counterterrorism Division, Assessment, “White Supremacist Infiltration of Law Enforcement,” October 17, 2006

Source: House Oversight Committee

This 2006 FBI report details the threats posed by white supremacists infiltrating all levels of law enforcement, and notes that one of the major worries about such infiltration is compromised intelligence. The report also states, “White supremacist presence among law enforcement personnel is a concern due to the access they may possess to restricted areas vulnerable to sabotage and to elected officials or protected persons, whom they could see as potential targets for violence. In addition, white supremacist infiltration of law enforcement can result in other abuses of authority and passive tolerance of racism within communities served.”

 The House Oversight Committee released an unredacted version of the document (posted here), which can be compared to a heavily-redacted version released by the Bureau.


 

Document 3

Harsher language on white supremacists removed from final threat assessment

Department of Homeland Security, “Homeland Threat Assessment,” October 2020

Source: Department of Homeland Security

The DHS’s first Homeland Threat Assessment states that white supremacists are America’s biggest threat. The final iteration explicitly mentions white supremacists, but Politico reports that the earliest version of the draft contained harsher language with more explicit references to the dangers posed by white supremacists; in several instances, the later drafts of the document replaced the term “white supremacists” with “domestic violent extremists” (DVE), lumping the specific threats posed by white supremacists in a larger bucket. The final draft states “Among DVEs, racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists—specifically white supremacist extremists (WSEs)—will remain the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland.” 

Lawfare’s Rohini Kurup notes, “The report comes after whistleblower Brian Murphy, who previously led the DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, alleged that agency heads attempt [sic] the report and instructed analysts to downplay threats from violent white supremacy and Russian election interference. In a Senate hearing in September, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf denied Murphy’s accusations.”


 

Document 4

FBI launches massive manhunt

FBI, Washington Field Office, Flyer, “Seeking Information: Violence at the United States Capitol,” January 6, 2021

Source: FBI

The FBI flier “Seeking Information: Violence at the U.S. Capitol” includes ten images taken during the riots and states: “The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Washington Field Office is seeking the public’s assistance in identifying individuals who made unlawful entry into the United States Capitol Building and assaulted federal law enforcement personnel on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.”


 

Document 5

Despite Trump’s claim in January 6 speech that he knows his supporters will march to the Capitol “peacefully and patriotically”, he ends speech urging mob to give “weak” Republicans “the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”

“We’re going to walk down there and I’ll be with you”

President Donald Trump, Speech (transcribed by The Washington Post), January 6, 2021

Source: The Washington Post

President Trump addressed his audience, including the mob that later overran the Capitol Building, for roughly an hour. At multiple points during the speech, Trump incited the crowd saying, among other things, “We want to go back, and we want to get this right, because we’re going to have somebody in there that should not be in there, and our country will be destroyed. And we’re not going to stand for that.” Trump later said, “Now it is up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy. And after this, we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you." We’re going to walk down -- we’re going to walk down. Anyone you want, but I think right here, we’re going to walk down to the Capitol -- and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering much for some of them.”

While Trump says “I know that everyone here will soon be marching to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard”, he closes his remarks with “So we are going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue — I love Pennsylvania Avenue — and we are going to the Capitol. And we are going to try and give — the Democrats are hopeless, they are never voting for anything, not even one vote — but we are going to try to give our Republicans — the weak ones because the strong ones don’t need any of our help — going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country. So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.”


 

Document 6

The Congressional process interrupted by the mob

Congressional Research Service, “Counting Electoral Votes: An Overview of Procedures at the Joint Session, Including Objections by Members of Congress,” December 8, 2020

Source: Federation of American Scientists

This 10-page CRS report describes in detail the specific procedures used for counting electoral votes and the legal bases for the process, and dates from December 2020, after the Trump campaign had already failed in several dozen court challenges to the certification of votes for president in various states. Members of Congress were in the midst of lodging objections, repeating several of the false claims made by President Trump in his speech to the crowd just minutes earlier, when the mob broke into the Capitol on January 6.


 

Document 7

DOD releases timeline to address critical delays in sending in the National Guard

Defense Department, Untitled timeline, January 8, 2021

Source: The Washington Post

Two days after the riot, the Defense Department released a three-page timeline in an attempt to answer mounting questions about the catastrophic decision to delay sending in the D.C. National Guard to assist the Capitol Police. The Washington Post reports that “a senior D.C. official expressed skepticism that some details in the Pentagon timeline are accurate.” Namely, that while the Pentagon said it approved activating the National Guard at 3:04 p.m., neither D.C. Mayor Muriel Boswer nor acting D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Robert J. Contee III received word from the DOD to that effect until nearly 3:30 p.m.


 

Document 8

Grand Jury indictments of Rioters Begin to be filed

United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Indictment, United States of America v. Mark Jefferson Leffingwell, January 8, 2021

Source: U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

This federal grand jury indictment of Mark Leffingwell, which was first reported by Politico’s Josh Gerstein, cites five different sections of the U.S. Code violated by the mob -- for a total of seven counts. Counts include Violent Entry and Disorderly Conduct in a Capitol Building, and Act of Physical Violence in a Capitol Building.

The George Washington University’s Program on Extremism is maintaining a central, continually-updated database of the court filings related to the assault here.