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Federal watchdogs open probe of response to Capitol riot

Security surrounds the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. (AP photo)

WASHINGTON — Federal watchdogs launched a sweeping review of how the FBI, the Pentagon and other law enforcement agencies responded to the riot at the U.S. Capitol, including whether there were failures in information sharing and other preparations that left the historic symbol of democracy vulnerable to assault by a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters.

The inquiries, undertaken by the inspectors general for the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Interior and Defense, carry the potential of yielding searing criticism of the government’s handling of a deadly breach at the Capitol in which armed loyalists of Trump overran the police and came in close contact with elected officials. The reviews will encompass everything from whether the FBI adequately shared information with other law enforcement agencies about the potential for violence to how the Pentagon mobilized for the Jan. 6 crisis.

The initiation of multiple, simultaneous inquiries comes as failings in the government’s preparation, coordination and response are coming into sharper focus more than a week after the riot. The Capitol Police, for instance, has said it had prepared for only First Amendment activity at the Capitol on the day that lawmakers had assembled to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory over Trump, even though Trump himself had for weeks encouraged his supporters to come to Washington and had called on them to “fight like hell” at a rally shortly before the riot.

The Pentagon has said the Capitol Police turned down an offer for help days before the riot. Once it became clear on the day of the event that its help would be needed, the Defense Department had to scramble to bring in a larger force to back up the police.

An FBI official who initially said there was no intelligence suggesting out-of-control violence later acknowledged that the bureau was aware of a warning on an internet message board, though the official said the message was not attributable to an individual person.

At the Justice Department, the inspector general investigation will examine whether information was adequately shared by Justice to other agencies, including the Capitol Police, about the potential for violence.

The inspector general said it “also will assess whether there are any weaknesses in DOJ protocols, policies, or procedures that adversely affected the ability of DOJ or its components to prepare effectively for and respond to the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.”

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