March 4, 2024


General Inside You

Today’s D Brief: Officer dies after Capitol riot; Thousands of troops head to DC; The foreign spin; 4K die of COVID; And a bit more.

A police officer died Thursday night after armed pro-Trump rioters beat him in their failed seven-hour insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Building on Wednesday. “At approximately 9:30 p.m. this evening, United States Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick passed away due to injuries sustained while on-duty,” U.S. Capitol Police announced Thursday night. Other police and law enforcement were “beaten, kicked and tased” by the pro-Trump rioters, the Capitol Police said earlier in the day. 

The pro-Trump extremists attacked police “with metal pipes, discharged chemical irritants, and took up other weapons against our officers,” newly-outgoing U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said in a statement Thursday. 

More than 50 officers were injured by the crowd of Trump supporters, and several were “hospitalized with serious injuries,” said Sund. 

“The violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was unlike any I have ever experienced in my 30 years in law enforcement here in Washington, D.C.,” the police chief said in his statement. (Sund also said that he will resign in about a week, on Jan. 16, Roll Call reports. The House and Senate Sergeants-at-Arms will also resign, Politico and The Hill reported Thursday.)

Big picture: The world witnessed “one of the plainest displays of a racial double standard in both modern and recent history,” the Associated Press reported Thursday. 

  • Why this matters: It wasn’t just Washington, D.C. “Apparent Trump supporters forced disruptions at statehouses across the country, including in Georgia, New Mexico and Ohio,” AP reports. (Review several of those locations across the country in a Twitter thread, here. Or read more about them at Route Fifty, here.)

Said USCP Chief Sund about why security was so lax: “The USCP had a robust plan established to address anticipated First Amendment activities. But make no mistake — these mass riots were not First Amendment activities; they were criminal riotous behavior.”

The unfortunate reality: Wednesday’s insurrection was discussed online and out in the open, as several news outlets — NBC News, NPR, the New York Times, and Bellingcat — pointed out this week. 

The extremists’ online conversations included maps of the U.S. Capitol complex “marked with locations of tunnels and entry points. ‘And there was discussion specifically of overwhelming police with large crowds and doing that in order to violate laws against carrying weapons and against entering federal buildings,’” Jared Holt of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab told NPR

The green light: Trump’s Wednesday morning speech, in which he told followers near the White House that “we’re going to walk down to the Capitol” and “I’m going to be with you.” 

The violent mob was met by a relatively small force of Capitol Police officers whose leaders had rebuffed offers of federal help, even from the U.S. military. 

More below the fold…

From Defense One

U.S. Capitol Now More Vulnerable As a Result of Wednesday’s Mob Attack, Former DHS Official Says // Patrick Tucker: A lack of coordination among authorities was evident and will make securing the seat of legislature harder.

Capitol Rioters Planned for Weeks in Plain Sight. The Police Weren’t Ready. // Isaac Arnsdorf, J. David McSwane, Logan Jaffe, and Lydia DePillis, ProPublica: Insurrectionists made no effort to hide their intentions, but law enforcement protecting Congress was caught flat-footed.

China, Russia, Iran Spin Capitol Insurrection  // Patrick Tucker: As allies lamented the “disgraceful” scene, adversaries used Wednesday’s riot to attack U.S. democracy.

How Will Biden’s Pentagon Handle Extreme Right-Wing Media? // Kevin Baron: The Capitol riot was just the latest tell for propaganda outlets masquerading as newsrooms.

What Trump and His Mob Taught the World About America // Anne Applebaum, The Atlantic: The allure of democracy was the nation’s best asset abroad, but the president squandered it by inciting political violence.

Inside the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Quantum Lab // Brandi Vincent, Nextgov: Basic science, practical engineering — and an attempt to focus on the most productive lines of effort.

The Most Reliable Pandemic Number Keeps Getting Worse // The COVID Tracking Project, The Atlantic: America reported a record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the first week of 2021.

Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. 

The Pentagon: Don’t blame us for the weak Capitol security, the Defense Department’s spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told Task & Purpose. “We don’t do domestic [intelligence] collection,” Hoffman said. “We rely on Capitol Police and federal law enforcement to provide an assessment of the situation they foresaw and based on that assessment that they had, they believed they had sufficient personnel and did not make a request.”
Said Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy to reporters on Thursday: “It was the going-in position that it would be somewhat similar to Nov. 14th , Sept. 12th, [in terms of] the types of the groups that were there — but [we] had no wildest imagination that you could end up breaching the Capitol Grounds.”

  • Replied former NSA lawyer Susan Hennessey: “If it is beyond your ‘wildest imagination’ that a group of people who have been vocally pledging to breach the Capitol would actually *try* to breach the Capitol, then find a new line of work.”

Also: The Pentagon and the Justice Department offered help, but the Capitol Police turned it down, the Associated Press reported Thursday. “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 Dec. 31, but the Capitol Police turned down the Jan. 3 offer from the Defense Department, according to Kenneth Rapuano, assistant defense secretary for homeland security.”
Now some 6,200 National Guard troops are in or headed to the National Capitol Region, McCarthy said, where they will remain “no less than the next 30 days.” Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia are contributing troops, who “will be available to man static security positions around the city, including along a 7-foot-high non-scalable fence being constructed around the Capitol on Thursday,” Military Times reported. (Notes CNN’s Barbara Starr: “Post drawdown troops numbers in Iraq 2,500 and Afghanistan 2,500. 5k total. All are different circumstances of course.”)
Review the excruciating deliberations about optics (e.g., having uniformed troops in the Capitol building) between Pentagon officials and D.C. Mayor Bowser via this sadly informative play-by-play from the Washington Post.
Miller chimes in, at last. More than 24 hours after the insurrection began, the acting chief of the Pentagon at last put out a statement condemning the attacks. “Yesterday’s violence at the Capitol was reprehensible and contrary to the tenets of the United States Constitution,” Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller said.
Miller also promised a “peaceful transition of power to President-elect Biden on January 20.”

Four hours after Miller’s message, President Trump finally admitted he lost the election. “Now, Congress has certified the results,” Trump said in a video posted to social media. “A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”
Next for Trump? Bask in GOP praise and wait out the next 11 days, apparently. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned Thursday that impeachment is coming again if Vice President Mike Pence doesn’t invoke the 25th amendment and remove the president from office. But Pence is reportedly uninterested.
Trump could, however, later find himself in hot water. That’s because “The Justice Department said on Thursday that it would not rule out pursuing charges against President Trump for his possible role in inciting the mob,” the New York Times reported Thursday.
As for the mob rank-and-file: U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin said Thursday that 40 defendants had been charged in D.C. Superior Court, while 15 defendants would face federal charges. He said more arrests and charges will take place as participants are identified from photos and video, many posted by participants themselves on social media. Vox rounds up that effort, here.

The resignations begin: Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao became the first cabinet official to quit in the wake of the Wednesday insurrection. Education Secretary Betsy Devos became the second later Thursday. Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, also resigned Thursday, CNN reports. She was joined by Anthony Ruggiero, senior director for counterproliferation and biodefense at the National Security Council.
Trump’s deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger already resigned Wednesday afternoon. And Stephanie Grisham, chief of staff for first lady Melania Trump, as well as White House social secretary Anna Cristina Niceta both resigned Wednesday, too. Trump’s former chief of staff-turned-special U.S. envoy to Northern Ireland, Mick Mulvaney, resigned Wednesday as well. 

Acting DHSec Wolf’s possible new legal exposure. The White House formally withdrew Chad Wolf’s nomination to lead the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday. Now, due to an obscure provision, national security law professor Steve Vladeck tweeted in response, Acting DHSec Wolf is “definitely serving unlawfully because of this obscure (but squarely on point) provision of the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act.”

More than 4,000 U.S. deaths due to COVID were reported on Thursday, passing that milestone for the first time. NYT: “Over the past week, there has been an average of 237,645 cases per day, an increase of 15 percent from the average two weeks earlier.” Read on, here.
Public health officials worry that the Capitol riot was a super-spreader event. “Thousands of Trump supporters dismissive of the virus’s threat packed together with few face coverings — shouting, jostling and forcin
g their way indoors to halt certification of the election results, many converging from out of town at the president’s urging,” the Washington Post reported. Police rushed hundreds of members of Congress to crowded quarters where legislators say some of their colleagues refused to wear masks as well.” 

In tech news, SolarWinds has hired Chris Krebs. The network management firm at or near the heart of the largest hack in years has retained the services of a brand-new consultancy founded by the erstwhile head of the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, fired by Trump for calling out the president’s lies about the election. TechCrunch has a bit more, here.

And finally this week: The French military is considering drawing down from Africa, AP reported Thursday from Paris — and just days after “Defense Minister Florence Parly said France will ‘very likely’ reduce its 5,100 troops in the Sahel region, in an interview to Le Parisien newspaper earlier this week.”
Motivating this French review: “On Thursday afternoon, an elaborate ceremony was held on the Alexandre III bridge in central Paris to pay homage to two soldiers who were killed in Mali by an improvised explosive device that hit their armored vehicle on Saturday. Three other French soldiers died just five days earlier in similar circumstances.” More here.
Meantime, the U.S. military is still carrying out airstrikes in Somalia, with another engagement there today that’s believed to have killed five fighters from al-Shabaab. “This strike targeted known al-Shabaab leaders who facilitated finance, weapons, fighters, and explosives,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson, Joint Task Force – Quartz commander. “One is suspected of being involved in a previous attack against U.S. and Somali forces,” he added. More from AFRICOM, here.

Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!