As reporters and House investigators continue to examine the events of the attack on Congress on January 6, information is still being uncovered about the events leading up to the Capitol riot. The latest revelations come from the Washington Post’s exposé of the insurrection, published on Sunday, including new details of the FBI’s failure to properly assess the dangers of the Stop the Steal rally.
While then-acting Defense secretary Christopher Miller feared the possibility that Trump supporters would bait soldiers into “a Boston Massacre–type situation,” the FBI did not harbor such concerns. Although the bureau shared messages with the Capitol Police about rioters killing officers at the Capitol — “You might have to kill the palace guards. Are you OK with that?” — the FBI determined that there was no “threat to life” on January 6.
The assessment was wrong: Though insurrectionists did not kill anyone, four rioters ultimately died, including Ashli Babbitt, who was shot as a mob attempted to force its way into the House chamber where representatives were sheltering. (The officer who shot Babbitt was cleared in an internal probe.) In addition to the 140 officers injured during the riot, one officer died of a stroke the next day and four more officers who responded to the attack died by suicide in the following seven months. Though the FBI received multiple warnings about violence on January 6, agents ultimately determined that the threats were largely “aspirational.” Defending the bureau’s assessment, FBI officials told the Post that such speech is protected by the First Amendment, compared to language that carries a “specific intent to commit violence.”