The public is gradually learning how, despite repeated denials and non-answers, top government officials were well aware of the potential for violence on January 6, 2021.
A chief investigator on the January 6 select committee told NBC News last week that law enforcement was privy to a trove of intelligence indicating problems could arise during the election certification process but, for some unexplained reason, chose to ignore the warning signs. “The Intel in advance was pretty specific, and it was enough in our view for law enforcement to have done a better job operationalizing a secure perimeter.” Tim Heaphy told NBC News reporter Ken Dilanian. “Law enforcement had a very direct role in contributing to surely the failures—the security failures that led to the violence.”
Criticism of law enforcement, as I noted here after the release of the committee’s report, was buried in a relatively brief appendix in the 840-page document. Staffers complained for months that former Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) insisted the final work product singularly blame Donald Trump, not government agencies, for the events of January 6.
Cheney got her way. But now that the committee is dissolved, some are going public to reveal what the committee failed to report—and the omissions are far more consequential than private conversations between Ivanka Trump and her father, another odd fixation of Cheney’s. (Perhaps a bit of projection from Dick Cheney’s daughter?)
The New York Times disclosed last week that the FBI conducted a tabletop exercise of sorts to “game out the worst potential outcomes of a disputed election.” The so-called “red cell” analysis took place on October 27, 2020, and envisioned four post-election outcomes related to a “lone offender” attack. The bureau did not, however, consider the possibility of a mass uprising or coordinated assault by alleged “militia” groups on January 6, the Times reported.
Although Times reporters Alan Feuer and Adam Goldman accessed the draft document detailing the FBI exercise along with criticism of the bureau’s preparation for January 6, that seemingly crucial material is not part of the committee’s report. It’s unclear whether those findings will ever see the light of day; more likely, the document is part of a massive collection of evidence produced by the committee now housed at the National Archives.
Not only did the FBI escape scrutiny in the committee’s final product, the bureau apparently wasn’t a very cooperative witness.
“Congressional investigators who examined the F.B.I.’s response never received from the bureau many key documents they requested,” Feuer and Goldman wrote. “The bureau provided about 2,000 documents in total; the Secret Service, by comparison, offered more than a million electronic communications.”
To put this into context, former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows turned over 6,800 pages of emails and 2,300 text messages to the committee.
Further, committee investigators interviewed just two FBI officials, one of whom retired in February 2021. Top brass was left untouched; FBI Director Christopher Wray isn’t mentioned once in the report. Neither is Steven D’Antuono, former head of the Washington FBI office responsible for collecting intelligence before January 6 and handling the criminal investigation afterward. Several witnesses told the committee that everything flowed through D’Antuono—alerts from other FBI field offices, travel plans of suspected bad actors, threatening social media posts—but D’Antuono didn’t speak to congressional investigators. Why not?
And the cover-up of the FBI’s role in the events of January 6 extends beyond the halls of Congress to the federal courthouse just a few blocks away. Desperate to conceal information about the use of FBI informants months before and during the Capitol protest, prosecutors filed another motion under seal last week asking the judge in the Proud Boys seditious conspiracy trial—a case that “involves multiple informants who have made exculpatory statements,” according to one defense attorney—to censor what defense counsel can ask government witnesses about those informants.
“The government asks this Court to require defense counsel to pre-clear any questions regarding FBI CHSs (or other government informants) that counsel intends to ask of any government witness on direct or cross-examination so that the Court may impose appropriate limitations on such questioning,” the Justice Department wrote, presumably with a straight face.
But perhaps the most brazen coverup of government materials pertaining to January 6 is from none other than General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Milley’s prostrating politicking to remain in the good graces of anti-Trump forces not only compromises national security but sullies the uniform of the United States military.
Milley made a number of alarming disclosures to the committee during his November 2021 interview, not the least of which an off-the-record press conference he held the night before Election Day.
“There was general unease and atmospherics that were being reported back to me and us about unrest, potential for violence,” Milley said in between repeated assurances the military does not surveil American citizens, cannot take a lead role in domestic law enforcement, and does not get involved in politics. “So my public affairs guy decided it would be a good idea to go ahead and do a backgrounder with a variety of news anchors to, you know, transmit a message of stability with the United States military. Again, this goes back to the military being involved in domestic politics. We have no part in that. Zero.”
Milley also confirmed what every top administration official also told the committee: high-level discussions about January 6 took place weeks in advance. “So there was a series of meetings prior to the 6th—interagency meetings, with Acting Defense Secretary [Christopher] Miller, [National Security Advisor Robert] O’Brien, you’ve got Acting Attorney General [Jeffrey] Rosen at that point. There’s a whole bunch. And I’m involved in those meetings as well.”
One is inclined to wonder why the nation’s top military commander is engaged in discussions that pertain to a domestic political event and involve considerations about domestic security protections, especially since he made it clear over and over how that sort of conduct is verboten.
The public might never know. Milley classified everything related to his involvement in those matters. “Immediately following the 6th, I knew the significance, and I asked my staff, freeze all your records, collate them, get them collected up.”
Milley continued. “And we actually classified it at a pretty high level, and we put it on [Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System], the top secret stuff. It’s not that the substance is classified. It was, I wanted to make sure that this stuff was only going to go to people who appropriately needed to see it, like yourselves.”
So, Milley instructed his staff to aggregate material he knew was not classified in “substance” but nonetheless categorized the files as top secret government records to be subsequently archived on a secure site that catalogs sensitive military intelligence?
And he did so to save the files for a congressional committee that had not yet been formed?
Aside from Milley abusing his classification authority to protect himself, concealing what the military did or what it knew creates a serious legal obstacle for January 6 defendants. “Criminal defendants have a right to know about government records that would help them to defend themselves,” Stewart Baker, a former national security official, wrote last month in Lawfare. “By the time of [Milley’s] testimony, many Jan. 6 defendants had already been charged. Many had already pleaded guilty. [Did] Milley’s overclassification of these records deprive the defendants of access to this information?”
Of course it did. And the overclassification ensures the public won’t get a full view into the government’s behind-the-scenes machinations leading up to January 6—an event Milley refers to as an “insurrection.”
What the American people don’t know about January 6 arguably outweighs what we do know. All the evidence that would tell the full story of that day—surveillance video, FBI files, communications between top officials and agencies, including the military—remains hidden for any number of excuses.
The ongoing question, which grows louder the longer it remains unanswered, is what are they trying to hide?