C. The Attack on the Capitol
On January 6, at 1:00 PM, as the President’s rally was drawing to a close, the House and the Senate met in a Joint Session of Congress, with the Vice President presiding, to count the Electoral College’s votes for who “shall be the President” as required by the Twelfth Amendment and the Electoral Count Act. By around 2:00 PM, the supporters attending the rally had surged toward the Capitol and were attempting to breach its security barriers, requiring the Capitol Police to issue a number of security orders including one at 2:03 PM ordering an internal relocation of those in the Cannon House Office Building.
At 2:02 PM, less than an hour after the President concluded his speech, reports confirmed that his supporters were attempting to breach the Capitol itself. Within minutes, Members of the House and Senate were told that the Capitol was in lockdown and were alerted to stay away from doors and windows. By 2:07 PM, the mob had breached the steps on the east side of the Capitol and, minutes later, were inside the Capitol itself. From that time, the insurrectionists desecrated the Capitol including by, among other acts, ransacking and looting Member offices, stealing and destroying electronics, government property, and sensitive materials, and engaging in violence, which eventually resulted in at least five deaths. The following is a summary of these acts as recounted in criminal complaints, eyewitness experiences, and firsthand photographs and videos of the events.
To enter the Capitol, the insurrectionists overwhelmed Capitol Police, scaled walls, used makeshift ladders, shattered windows, and overran barricades. Although Capitol Police locked the gallery and floor doors and Members and staff barricaded themselves in offices, the mob stormed Member offices, vandalizing and smashing property, overturning furniture, and, in some cases, stealing electronics. The day after the attack, the Justice Department noted that the thefts “could have potential national security equities.” The full impact of hundreds of violent rioters with smartphones rampaging unsupervised in the Capitol, with direct access to electronics, computers, and networks, is not yet known.
Insurrectionists also severely damaged the building itself. They left bullet marks in the building walls, looted art, destroyed monuments, including a commemorative display honoring late congressman John Lewis, smeared their feces in several hallways, and fatally injured a Capitol Police officer. Several brandished the Confederate battle flag and extremist paraphernalia. By approximately 2:45 PM, insurrectionists had breached the House and Senate floors and began posing for photographs, including on the dais where Vice President Mike Pence had been presiding just moments before. Other images showed rioters smoking marijuana in Capitol rooms. The insurrectionists had, among their gear and weaponry, bullet-proof vests, zip ties used for handcuffs, metal knuckles, sticks and poles, knives, and firearms; in total, at least six handguns were recovered from subsequent arrests. Videos confirmed that these insurrectionists were openly threatening specific Members of Congress. For example, some of the attackers said, “Tell Pelosi we’re coming for that [expletive].”
Members of this mob also made clear that they attacked the Capitol because they believed the President had directed them to. One individual, Jacob Chansley, who wore a “bearskin headdress” and “carried a spear, approximately 6 feet in length,” later told police that he came as part of a group effort at the request of the President. Another, Derrick Evans, had posted on social media at 12:08 AM on January 6th that he was going to D.C. to “#StopTheSteal,” in response to the President’s tweet. Similarly, a livestream video from inside the Capitol revealed an insurrectionist explaining, “[o]ur president wants us here.”
We wait and take orders from our president.
Outside, the mob erected a gallows, disabled police vehicles, and left threatening messages to Members. Police discovered in a nearby pickup truck — which was later found to belong to one of the President’s supporters traveling from Alabama — eleven “mason jars containing an unknown liquid,” “cloth rags,” and “lighters,” which appeared to be “consistent with components for an explosive or incendiary device known as a ‘Molotov Cocktail.’” The truck additionally contained a black handgun and an M4 carabine assault rifle with loaded ammunition magazines. The Capitol Police Hazardous Materials Response Team also confirmed two devices that were “hazardous and could cause great harm to public safety” near the Capitol, and further reports confirmed a “hooded figure with a pipe bomb.”
Over 50 police officers were injured while defending the Capitol. In one instance, President Trump’s supporters grabbed a police officer by the helmet and dragged him down the stairs. Others “kicked and punched the officer, and one man even bashed the prone figure repeatedly with a pole flying an American flag.” One officer, Brian Sicknick, died the following day from injuries suffered during the attack. As of January 10th, at least 90 had been arrested, with more arrests expected.
President Trump’s Response to the Insurrection
Although the insurrection began immediately following the conclusion of his speech, President Trump did not swiftly denounce the violence, or order his supporters to lay down their arms. To the contrary, as he watched the violence unfold on television, President Trump was reportedly “borderline enthusiastic because it meant the certification was being derailed.” President Trump’s reaction “genuinely freaked people out.” Senator Ben Sasse relayed a conversation with senior White House officials that President Trump was “walking around the White House confused about why other people on his team weren’t as excited as he was as you had rioters pushing against Capitol Police trying to get into the building.” He was “delighted.”