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Global right-wing extremism networks are growing -- America Is just now catching up

During the past two years, U.S. counterterrorism officials held meetings with their European counterparts to discuss an emerging threat: right-wing terror groups becoming increasingly global in their reach.


American neo-Nazis were traveling to train and fight with militias in the Ukraine. There were suspected links between U.S. extremists and the Russian Imperial Movement, a white supremacist group that was training foreigners in its St. Petersburg compounds. A gunman accused of killing 23 people at an El Paso Walmart in 2019 had denounced a “Hispanic invasion" and praised a white supremacist who killed 51 people at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and who had been inspired by violent American and Italian racists.

But the efforts to improve transatlantic cooperation against the threat ran into a recurring obstacle. During talks and communications, senior Trump administration officials steadfastly refused to use the term “right-wing terrorism," causing disputes and confusion with the Europeans, who routinely use the phrase, current and former European and U.S. officials told ProPublica. Instead, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security referred to “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism," while the State Department chose “racially or ethnically motivated terrorism."

“We did have problems with the Europeans," one national security official said. “They call it right-wing terrorism and they were angry that we didn't. There was a real aversion to using that term on the U.S. side. The aversion came from political appointees in the Trump administration. We very quickly realized that if people talked about right-wing terrorism, it was a nonstarter with them."

The U.S. response to the globalization of the far-right threat has been slow, scattered and politicized, U.S. and European counterterrorism veterans and experts say. Whistleblowers and other critics have accused DHS leaders of downplaying the threat of white supremacy and slashing a unit dedicated to fighting domestic extremism. DHS has denied those accusations.

In 2019, a top FBI official told Congress the agency devoted only about 20% of its counterterrorism resources to the domestic threat. Nonetheless, some FBI field offices focus primarily on domestic terrorism.

Former counterterrorism officials said the president's politics made their job harder. The disagreement over what to call the extremists was part of a larger concern about whether the administration was committed to fighting the threat.

“The rhetoric at the White House, anybody watching the rhetoric of the president, this was discouraging people in government from speaking out," said Jason Blazakis, who ran a State Department counterterrorism unit from 2008 to 2018. “The president and his minions were focused on other threats."

Other former officials disagreed. Federal agencies avoided the term “right-wing terrorism" because they didn't want to give extremists legitimacy by placing them on the political spectrum, or to fuel the United States' intense polarization, said Christopher K. Harnisch, the former deputy coordinator for countering violent extremism in the State Department's counterterrorism bureau. Some causes espoused by white supremacists, such as using violence to protect the environment, are not regarded as traditionally right-wing ideology, said Harnisch, who stepped down this week.

“The most important point is that the Europeans and the U.S. were talking about the same people," he said. “It hasn't hindered our cooperation at all."

As for the wider criticism of the Trump administration, Harnisch said: “In our work at the State Department, we never faced one scintilla of opposition from the White House about taking on white supremacy. I can tell you that the White House was entirely supportive."

The State Department focused mostly on foreign extremist movements, but it examined some of their links to U.S. groups as well.

There was clearly progress on some fronts. The State Department took a historic step in April by designating the Russian Imperial Movement and three of its leaders as terrorists, saying that the group's trainees included Swedish extremists who carried out bombing attacks on refugees. It was the first such U.S. designation of a far-right terrorist group.

With Trump now out of office, Europeans and Americans expect improved cooperation against right-wing terrorists. Like the Islamist threat, it is becoming clear that the far-right threat is international. In December, a French computer programmer committed suicide after giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to U.S. extremist causes. The recipients included a neo-Nazi news website. Federal agencies are investigating, but it is not yet clear whether anything about the transaction was illegal, officials said.

“It's like a transatlantic thing now," said a European counterterror chief, describing American conspiracy theories that surface in the chatter he tracks. “Europe is taking ideology from U.S. groups and vice versa."

The Crackdown

International alliances make extremist groups more dangerous, but also create vulnerabilities that law enforcement could exploit.

Laws in Europe and Canada allow authorities to outlaw domestic extremist groups and conduct aggressive surveillance of suspected members. America's civil liberties laws, which trace to the Constitution's guarantee of free speech spelled out in the First Amendment, are far less expansive. The FBI and other agencies have considerably more authority to investigate U.S. individuals and groups if they develop ties with foreign terror organizations. So far, those legal tools have gone largely unused in relation to right-wing extremism, experts say.

To catch up to the fast-spreading threat at home and abroad, Blazakis said, the U.S. should designate more foreign organizations as terrorist entities, especially ones that allied nations have already outlawed.

A recent case reflects the kind of strategy Blazakis and others have in mind. During the riots in May after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, FBI agents got a tip that two members of the anti-government movement known as the Boogaloo Bois had armed themselves, according to court papers. The suspects were talking about killing police officers and attacking a National Guard armory to steal heavy weapons, the court papers allege. The FBI deployed an undercover informant who posed as a member of Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group, and offered to help the suspects obtain explosives and training. After the suspects started talking about a plot to attack a courthouse, agents arrested them, according to the court papers. In September, prosecutors filed charges of conspiring and attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, which can bring a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. One of the defendants pleaded guilty last month. The other still faces charges.

If the U.S. intelligence community starts using its vast resources to gather information on right-wing movements in other countries, it will find more linkages to groups in the United States, Blazakis and other experts predicted. Rather than resorting to a sting, authorities could charge American extremists for engaging in propaganda activity, financing, training or participating in other actions with foreign counterparts.

A crackdown would bring risks, however. After the assault on the Capitol, calls for bringing tougher laws and tactics to bear against suspected domestic extremists revived fears about civil liberties similar to those raised by Muslim and human rights organizations during the Bush administration's “war on terror." An excessive response could give the impression that authorities are criminalizing political views, which could worsen radicalization among right-wing groups and individuals for whom suspicion of government is a core tenet.

“You will hit a brick wall of privacy and civil liberties concerns very quickly," said Seamus Hughes, a former counterterrorism official who is now deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. He said the federal response should avoid feeding into “the already existing grievance of government overreach. The goal should be marginalization."

In recent years, civil liberties groups have warned against responding to the rise in domestic extremism with harsh new laws.

“Some lawmakers are rushing to give law enforcement agencies harmful additional powers and creating new crimes," wrote Hina Shamsi, the director of the ACLU's national security project, in a statement by the organization about congressional hearings on the issue in 2019. “That approach ignores the way power, racism, and national security laws work in America. It will harm the communities of color that white supremacist violence targets — and undermine the constitutional rights that protect all of us."

The Pivot Problem

There is also an understandable structural problem. Since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, intelligence and law enforcement agencies have dedicated themselves to the relentless pursuit of al-Qaida, the Islamic State, Iran and other Islamist foes.

Now the counterterrorism apparatus has to shift its aim to a new menace, one that is more opaque and diffuse than Islamist networks, experts said.

It will be like turning around an aircraft carrier, said Blazakis, the former State Department counterterrorism official, who is now a professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

“The U.S. government is super slow to pivot to new threats," Blazakis said. “There is a reluctance to shift resources to new targets. And there was a politicization of intelligence during the Trump administration. There was a fear to speak out."

Despite periodic resistance and generalized disorder in the Trump administration, some agencies advanced on their own, officials said. European counterterror officials say the FBI has become increasingly active in sharing and requesting intelligence about right-wing extremists overseas.

A European counterterror chief described recent conversations with U.S. agents about Americans attending neo-Nazi rallies and concerts in Europe and traveling to join the Azov Battalion, an ultranationalist Ukrainian militia fighting Russian-backed separatists. About 17,000 fighters from 50 countries, including at least 35 Americans, have traveled to the Ukrainian conflict zone, where they join units on both sides, according to one study. The fighting in the Donbass region offers them training, combat experience, international contacts and a sense of themselves as warriors, a theater reminiscent of Syria or Afghanistan for jihadis.

“The far right was not a priority for a long time," the European counterterror chief said. “Now they are saying it's a real threat for all our societies. Now they are seeing we have to handle it like Islamic terrorism. Now that we are sharing and we have a bigger picture, we see it's really international, not domestic."

Galvanized

The assault on Congress signaled the start of a new era, experts said. The convergence of a mix of extremist groups and activists solidified the idea that the far-right threat has overtaken the Islamist threat in the United States, and that the government has to change policies and shift resources accordingly. Experts predict that the Biden administration will make global right-wing extremism a top counterterrorism priority.

“This is on the rise and has gotten from nowhere on the radar to very intense in a couple of years," a U.S. national security official said. “It is hard to see how it doesn't continue. It will be a lot easier for U.S. officials to get concerned where there is a strong U.S. angle."

A previous spike in domestic terrorism took place in the 1990s, an era of violent clashes between U.S. law enforcement agencies and extremists. In 1992, an FBI sniper gunned down the wife of a white supremacist during an armed standoff in Ruby Ridge, Idaho. The next year, four federal agents died in a raid on heavily armed members of a cult in Waco, Texas; the ensuing standoff at the compound ended in a fire that killed 76 people.Both sieges played a role in the radicalization of the anti-government terrorists who blew up the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, killing 168 people, including children in a day care center for federal employees. Oklahoma City remains the deadliest terrorist act on U.S. soil aside from the Sept. 11 attacks.

The rise of al-Qaida in 2001 transformed the counterterrorism landscape, spawning new laws and government agencies and a worldwide campaign by intelligence agencies, law enforcement and the military. Despite subsequent plots and occasionally successful attacks involving one or two militants, stronger U.S. defenses and limited radicalization among American Muslims prevented Islamist networks from hitting the United States with the kind of well-trained, remotely directed teams that carried out mass casualty strikes in London in 2005, Mumbai in 2008 and Paris in 2015.

During the past decade, domestic terrorism surged in the United States. Some of the activity was on the political left, such as the gunman who opened fire at a baseball field in Virginia in 2017. The attack critically wounded Rep. Steve Scalise, a Republican legislator from Louisiana who was the House Majority whip, as well as a Capitol Police officer guarding him and four others.

But many indicators show that far-right extremism is deadlier. Right-wing attacks and plots accounted for the majority of all terrorist incidents in the country between 1994 and 2020, according to a study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The Anti-Defamation League reported in 2018 that right-wing terrorists were responsible for more than three times as many deaths as Islamists during the previous decade.

“There have been more arrests and deaths in the United States caused by domestic terrorists than international terrorists in recent years," said Michael McGarrity, then the counterterrorism chief of the FBI, in congressional testimony in 2019. “Individuals affiliated with racially-motivated violent extremism are responsible for the most lethal and violent activity."

During the same testimony, McGarrity said the FBI dedicated only about 20% of its counterterrorism resources to the domestic threat. The imbalance, experts say, was partly a lingering result of the global offensive by the Islamic State, whose power peaked in the middle of the decade. Another reason: Laws and rules instituted in the 1970s after FBI spying scandals make it much harder to monitor, investigate and prosecute Americans suspected of domestic extremism.

The Trump Administration and the Europeans

Critics say the Trump administration was reluctant to take on right-wing extremism. The former president set the tone with his public statements about the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, they say, and with his call last year telling the far-right Proud Boys group to “stand back and stand by."

Still, various agencies increased their focus on the issue because of a drumbeat of attacks at home — notably the murders of 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018 — and overseas. The Christchurch massacre of worshippers at mosques in New Zealand in March 2019 caught the attention of American officials. It was a portrait of the globalization of right-wing terrorism.

Brenton Tarrant, the 29-year-old Australian who livestreamed his attack, had traveled extensively in Europe, visiting sites he saw as part of a struggle between Christianity and Islam. In his manifesto, he cited the writings of a French ideologue and of Dylann Roof, an American who killed nine people at a predominantly Black church in South Carolina in 2015. While driving to the mosques, Tarrant played an ode to Serbian nationalist fighters of the Balkan wars on his car radio. And he carried an assault rifle on which he had scrawled the name of an Italian gunman who had shot African immigrants in a rampage the year before.

Christchurch was “part of a wave of violent incidents worldwide, the perpetrators of which were part of similar transnational online communities and took inspiration from one another," said a report last year by Europol, an agency that coordinates law enforcement across Europe. The report described English as “the lingua franca of a transnational right-wing extremist community."

With its long tradition of political terrorism on both extremes, Europe has also suffered a spike in right-wing violence. Much of it is a backlash to immigration in general and Muslim communities in particular. Responding to assassinations of politicians and other attacks, Germany and the United Kingdom have outlawed several organizations.

Closer to home, Canada has banned two neo-Nazi groups, Blood and Honour and Combat 18, making it possible to charge people for even possessing their paraphernalia or attending their events. Concerts and sales of video games, T-shirts and other items have become a prime source of international financing for right-wing movements, the European counterterror chief said.

During the past two years, officials at the FBI, DHS, State Department and other agencies tried to capitalize on the deeper expertise of European governments and improve transatlantic cooperation against right-wing extremism. Legal and cultural differences complicated the process, American and European officials said. A lack of order and cohesion in the U.S. national security community was another factor, they said.

“There was so little organization to the U.S. counterterrorism community that everybody decided for themselves what they would do," a U.S. national security official said. “It was not the type of centrally controlled effort that would happen in other administrations."

As a result, the U.S. government has sometimes been slow to respond to European requests for legal assistance and information-sharing about far-right extremism, said Eric Rosand, who served as a State Department counterterrorism official during the Obama administration.

“U.S.-European cooperation on addressing white supremacist and other far-right terrorism has been ad hoc and hobbled by a disjointed and inconsistent U.S. government approach," Rosand said.

The semantic differences about what to call the threat didn't help, according to Rosand and other critics. They say the Trump administration was averse to using the phrase “right-wing terrorism" because some groups on that part of the ideological spectrum supported the president.

“It highlights the disconnect," Rosand said. “They were saying they didn't want to suggest the terrorism is linked to politics. They didn't want to politicize it. But if you don't call it what it is because of concerns of how it might play with certain political consistencies, that politicizes it."

Harnisch, the former deputy coordinator at the State Department counterterrorism bureau, rejected the criticism. He said cooperation with Europeans on the issue was “relatively nascent," but that there had been concrete achievements.

“I think we laid a strong foundation, and I think the Biden administration will build on it," Harnisch said. “From my perspective, we made significant progress on this threat within the Trump administration."

'Sense of entitlement': Rioters faced few consequences invading state capitols -- no wonder they turned to the US Capitol next

The gallery in the Idaho House was restricted to limited seating on the first day of a special session in late August. Lawmakers wanted space to socially distance as they considered issues related to the pandemic and the November election.


But maskless protesters shoved their way past Idaho State Police troopers and security guards, broke through a glass door and demanded entry. They were confronted by House Speaker Scott Bedke, a Republican. He decided to let them in and fill the gallery.

“You guys are going to police yourselves up there, and you're going to act like good citizens,"he told the invaders, according to a YouTube video of the incident.

“I just thought that, on balance, it would be better to let them go in and defuse it ... rather than risk anyone getting hurt or risk tearing up anything else," Bedke said of the protesters in an interview last week. He said he talked to cooler heads in the crowd “who saw that it was a situation that had gotten out of control, and I think on some level they were very apologetic."

That late-summer showdown inside the Statehouse in Boise on Aug. 24 showed supporters of President Donald Trump how they could storm into a seat of government to intimidate lawmakers with few if any repercussions. The state police would say later that they could not have arrested people without escalating the potential for violence and that they were investigating whether crimes were committed. No charges have been filed. The next day, anti-government activist Ammon Bundy and two others were arrested when they refused to leave an auditorium in the Statehouse and another man was arrested when he refused to leave a press area.

In a year in which state governments around the country have become flashpoints for conservative anger about the coronavirus lockdown and Trump's electoral defeat, it was right-wing activists — some of them armed, nearly all of them white — who forced their way into state capitols in Idaho, Michigan and Oregon. Each instance was an opportunity for local and national law enforcement officials to school themselves in ways to prevent angry mobs from threatening the nation's lawmakers.

But it was Trump supporters who did the learning. That it was possible — even easy — to breach the seats of government to intimidate lawmakers. That police would not meet them with the same level of force they deployed against Black Lives Matter protesters. That they could find sympathizers on the inside who might help them.

And they learned that criminal charges, as well as efforts to make the buildings more secure, were unlikely to follow their incursions. In the three cases, police made only a handful of arrests.

The failure to stop state capitol invasions is especially chilling after the attack on the U.S. Capitol last week, which left five dead, including a police officer, as lawmakers met to certify the election of President-elect Joe Biden.

Experts and elected officials said the lack of action by lawmakers and police created an environment that encouraged political violence. The FBI has warned of armed protests occurring in all 50 state capitols in the run-up to the inauguration on Wednesday. Authorities in both Washington and state capitols have dramatically strengthened security.

“Eventually, you get to the point of entitlement where you can get away with anything and there will never be any accountability," the Idaho House minority leader, Ilana Rubel, a Democrat, said. “I don't know that (Bedke) was wrong under the circumstances, but it adds up to creating a sense of entitlement."

Bedke said he saw no correlation between the events in Boise and Washington. But domestic terror experts said in interviews that the statehouse invasions likely created a sense of impunity among right-wing activists. The feeling grew throughout the year as Trump praised gun-carrying activists at state capitols as “very good people" and emboldened the insurrectionists in Washington.

Amy Cooter, a Vanderbilt University sociologist and expert in the militia movement, said the U.S. Capitol attack may have been less likely to occur if the violence in state capitols had been met with harsher punishment.

What's more, she said that authorities who failed to take action against protesters earlier may find it difficult to do so now.

While many Trump supporters already see their First Amendment rights as being under attack, they may see efforts to block them from state capitols as an attack on their Second Amendment rights, she said, further legitimizing their need to stand up to what they perceive as tyranny.

When officials acquiesce to demands, “it typically makes these folks feel like those are 'constitutional' officials who support their general aims, which can then embolden them against officials they believe to be the opposite, that is, officials they believe to be betraying their oaths to the people," Cooter said.

If extremist groups “believe they have been given allowances in the past and are not moving forward, this can further reinforce that notion of officials who are derelict in their duty, officials who should be removed and, depending on what group we're talking about, possibly officials who should be confronted with force."

Days after Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN," protesters taking part in an “American Patriot Rally" outside the Michigan Capitol in Lansing on April 30 swarmed into the building demanding an end to the stay-at-home order put in place by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group, which numbered in the hundreds, included several heavily armed men. Few wore face coverings or observed social distancing. A line of state police troopers and other Capitol employees held the mob back from entering the House floor.

“We had hundreds of individuals storm our Capitol building," state Rep. Sarah Anthony said in an interview. “No, lives were not lost, blood was not shed, property was not damaged, but I think they saw how easy it was to get into our building and they could get away with that type of behavior and there would be little to no consequences."

Some armed invaders entered the Senate gallery. While none of the protesters faced charges, two of the men seen in a photo posted by state Sen. Dayna Polehanki looking down on lawmakers would be among the 14 people charged months later in a plot to kidnap Whitmer and bomb the state Capitol.

“It made national and international news, what happened in our Capitol," Polehanki said in an interview. “People saw that, and it's no coincidence that the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 had the same feel."

Polehanki, a Democrat from Livonia, asked the state's Republican-majority Senate to support a resolution banning firearms in the Capitol. But it wasn't until Jan. 11, five days after the U.S. Capitol insurrection, that theMichigan Capitol Commission voted to ban the open carry of guns inside the building. Open carry is still allowed outside the building, and people who have concealed pistol licenses can still carry concealed weapons inside.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel tweeted that visitors should stay away from the state Capitol because it is “not safe." Some legislators have begun wearing bulletproof vests.

The memories of the April 30 invasion still haunt Anthony, a Democrat from Lansing. “The level of anxiety and fear that was intended to be imposed upon those of us in the building will probably stay with me for the rest of my life."

As the legislators convened to vote, Anthony said she sat next to state Rep. Brenda Carter, D-Pontiac, another Black woman who was afraid of being targeted by the invaders. “We look like Democrats, so I think when you have individuals who are not only carrying large firearms but also carrying Confederate flags and nooses and swastikas, those have specific messages targeted to Black and brown communities."

Days later, she arrived at the Capitol building with an escort from five armed constituents.

An angry mob didn't need to break down a door to enter the Oregon Statehouse in Salem to disrupt a one-day special session on Dec. 21. A surveillance video released two days after the U.S. Capitol insurrection revealed that Republican state Rep. Mike Nearman, of Independence, opened a locked side door to let in some violent protesters.

The building, normally open to the public, had been closed since mid-March because of health concerns. But several dozen demonstrators gathered outside in a “flash mob" organized by the far-right group Patriot Prayer, which has been tied to protests in Portland. Dozens of rioters streamed into the building and attacked police officers.

One of the Patriot Prayer supporters who carried an AR-15 rifle into the Statehouse was charged with pepper-spraying six police officers. Five other protesters were also taken into custody.

Nearman would later issue a statement defending his action by noting the state Constitution mandates open public legislative proceedings. He was removed from legislative committees and billed for damages caused by the rioters. House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, called on him to resign. Nearman and Kotek did not respond to requests for comment.

Nearman's conduct had parallels to concerns among some in Congress that perpetrators of the U.S. Capitol attack had help from police or even lawmakers. Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., said she witnessed lawmakers giving “reconnaissance" tours the day before the Capitol attack.

“They couldn't have done what they are doing without some notion of impunity around it," saidLawrence Rosenthal, chair and lead researcher of the Center for Right-Wing Studies at the University of California-Berkeley. He said militants cling to a fantasy that if a civil war were to break out, what some extremists call a boogaloo, police and the military would join their side. Those notions may have been corroborated at the state capitols, Rosenthal said. “The type of wink-wink quality that these guys experienced."

At least three men involved in the effort to invade the Oregon Statehouse appeared to have joined the insurrection at the U.S Capitol, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

One of them, Tim Davis, 59, of Springfield, Oregon, told ProPublica he “couldn't comment" about whether the riot in Salem inspired him to travel to the nation's capital. He insisted he did not join those who entered the U.S. Capitol building or break any laws.

“The president asked people to come, and I felt it was my constitutional duty to go," he said.

Armed far-right mobs grew emboldened after facing little resistance when they invaded state capitols

The gallery in the Idaho House was restricted to limited seating on the first day of a special session in late August. Lawmakers wanted space to socially distance as they considered issues related to the pandemic and the November election.

But maskless protesters shoved their way past Idaho State Police troopers and security guards, broke through a glass door and demanded entry. They were confronted by House Speaker Scott Bedke, a Republican. He decided to let them in and fill the gallery.

“You guys are going to police yourselves up there, and you're going to act like good citizens,"he told the invaders, according to a YouTube video of the incident.

“I just thought that, on balance, it would be better to let them go in and defuse it ... rather than risk anyone getting hurt or risk tearing up anything else," Bedke said of the protesters in an interview last week. He said he talked to cooler heads in the crowd “who saw that it was a situation that had gotten out of control, and I think on some level they were very apologetic."

That late-summer showdown inside the Statehouse in Boise on Aug. 24 showed supporters of President Donald Trump how they could storm into a seat of government to intimidate lawmakers with few if any repercussions. The state police would say later that they could not have arrested people without escalating the potential for violence and that they were investigating whether crimes were committed. No charges have been filed. The next day, anti-government activist Ammon Bundy and two others were arrested when they refused to leave an auditorium in the Statehouse and another man was arrested when he refused to leave a press area.

In a year in which state governments around the country have become flashpoints for conservative anger about the coronavirus lockdown and Trump's electoral defeat, it was right-wing activists — some of them armed, nearly all of them white — who forced their way into state capitols in Idaho, Michigan and Oregon. Each instance was an opportunity for local and national law enforcement officials to school themselves in ways to prevent angry mobs from threatening the nation's lawmakers.

But it was Trump supporters who did the learning. That it was possible — even easy — to breach the seats of government to intimidate lawmakers. That police would not meet them with the same level of force they deployed against Black Lives Matter protesters. That they could find sympathizers on the inside who might help them.

And they learned that criminal charges, as well as efforts to make the buildings more secure, were unlikely to follow their incursions. In the three cases, police made only a handful of arrests.

The failure to stop state capitol invasions is especially chilling after the attack on the U.S. Capitol last week, which left five dead, including a police officer, as lawmakers met to certify the election of President-elect Joe Biden.

Experts and elected officials said the lack of action by lawmakers and police created an environment that encouraged political violence. The FBI has warned of armed protests occurring in all 50 state capitols in the run-up to the inauguration on Wednesday. Authorities in both Washington and state capitols have dramatically strengthened security.

“Eventually, you get to the point of entitlement where you can get away with anything and there will never be any accountability," the Idaho House minority leader, Ilana Rubel, a Democrat, said. “I don't know that (Bedke) was wrong under the circumstances, but it adds up to creating a sense of entitlement."

Bedke said he saw no correlation between the events in Boise and Washington. But domestic terror experts said in interviews that the statehouse invasions likely created a sense of impunity among right-wing activists. The feeling grew throughout the year as Trump praised gun-carrying activists at state capitols as “very good people" and emboldened the insurrectionists in Washington.

Amy Cooter, a Vanderbilt University sociologist and expert in the militia movement, said the U.S. Capitol attack may have been less likely to occur if the violence in state capitols had been met with harsher punishment.

What's more, she said that authorities who failed to take action against protesters earlier may find it difficult to do so now.

While many Trump supporters already see their First Amendment rights as being under attack, they may see efforts to block them from state capitols as an attack on their Second Amendment rights, she said, further legitimizing their need to stand up to what they perceive as tyranny.

When officials acquiesce to demands, “it typically makes these folks feel like those are 'constitutional' officials who support their general aims, which can then embolden them against officials they believe to be the opposite, that is, officials they believe to be betraying their oaths to the people," Cooter said.

If extremist groups “believe they have been given allowances in the past and are not moving forward, this can further reinforce that notion of officials who are derelict in their duty, officials who should be removed and, depending on what group we're talking about, possibly officials who should be confronted with force."

Days after Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN," protesters taking part in an “American Patriot Rally" outside the Michigan Capitol in Lansing on April 30 swarmed into the building demanding an end to the stay-at-home order put in place by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group, which numbered in the hundreds, included several heavily armed men. Few wore face coverings or observed social distancing. A line of state police troopers and other Capitol employees held the mob back from entering the House floor.

“We had hundreds of individuals storm our Capitol building," state Rep. Sarah Anthony said in an interview. “No, lives were not lost, blood was not shed, property was not damaged, but I think they saw how easy it was to get into our building and they could get away with that type of behavior and there would be little to no consequences."

Some armed invaders entered the Senate gallery. While none of the protesters faced charges, two of the men seen in a photo posted by state Sen. Dayna Polehanki looking down on lawmakers would be among the 14 people charged months later in a plot to kidnap Whitmer and bomb the state Capitol.

“It made national and international news, what happened in our Capitol," Polehanki said in an interview. “People saw that, and it's no coincidence that the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 had the same feel."

Polehanki, a Democrat from Livonia, asked the state's Republican-majority Senate to support a resolution banning firearms in the Capitol. But it wasn't until Jan. 11, five days after the U.S. Capitol insurrection, that theMichigan Capitol Commission voted to ban the open carry of guns inside the building. Open carry is still allowed outside the building, and people who have concealed pistol licenses can still carry concealed weapons inside.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel tweeted that visitors should stay away from the state Capitol because it is “not safe." Some legislators have begun wearing bulletproof vests.

The memories of the April 30 invasion still haunt Anthony, a Democrat from Lansing. “The level of anxiety and fear that was intended to be imposed upon those of us in the building will probably stay with me for the rest of my life."

As the legislators convened to vote, Anthony said she sat next to state Rep. Brenda Carter, D-Pontiac, another Black woman who was afraid of being targeted by the invaders. “We look like Democrats, so I think when you have individuals who are not only carrying large firearms but also carrying Confederate flags and nooses and swastikas, those have specific messages targeted to Black and brown communities."

Days later, she arrived at the Capitol building with an escort from five armed constituents.

An angry mob didn't need to break down a door to enter the Oregon Statehouse in Salem to disrupt a one-day special session on Dec. 21. A surveillance video released two days after the U.S. Capitol insurrection revealed that Republican state Rep. Mike Nearman, of Independence, opened a locked side door to let in some violent protesters.

The building, normally open to the public, had been closed since mid-March because of health concerns. But several dozen demonstrators gathered outside in a “flash mob" organized by the far-right group Patriot Prayer, which has been tied to protests in Portland. Dozens of rioters streamed into the building and attacked police officers.

One of the Patriot Prayer supporters who carried an AR-15 rifle into the Statehouse was charged with pepper-spraying six police officers. Five other protesters were also taken into custody.

Nearman would later issue a statement defending his action by noting the state Constitution mandates open public legislative proceedings. He was removed from legislative committees and billed for damages caused by the rioters. House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, called on him to resign. Nearman and Kotek did not respond to requests for comment.

Nearman's conduct had parallels to concerns among some in Congress that perpetrators of the U.S. Capitol attack had help from police or even lawmakers. Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., said she witnessed lawmakers giving “reconnaissance" tours the day before the Capitol attack.

“They couldn't have done what they are doing without some notion of impunity around it," saidLawrence Rosenthal, chair and lead researcher of the Center for Right-Wing Studies at the University of California-Berkeley. He said militants cling to a fantasy that if a civil war were to break out, what some extremists call a boogaloo, police and the military would join their side. Those notions may have been corroborated at the state capitols, Rosenthal said. “The type of wink-wink quality that these guys experienced."

At least three men involved in the effort to invade the Oregon Statehouse appeared to have joined the insurrection at the U.S Capitol, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

One of them, Tim Davis, 59, of Springfield, Oregon, told ProPublica he “couldn't comment" about whether the riot in Salem inspired him to travel to the nation's capital. He insisted he did not join those who entered the U.S. Capitol building or break any laws.

“The president asked people to come, and I felt it was my constitutional duty to go," he said.

Inside the Capitol riot: What the Parler videos reveal

The man's smartphone camera pans the crowd on the east side of the U.S. Capitol. It's smaller than what had amassed on the west side, but still an impressive sight. As he pans from atop the steps, he gives a front-line dispatch at 2:10 p.m., an hour after President Donald Trump had finished his remarks goading on the thousands of supporters who had come to Washington to protest the official certification of his electoral defeat.


“The cops were shooting us for a while, then they stopped," the man says, referring to an earlier series of flash-bang grenades. “We're up on the Capitol. I think they're going to breach the doors. It's getting serious. Someone's going to die today. It's not good at all."

He was right. Someone did die during the assault on the Capitol — not just one but five people, not counting the Capitol Police officer who took his own life three days later. And no, it was not good at all. It was an ignominious catastrophe the likes of which the country had never seen before.

But there was something else that set the attack apart: Not only had we not seen something like this, but we had never been able to see any major civil clash in the way we did this one, thanks to a seemingly limitless trove of video documentation. The internet has been awash with viral clips taken by participants and members of the news media — of one police officer being brutally beaten in the crush of a mob, of another officer leading attackers away from the Senate chamber, of outlandishly dressed invaders in the Capitol.

In fact, there is vastly more video to examine because of the circumstances of this protest-turned-invasion. Not only were a great number of the participants using their smartphones to document themselves and their compatriots as they launched the attack, but many of them in turn shared the footage on Parler. That social media service had of late become the right's chosen alternative to “Fascist-book," as one participant at the Capitol referred to Facebook. Parler's failure to “effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others" led Amazon to expel the site from its cloud-hosting servers.

Some people managed to grab the material before Parler went down, and one of them shared a trove of videos with ProPublica. We culled the collection to some 500 videos uploaded to Parler by people in the vicinity of the White House and Capitol on Jan. 6, and sorted them by time and location, thus giving the public an immersive experience that would previously have been impossible to achieve without being there amid the clouds of tear gas and pepper spray and the crush of bodies pressing toward their goal.

The videos are certainly not the last word on the subject, but taken together they do help us answer two key questions about the mob: Who were they and what were their motivations? In a decade, historians will still be writing doctoral dissertations about these questions, just as they did about the crowd that stormed the Bastille on July 14, 1789 or the mob in Adolf Hitler's beer hall putsch. But these Parler videos deepen our understanding and take us beyond the glimpses visible so far from the relatively small number of people who have been charged with crimes.

To watch most of these videos, as I sought to do in recent days, and see the seat of our representative government turned into the object of a violent attack by fellow Americans is overwhelming. And what struck me most about them is just how much this assemblage of people assaulting the Capitol reminded me of people I had seen and spoken with over the years at regular Republican campaign events, going all the way back to Sarah Palin's electric appearances in 2008. At my first Trump rally in 2016, at an airplane hangar outside Dayton, Ohio, I had been amazed by the cross section on display: There were husbands in golf caps with well-manicured wives, frat boys, fathers with sons. All of them, all that year, had thrilled to Trump's toxic rambles about heroin-toting Mexicans, Democratic voter fraud (a theme he had picked up from plenty of more conventional Republican politicians) and “the swamp" in Congress. Never mind that the Republican Party controlled the lower chamber of the legislature for eight years of the decade and the upper chamber for six.

And now here were many of the same people, or at least, the ones with the means and will to make the trip, a sort of travel-team self-selection of the usual crowds, combined with ranks of the white-supremacist warriors who had descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. As at all those rallies, there were the rootless young men spoiling for a fight, and there was also a huge range of more bourgeois sorts — from people who presented as suburban dads to one real estate agent who flew in by private plane, announcing her plans to “storm the capitol" on Facebook — eager for a spectacle, or something more. And they were saying the same things I'd been hearing from them for years.

Except there was one difference: They were actually there, in Washington, at the Capitol — the very targets of their rhetorical fury all those years. And one way of looking at the videos is that they are the story of thousands of people discovering the connection between the rhetoric and the fact of their presence there, at the actual building. Some are so stunned by the connection that they don't really know what to do about it and mostly hang back. Many others respond to the sudden proximity as if a forgotten, dust-covered cord had been plugged into a power source. They feel the inexorable surge, and they advance.

Another man is panning with his camera from atop the inaugural stands on the east side of the Capitol. “They're firing their tear gas at us, the flash-bang grenades, but there's nothing they can do," he says. “And we said, screw it, you've only got so much tear gas. They shot it all and now look, we took it over. This is our house. This is not their house. Our tax money pays for their salaries, our tax money pays for everything. It pays for their freaking $40,000 furniture allotment for their offices while we have families starving in the street."

Our house. It is the most dominant phrase of any of the chants shouted by the mob as it presses into the Capitol. It is an expression of entitlement — white nativist entitlement, as many have noted: This is our house, our country. It's the entitlement that leads one invader to pick up a phone in a Capitol corridor in one video and say: “Can I speak with Pelosi? Yeah, we're coming for you, bitch. Mike Pence? We're coming for you too, fucking traitor."

What is striking about the videos, though, is how often this entitlement is laced with insecurity. The attackers profess ownership of this house, but so much of their commentary betrays discomfort and alienation within it, bordering on a sort of provincial awe. “This is the state Capitol," a man says to his young female companion inside the visitor center, his struggle to grasp the grandeur of the place encapsulated in his incorrect terminology. “It's amazing," she says, as a man dressed as a Roman centurion, complete with sandals, wanders by.

Upstairs, an invader rushes into the Capitol Rotunda with the mob, but then he can't help himself. He turns astonished tourist, as his camera sweeps up to the dome. Outside, a young man in the crowd pressing past the inaugural stands' scaffolding shouts out to no one in particular: “All these fucking years I couldn't see in here. I'm going to see it today!" Nothing, in fact, had ever kept him from seeing this public building. But in his mind, he had been barred.

The uncertainty of the claim to possession of the house manifests itself in the mob's ambivalence about whether to trash it. Again and again, various people in the crowd decry those who are actually trying to do the violent work of breaching the building that the mob is pushing to enter. When a pudgy-cheeked young man jumps up onto the sill of a large window on the east face and smashes in four panes with his fists and feet and several cops rush over to tackle him, an onlooker shouts out: “The police are just doing their job. He's breaking the law!" When a middle-aged man climbs up to one of the arched windows over the West Terrace doors that would become the site of the most violent clashes and starts trying to smash it in with a heavy tool, many in the crowd lash out at him as others pull him down. “Oh God no, stop! Stop!" “What the fuck is wrong with him?" “He's Antifa!"

And when two men who have, to great applause, climbed up onto a painter's rig dangling in front of the building start trying to break the windows, the crowd turns on them. “Don't break my house!" someone shouts. “No, no, no." It's not hard to imagine the perplexity on the part of those attempting the violent break-in: Are you all trying to invade this building, or aren't you?

The shakiness of the claim of ownership is also apparent in the now-famous moment of Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman shrewdly leading the invaders up the stairs and away from the Senate chamber, which one of the Parler videos shows from the perspective of the mob. They might as well be Visigoths sacking Rome, so out of place are the trespassers here. (Driving home the barbarian comparison is the cry of another attacker: “Where are the fucking traitors? Drag them out by their fucking hair.") The invaders' disorientation is plain as they follow Goodman up the stairs, haplessly dependent on his guidance even as they threaten him. “Where's the meeting at?" one calls out. “Where do they count the fucking votes?"

Soon afterward, some marauders do reach the Senate, but it is by this time emptied of senators. They stand aimlessly in the balcony. “Where did you go?" one of them calls out. Another shouts, to no one in particular, “This is our house." But there is less conviction than ever behind the declaration. If it was indeed their house, would they have been stood up like this?

The flash-bang grenades sail into the crowd on the west side of the Capitol. “Fuck you, fucking traitors," shouts someone as they explode. “Fuck you!"

The traitors are, in this instance, the police. If the mob's bewilderment over the great building before them is one dominant feature of the day — whether to trash it or venerate it — its bewilderment over the police is even greater. Watching hundreds of Parler videos shows that the disturbing ones that first surfaced publicly, of officers taking selfies with protesters and otherwise laying down for the attackers, offered a picture that was far from complete.

The police visible in the videos fought tenaciously, and the resulting sense of betrayal in the crowd is palpable. All summer, as the police had battled with Black Lives Matter protesters and rioters, the American right had defended them as guardians of law and order. And this, the Capitol protesters seemed to be saying, is how we're rewarded — with billowing tear gas and blows from batons? “You motherfuckers," shouts a middle-aged woman in a wool pullover and a “Spread Love" cap as another tear-gas canister whistles down.

Also on the west side of the building, another woman shouts: “We're done with the police. You're going to have Antifa, Black Lives Matter and the Republicans all hating you guys!" Nearby, a man joins in: “You're on the wrong side of history, guys."

The cries echo for hours:

Oath over your paychecks! Fuck you, guys. You can't even call yourselves Americans. You broke your fucking oath today. 1776, bitch."

You should be ashamed, fucking pansies."

“They'll play like your friend, then stab you in the back."

You serve us."

They don't treat Antifa like this."

They're gonna fire on Americans, these bastards. You treat us like China. This isn't China."

Here and there, there are glimpses of invaders still assuming the police must be on their side, such as the man who, describing the fatal police shooting of Ashli Babbitt inside the Capitol minutes earlier to people on the outside, says that two other cops at the scene were opposed to the shooting. “I feel sorry for these two guys, because they were just like, 'Why did you do that?'" As reinforcements file into the Capitol, one of the invaders shouts out: “Back the blue. We love you!" as if the cops were there for some reason other than her and her mates.

And here and there, there are glimpses of people trying to restrain others. “Do not throw shit at the police," a man says through a bullhorn on the west side. “Do not engage with the police." “Do not hurt the cops!" shouts another. But this does nothing to prevent the coming clashes, including the extraordinary melee after the mob breaks across the terrace on the west side and one man lurches forward with a nasty blind-side body-blow against an officer, toppling him over a barrier, and another man rushes forward to hurl a fire extinguisher, hitting an officer in the head. (This was separate from the attack in which a fire extinguisher was used to strike Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, in another of the day's fatalities.)

It is hard not to notice that the tension appears especially intense in the crowd's encounters with Washington's municipal police, which include a visibly higher share of Black officers than the Capitol Police, as in one moment where the cops strain especially hard to hold their line outside the Capitol, or when some new reinforcements march in on the periphery. “Trick or treat, trick or treat! What is this, fucking Halloween?" shouts one man, mocking their riot gear, before pivoting to mocking some of them for being out of shape: “1-800-Jenny Craig! Call Jenny Craig. She can help you assholes."

More representative, though, for its sheer contradiction is the scene as another group of cops arrives near the Senate office buildings along Delaware Avenue.

A woman walking in the opposite direction, with her camera out, tells them: “God Bless. Thank you."

A man walking with her tells the cops: “Don't kill no more of our patriots. You guys won't kill Black Lives Matter, but you'll shoot us."

“God Bless," she tells them.

“Remember your oath," he tells them.

“Stay safe," she tells them.

Inside the Capitol, in a stately, high-ceilinged office suite, marauders mill around, grabbing things off the desks, knocking things over. “Don't break stuff!" a young woman hollers at them. “Stop! That's not why we're here."

But why are they there? The more videos one watches, the more overwhelmed one is by the variety of motivations and profiles. Seen one way, this is one of the most homogenous large crowds one could ever find in America 2021, so heavily white is it. Seen another way, it is a hodgepodge, a cross section of America that includes hardcore white supremacists and people you might run into at a mall or a country club.

It is mostly men, but there are also many women. There are young women who look like they could have come straight from a college campus, in puffy jackets and pompom hats. One, watching the invaders scale the lower Capitol walls on the west side, tells her friends: “They are climbing the walls! I mean, I wish I could, but I didn't bring the shoes for it."

There are many middle-aged and older women, too. Some keep warm by wrapping themselves in the Stars and Stripes, like marathon runners with their tinfoil sheets. Others are draped in wool scarves and nice blankets, presenting a far more conventional and even upper-class vibe than the viral images of young men costumed with animal horns and pelts. Some of these women even enter the building.

There are so many older men. Some of them are walking with canes or in wheelchairs or scooters. And some of them are at the front lines. Here, two sixtyish men bashing in an ornamental wooden window box, one using a flagpole. There, a white-haired man, easily 70, engaged in some of the most violent brawling at one of the east-side entrances.

There are men, older and younger, who slide gleefully into war-reenactor mode, tossing off battle lingo as if they are at Antietam or the Ardennes. “OK, what's happening is at the front, we're pushing forward as hard as we can," one paunchy man with a white beard and white MAGA hat . “While we're pushing forward, they're shooting us with percussion grenades. They're also pepper-spraying us. They're bull-spraying us." He takes his cap off to show off the brown pepper-spray stain on the back. “We're not going to stop. We're going to push forward." One young man, barely out of boyhood, clambers up the inaugural scaffolding wearing a full GI Joe getup of fatigues and vintage-style M1 helmet.

And here and there are glimpses of the men who fancy themselves closer to actual warriors, like the twentysomething ones furtively removing their black tactical gear under the cover of a tree outside the Capitol as the action is subsiding and pulling on red MAGA sweatshirts to pass as mere Trump supporters. But there are actually few such ominous glimpses in all these videos — perhaps because these men are too discreet to be caught on camera, or possibly because there were actually relatively few such organized elements in the mix. If the latter, it would help explain why there was not more violence done within the Capitol itself, or why there was such chaos on display that at one point, a man was left hollering hopelessly at a motley crew of invaders inside a Capitol corridor, like a nursery school teacher before naptime: “Quiet! Quiet! Calmly and quietly sit down in this room."

More typical in the videos than the furtive crew under the tree are characters like the young bearded man who speaks to the phone he is holding just outside the building while brandishing a Capitol Police shield. “All right guys, we are at the Capitol right now. We are going to go back in," he says, and then comes the deadpan boast. “I'm the only one with a shield. I don't know why no one else brought a shield, but I brought one just in case they start shooting. Make sure, if you ever take over the Capitol or take over any other big place, you bring a shield." He pauses for comic effect. “You can't get one any place except out of a cop's hands." He grins. “OK, guys, thanks for watching."

There are so many flags — mostly American, but also Confederate, Gadsden, Canadian, Israeli, Romanian. One young woman accidentally whacks a young man with her flag and apologizes profusely. “Oh, my goodness, you're fine," he responds, smiling. “What better flag to be hit with?"

There are many such snatches of fellowship in the videos: strangers advising each other on how to get the pepper spray out of their eyes, or sharing news updates from the Electoral College proceedings inside the Senate, before the senators fled to safety. Watching these moments of cooperation and social warmth, the same thought crossed my mind as did in watching last year's mass protests over the police killing of George Floyd: that these events were grounded in political anger but intensified by the social dislocation of a pandemic and its associated lockdowns, which had left so many hungering for human contact and stimulation more than they themselves probably even realized.

As the assault is winding down, an older man stands on the west side of the Capitol recording people as they walk away from the building. “Good job, patriots. Whoo! Good job, man. Real Americans, right here. Americans! Women. Look at the women. Went up there. Good-looking guys. Nobody feared."

An older woman walking by stops and interrupts his encomiums. “You know they shot and killed a girl up there, don't you?"

“No!"

She tells him about the fatal shooting of Ashli Babbitt. At that moment, a young man marches up to the older man. He is wearing an expensive-looking winter coat and a MAGA cap clipped to his backpack, and he is full of bravado over his hijinks during the Capitol takeover. He wants to share them with a random stranger.

“I got pepper-sprayed," he tells the man, proudly. “Not me, but the people in front of me in the crowd, and the wind came and hit me. Dude, you got to check out this video I got." He reaches around to his back pocket for his phone, but the older man breaks in.

“They said a girl got killed in the House," he says, somberly.

“How?" asks the young man.

“In the House. She went in the House and they told her to stop three times and they shot her in the neck."

The news of this death doesn't faze the young man at all. Still smiling coolly, he wants to pick right back up with the story of his adventure storming the Capitol. “See, I went all the way up there underneath the scaffolding. … I climbed up it. … Everyone was like push-push-push and the cops started pepper-spraying. … You got to look at this — "

“They killed an American girl," the older man says, trying to get him to focus on that fact. But it's no use. The young man keeps trying to show him his video clip of the pepper spray.

At almost exactly the same time, a man standing outside near the northwest corner of the Capitol — middle-aged, professorial-looking with glasses and a face mask dangling below his chin — speaks into his camera for a sober-minded report on the day. “Well, we were here," he says. “Until they can run free and fair elections in this country and make people believe it, we're going to have problems. They just have to figure out how to get these elections to work properly so there aren't all these irregularities and things that appear to be cheating, even if they're not. They just got to figure it out."

The man goes on. “I'm usually a pretty even-keeled, level-headed kind of guy, but all you've got to do is look at some of the videos to realize there was some shit that was really fucked up about the election." He pauses. “Clearly, there's millions of people in town today. There's people packed like sardines from the White House to the Washington Monument today. For the first time as far I'm aware in history, they broke the perimeters at the Capitol. I mean, they're pissed. I'm not keen on violence and breaking doors. But outside of that, there seemed to be no violence, and after hearing all summer long about city after city getting burned down, this was a mostly peaceful protest. This was what a mostly peaceful protest looks like."

He didn't appear to know about the deaths and extent of the violence. He had only his vantage point. But we now have many more vantages. And they give us the picture of what happens when something that was gathering across the land for years, and recklessly and cynically fomented by those who knew better, reached a culmination. There undoubtedly were some dangerous organized elements within the mob that attacked the Capitol. But what is scariest about these videos is that they show the damage that can be done by a crowd of unorganized Americans goaded and abetted by the leaders of an organized political party. The radical fringe is a cause for concern. The thousands of regular people whipped into a murderous rage is the real nightmare.

See how Trump fans on Parler watched the Capitol insurrection live

Inside the Capitol Riot: What the Parler Videos Reveal

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

The man's smartphone camera pans the crowd on the east side of the U.S. Capitol. It's smaller than what had amassed on the west side, but still an impressive sight. As he pans from atop the steps, he gives a front-line dispatch at 2:10 p.m., an hour after President Donald Trump had finished his remarks goading on the thousands of supporters who had come to Washington to protest the official certification of his electoral defeat.

“The cops were shooting us for a while, then they stopped," the man says, referring to an earlier series of flash-bang grenades. “We're up on the Capitol. I think they're going to breach the doors. It's getting serious. Someone's going to die today. It's not good at all."

He was right. Someone did die during the assault on the Capitol — not just one but five people, not counting the Capitol Police officer who took his own life three days later. And no, it was not good at all. It was an ignominious catastrophe the likes of which the country had never seen before.

But there was something else that set the attack apart: Not only had we not seen something like this, but we had never been able to see any major civil clash in the way we did this one, thanks to a seemingly limitless trove of video documentation. The internet has been awash with viral clips taken by participants and members of the news media — of one police officer being brutally beaten in the crush of a mob, of another officer leading attackers away from the Senate chamber, of outlandishly dressed invaders in the Capitol.

In fact, there is vastly more video to examine because of the circumstances of this protest-turned-invasion. Not only were a great number of the participants using their smartphones to document themselves and their compatriots as they launched the attack, but many of them in turn shared the footage on Parler. That social media service had of late become the right's chosen alternative to “Fascist-book," as one participant at the Capitol referred to Facebook. Parler's failure to “effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others" led Amazon to expel the site from its cloud-hosting servers.

Some people managed to grab the material before Parler went down, and one of them shared a trove of videos with ProPublica. We culled the collection to some 500 videos uploaded to Parler by people in the vicinity of the White House and Capitol on Jan. 6, and sorted them by time and location, thus giving the public an immersive experience that would previously have been impossible to achieve without being there amid the clouds of tear gas and pepper spray and the crush of bodies pressing toward their goal.

The videos are certainly not the last word on the subject, but taken together they do help us answer two key questions about the mob: Who were they and what were their motivations? In a decade, historians will still be writing doctoral dissertations about these questions, just as they did about the crowd that stormed the Bastille on July 14, 1789 or the mob in Adolf Hitler's beer hall putsch. But these Parler videos deepen our understanding and take us beyond the glimpses visible so far from the relatively small number of people who have been charged with crimes.

To watch most of these videos, as I sought to do in recent days, and see the seat of our representative government turned into the object of a violent attack by fellow Americans is overwhelming. And what struck me most about them is just how much this assemblage of people assaulting the Capitol reminded me of people I had seen and spoken with over the years at regular Republican campaign events, going all the way back to Sarah Palin's electric appearances in 2008. At my first Trump rally in 2016, at an airplane hangar outside Dayton, Ohio, I had been amazed by the cross section on display: There were husbands in golf caps with well-manicured wives, frat boys, fathers with sons. All of them, all that year, had thrilled to Trump's toxic rambles about heroin-toting Mexicans, Democratic voter fraud (a theme he had picked up from plenty of more conventional Republican politicians) and “the swamp" in Congress. Never mind that the Republican Party controlled the lower chamber of the legislature for eight years of the decade and the upper chamber for six.

And now here were many of the same people, or at least, the ones with the means and will to make the trip, a sort of travel-team self-selection of the usual crowds, combined with ranks of the white-supremacist warriors who had descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. As at all those rallies, there were the rootless young men spoiling for a fight, and there was also a huge range of more bourgeois sorts — from people who presented as suburban dads to one real estate agent who flew in by private plane, announcing her plans to “storm the capitol" on Facebook — eager for a spectacle, or something more. And they were saying the same things I'd been hearing from them for years.

Except there was one difference: They were actually there, in Washington, at the Capitol — the very targets of their rhetorical fury all those years. And one way of looking at the videos is that they are the story of thousands of people discovering the connection between the rhetoric and the fact of their presence there, at the actual building. Some are so stunned by the connection that they don't really know what to do about it and mostly hang back. Many others respond to the sudden proximity as if a forgotten, dust-covered cord had been plugged into a power source. They feel the inexorable surge, and they advance.

Another man is panning with his camera from atop the inaugural stands on the east side of the Capitol. “They're firing their tear gas at us, the flash-bang grenades, but there's nothing they can do," he says. “And we said, screw it, you've only got so much tear gas. They shot it all and now look, we took it over. This is our house. This is not their house. Our tax money pays for their salaries, our tax money pays for everything. It pays for their freaking $40,000 furniture allotment for their offices while we have families starving in the street."

Our house. It is the most dominant phrase of any of the chants shouted by the mob as it presses into the Capitol. It is an expression of entitlement — white nativist entitlement, as many have noted: This is our house, our country. It's the entitlement that leads one invader to pick up a phone in a Capitol corridor in one video and say: “Can I speak with Pelosi? Yeah, we're coming for you, bitch. Mike Pence? We're coming for you too, fucking traitor."

What is striking about the videos, though, is how often this entitlement is laced with insecurity. The attackers profess ownership of this house, but so much of their commentary betrays discomfort and alienation within it, bordering on a sort of provincial awe. “This is the state Capitol," a man says to his young female companion inside the visitor center, his struggle to grasp the grandeur of the place encapsulated in his incorrect terminology. “It's amazing," she says, as a man dressed as a Roman centurion, complete with sandals, wanders by.

Upstairs, an invader rushes into the Capitol Rotunda with the mob, but then he can't help himself. He turns astonished tourist, as his camera sweeps up to the dome. Outside, a young man in the crowd pressing past the inaugural stands' scaffolding shouts out to no one in particular: “All these fucking years I couldn't see in here. I'm going to see it today!" Nothing, in fact, had ever kept him from seeing this public building. But in his mind, he had been barred.

The uncertainty of the claim to possession of the house manifests itself in the mob's ambivalence about whether to trash it. Again and again, various people in the crowd decry those who are actually trying to do the violent work of breaching the building that the mob is pushing to enter. When a pudgy-cheeked young man jumps up onto the sill of a large window on the east face and smashes in four panes with his fists and feet and several cops rush over to tackle him, an onlooker shouts out: “The police are just doing their job. He's breaking the law!" When a middle-aged man climbs up to one of the arched windows over the West Terrace doors that would become the site of the most violent clashes and starts trying to smash it in with a heavy tool, many in the crowd lash out at him as others pull him down. “Oh God no, stop! Stop!" “What the fuck is wrong with him?" “He's Antifa!"

And when two men who have, to great applause, climbed up onto a painter's rig dangling in front of the building start trying to break the windows, the crowd turns on them. “Don't break my house!" someone shouts. “No, no, no." It's not hard to imagine the perplexity on the part of those attempting the violent break-in: Are you all trying to invade this building, or aren't you?

The shakiness of the claim of ownership is also apparent in the now-famous moment of Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman shrewdly leading the invaders up the stairs and away from the Senate chamber, which one of the Parler videos shows from the perspective of the mob. They might as well be Visigoths sacking Rome, so out of place are the trespassers here. (Driving home the barbarian comparison is the cry of another attacker: “Where are the fucking traitors? Drag them out by their fucking hair.") The invaders' disorientation is plain as they follow Goodman up the stairs, haplessly dependent on his guidance even as they threaten him. “Where's the meeting at?" one calls out. “Where do they count the fucking votes?"

Soon afterward, some marauders do reach the Senate, but it is by this time emptied of senators. They stand aimlessly in the balcony. “Where did you go?" one of them calls out. Another shouts, to no one in particular, “This is our house." But there is less conviction than ever behind the declaration. If it was indeed their house, would they have been stood up like this?

The flash-bang grenades sail into the crowd on the west side of the Capitol. “Fuck you, fucking traitors," shouts someone as they explode. “Fuck you!"

The traitors are, in this instance, the police. If the mob's bewilderment over the great building before them is one dominant feature of the day — whether to trash it or venerate it — its bewilderment over the police is even greater. Watching hundreds of Parler videos shows that the disturbing ones that first surfaced publicly, of officers taking selfies with protesters and otherwise laying down for the attackers, offered a picture that was far from complete.

The police visible in the videos fought tenaciously, and the resulting sense of betrayal in the crowd is palpable. All summer, as the police had battled with Black Lives Matter protesters and rioters, the American right had defended them as guardians of law and order. And this, the Capitol protesters seemed to be saying, is how we're rewarded — with billowing tear gas and blows from batons? “You motherfuckers," shouts a middle-aged woman in a wool pullover and a “Spread Love" cap as another tear-gas canister whistles down.

Also on the west side of the building, another woman shouts: “We're done with the police. You're going to have Antifa, Black Lives Matter and the Republicans all hating you guys!" Nearby, a man joins in: “You're on the wrong side of history, guys."

The cries echo for hours:

Oath over your paychecks! Fuck you, guys. You can't even call yourselves Americans. You broke your fucking oath today. 1776, bitch."

You should be ashamed, fucking pansies."

“They'll play like your friend, then stab you in the back."

You serve us."

They don't treat Antifa like this."

They're gonna fire on Americans, these bastards. You treat us like China. This isn't China."

Here and there, there are glimpses of invaders still assuming the police must be on their side, such as the man who, describing the fatal police shooting of Ashli Babbitt inside the Capitol minutes earlier to people on the outside, says that two other cops at the scene were opposed to the shooting. “I feel sorry for these two guys, because they were just like, 'Why did you do that?'" As reinforcements file into the Capitol, one of the invaders shouts out: “Back the blue. We love you!" as if the cops were there for some reason other than her and her mates.

And here and there, there are glimpses of people trying to restrain others. “Do not throw shit at the police," a man says through a bullhorn on the west side. “Do not engage with the police." “Do not hurt the cops!" shouts another. But this does nothing to prevent the coming clashes, including the extraordinary melee after the mob breaks across the terrace on the west side and one man lurches forward with a nasty blind-side body-blow against an officer, toppling him over a barrier, and another man rushes forward to hurl a fire extinguisher, hitting an officer in the head. (This was separate from the attack in which a fire extinguisher was used to strike Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, in another of the day's fatalities.)

It is hard not to notice that the tension appears especially intense in the crowd's encounters with Washington's municipal police, which include a visibly higher share of Black officers than the Capitol Police, as in one moment where the cops strain especially hard to hold their line outside the Capitol, or when some new reinforcements march in on the periphery. “Trick or treat, trick or treat! What is this, fucking Halloween?" shouts one man, mocking their riot gear, before pivoting to mocking some of them for being out of shape: “1-800-Jenny Craig! Call Jenny Craig. She can help you assholes."

More representative, though, for its sheer contradiction is the scene as another group of cops arrives near the Senate office buildings along Delaware Avenue.

A woman walking in the opposite direction, with her camera out, tells them: “God Bless. Thank you."

A man walking with her tells the cops: “Don't kill no more of our patriots. You guys won't kill Black Lives Matter, but you'll shoot us."

“God Bless," she tells them.

“Remember your oath," he tells them.

“Stay safe," she tells them.

Inside the Capitol, in a stately, high-ceilinged office suite, marauders mill around, grabbing things off the desks, knocking things over. “Don't break stuff!" a young woman hollers at them. “Stop! That's not why we're here."

But why are they there? The more videos one watches, the more overwhelmed one is by the variety of motivations and profiles. Seen one way, this is one of the most homogenous large crowds one could ever find in America 2021, so heavily white is it. Seen another way, it is a hodgepodge, a cross section of America that includes hardcore white supremacists and people you might run into at a mall or a country club.

It is mostly men, but there are also many women. There are young women who look like they could have come straight from a college campus, in puffy jackets and pompom hats. One, watching the invaders scale the lower Capitol walls on the west side, tells her friends: “They are climbing the walls! I mean, I wish I could, but I didn't bring the shoes for it."

There are many middle-aged and older women, too. Some keep warm by wrapping themselves in the Stars and Stripes, like marathon runners with their tinfoil sheets. Others are draped in wool scarves and nice blankets, presenting a far more conventional and even upper-class vibe than the viral images of young men costumed with animal horns and pelts. Some of these women even enter the building.

There are so many older men. Some of them are walking with canes or in wheelchairs or scooters. And some of them are at the front lines. Here, two sixtyish men bashing in an ornamental wooden window box, one using a flagpole. There, a white-haired man, easily 70, engaged in some of the most violent brawling at one of the east-side entrances.

There are men, older and younger, who slide gleefully into war-reenactor mode, tossing off battle lingo as if they are at Antietam or the Ardennes. “OK, what's happening is at the front, we're pushing forward as hard as we can," one paunchy man with a white beard and white MAGA hat . “While we're pushing forward, they're shooting us with percussion grenades. They're also pepper-spraying us. They're bull-spraying us." He takes his cap off to show off the brown pepper-spray stain on the back. “We're not going to stop. We're going to push forward." One young man, barely out of boyhood, clambers up the inaugural scaffolding wearing a full GI Joe getup of fatigues and vintage-style M1 helmet.

And here and there are glimpses of the men who fancy themselves closer to actual warriors, like the twentysomething ones furtively removing their black tactical gear under the cover of a tree outside the Capitol as the action is subsiding and pulling on red MAGA sweatshirts to pass as mere Trump supporters. But there are actually few such ominous glimpses in all these videos — perhaps because these men are too discreet to be caught on camera, or possibly because there were actually relatively few such organized elements in the mix. If the latter, it would help explain why there was not more violence done within the Capitol itself, or why there was such chaos on display that at one point, a man was left hollering hopelessly at a motley crew of invaders inside a Capitol corridor, like a nursery school teacher before naptime: “Quiet! Quiet! Calmly and quietly sit down in this room."

More typical in the videos than the furtive crew under the tree are characters like the young bearded man who speaks to the phone he is holding just outside the building while brandishing a Capitol Police shield. “All right guys, we are at the Capitol right now. We are going to go back in," he says, and then comes the deadpan boast. “I'm the only one with a shield. I don't know why no one else brought a shield, but I brought one just in case they start shooting. Make sure, if you ever take over the Capitol or take over any other big place, you bring a shield." He pauses for comic effect. “You can't get one any place except out of a cop's hands." He grins. “OK, guys, thanks for watching."

There are so many flags — mostly American, but also Confederate, Gadsden, Canadian, Israeli, Romanian. One young woman accidentally whacks a young man with her flag and apologizes profusely. “Oh, my goodness, you're fine," he responds, smiling. “What better flag to be hit with?"

There are many such snatches of fellowship in the videos: strangers advising each other on how to get the pepper spray out of their eyes, or sharing news updates from the Electoral College proceedings inside the Senate, before the senators fled to safety. Watching these moments of cooperation and social warmth, the same thought crossed my mind as did in watching last year's mass protests over the police killing of George Floyd: that these events were grounded in political anger but intensified by the social dislocation of a pandemic and its associated lockdowns, which had left so many hungering for human contact and stimulation more than they themselves probably even realized.

As the assault is winding down, an older man stands on the west side of the Capitol recording people as they walk away from the building. “Good job, patriots. Whoo! Good job, man. Real Americans, right here. Americans! Women. Look at the women. Went up there. Good-looking guys. Nobody feared."

An older woman walking by stops and interrupts his encomiums. “You know they shot and killed a girl up there, don't you?"

“No!"

She tells him about the fatal shooting of Ashli Babbitt. At that moment, a young man marches up to the older man. He is wearing an expensive-looking winter coat and a MAGA cap clipped to his backpack, and he is full of bravado over his hijinks during the Capitol takeover. He wants to share them with a random stranger.

“I got pepper-sprayed," he tells the man, proudly. “Not me, but the people in front of me in the crowd, and the wind came and hit me. Dude, you got to check out this video I got." He reaches around to his back pocket for his phone, but the older man breaks in.

“They said a girl got killed in the House," he says, somberly.

“How?" asks the young man.

“In the House. She went in the House and they told her to stop three times and they shot her in the neck."

The news of this death doesn't faze the young man at all. Still smiling coolly, he wants to pick right back up with the story of his adventure storming the Capitol. “See, I went all the way up there underneath the scaffolding. … I climbed up it. … Everyone was like push-push-push and the cops started pepper-spraying. … You got to look at this — "

“They killed an American girl," the older man says, trying to get him to focus on that fact. But it's no use. The young man keeps trying to show him his video clip of the pepper spray.

At almost exactly the same time, a man standing outside near the northwest corner of the Capitol — middle-aged, professorial-looking with glasses and a face mask dangling below his chin — speaks into his camera for a sober-minded report on the day. “Well, we were here," he says. “Until they can run free and fair elections in this country and make people believe it, we're going to have problems. They just have to figure out how to get these elections to work properly so there aren't all these irregularities and things that appear to be cheating, even if they're not. They just got to figure it out."

The man goes on. “I'm usually a pretty even-keeled, level-headed kind of guy, but all you've got to do is look at some of the videos to realize there was some shit that was really fucked up about the election." He pauses. “Clearly, there's millions of people in town today. There's people packed like sardines from the White House to the Washington Monument today. For the first time as far I'm aware in history, they broke the perimeters at the Capitol. I mean, they're pissed. I'm not keen on violence and breaking doors. But outside of that, there seemed to be no violence, and after hearing all summer long about city after city getting burned down, this was a mostly peaceful protest. This was what a mostly peaceful protest looks like."

He didn't appear to know about the deaths and extent of the violence. He had only his vantage point. But we now have many more vantages. And they give us the picture of what happens when something that was gathering across the land for years, and recklessly and cynically fomented by those who knew better, reached a culmination. There undoubtedly were some dangerous organized elements within the mob that attacked the Capitol. But what is scariest about these videos is that they show the damage that can be done by a crowd of unorganized Americans goaded and abetted by the leaders of an organized political party. The radical fringe is a cause for concern. The thousands of regular people whipped into a murderous rage is the real nightmare.

The radicalization of Kevin Greeson: How one man went from attending Obama’s inauguration to dying in Capitol coup mob

In 2009, Kevin Greeson traveled from Alabama to witness the inauguration of President Barack Obama, at the time one of his political heroes. Twelve years later, a stone's throw from where Obama had been sworn in, Greeson died of a heart attack while demonstrating in support of President Donald Trump during the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol.

Greeson had undergone a stark political transformation in those intervening years. A longtime Democrat who once championed unions and supported progressive politicians, Greeson had become a staunch Trump supporter by the time he died outside the Capitol at the age of 55.

In the weeks leading up to his death, he gave up Fox News for less mainstream right-wing news sources and wrote a series of posts on the conservative-leaning social media site Parler advocating political violence in response to what he saw as Democrats' efforts to “steal" the 2020 election from the president.

“Let's take this fucking Country BACK!! Load your guns and take to the streets!" he wrote on Dec. 17.

While Greeson's inflammatory Parler posts and false online rumors that he tased himself to death have drawn considerable attention, his political transformation has not.

“He was a vice president at the union, and he was an Obama supporter," said Mark McDaniel, the Huntsville attorney representing the Greeson family. “He got interested in Trump because he felt he was more business-minded, and as the economy kept getting better, he kept getting more interested in Trump."

For much of the late 20th century, north Alabama was home to a number of large factories and industrial facilities that provided blue-collar jobs with decent wages to people like Greeson. But many of those positions were eliminated over the past two decades as manufacturers and plants closed or sold to foreign companies — and as the jobs disappeared, the Democratic Party's support dwindled.

“I think things are getting more polarized," said Doug Norman, a 73-year-old retired Decatur man who ran a waste oil recycling company for many years. “Over the last 10 years, there was a shift."

Over a plate of eggs Benedict at Whisk'd Cafe, a lunch spot in Decatur near the former Goodyear plant where Greeson worked for over two decades, Norman said that, like many other longtime residents, he has become more committed to Republican politics over the past 10 years. He, too, said he believes the 2020 election was “stolen" from the president.

“I think a lot of people saw where the stock market, unemployment and economy were going, and they started moving toward Trump," he said. “A lot of my friends weren't even into politics, but Trump kind of activated something."

Greeson wasn't the only Trump supporter from north Alabama with high-profile ties to the Jan. 6 insurrection. Lonnie Coffman, a 70-year-old from Falkville, a rural community about 30 miles from where Greeson lived, was arrested near the Capitol the night of the riots. He was indicted on 17 federal weapons charges after police allegedly found materials to produce Molotov cocktails and five illegal firearms — including an AR-15 — in his pickup truck.

A.J. Kramer, the federal public defender for the District of Columbia, said Thursday that his office is representing Coffman but that it had not yet made any filings in his case.

Nancy Stephenson, who worked with Greeson at the Goodyear plant, left Alabama in 2007 for Memphis, Tennessee, and then for Houston. She returned in 2016 to find a changed — and charged — political landscape. According to Stephenson, the steady elimination of good jobs had combined with concerns about immigration and the Affordable Care Act to drive many people she knew in the area to take a hard right turn.

“When I left, they were into golf clubs and fishing poles," she said. “When I got back, it was automatic weapons."

“It's All Republicans Now"

For 21 years, Greeson worked at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company plant in Decatur where his father worked before him. He started out on the factory floor and eventually took on a leadership role with Local 88T of the United Food & Commercial Workers union.

Greeson stopped working at the plant in 2006, according to his LinkedIn profile — the same year a South Korean firm, Hyosung Corp., purchased the red-brick complex.

In the early 2000s, many people who worked in manufacturing in north Alabama supported Southern Democrats, and Obama enjoyed support on assembly lines and in union halls. The region was mostly red, but not intensely so, and there were pockets of blue.

Morgan County, home to the former Goodyear plant, and neighboring Limestone County, where Greeson lived, both favored George W. Bush in 2000 with around 60% of the vote. But over the years, north Alabama grew more Republican. By 2016, Trump received more than 70% of the vote in both counties. And there were no longer blue counties nearby.

Bryan Duncan, a corrections officer at Limestone Correctional Facility and an Athens resident, said he's felt the political winds shift since he first moved to north Alabama over two decades ago.

“It's all Republicans now," the 45-year-old said as he headed into Walmart in Athens on Tuesday afternoon. “I think people became more interested in the Republican Party especially due to social media and the easy access to everybody's opinions. It's easier to find more people on your side."

Valeria Vizcarra, an Athens waitress, said that though she is only 20, she is old enough to have seen how politics have affected her community. “When Trump came into office, they became more outspoken for sure," she said Tuesday. “They like that he was a businessman."

She, like Stephenson, said that locals see in Trump a leader who's looking out for the middle class.

“I believe the Obama policies caused a lot of soreness in this area," Stephenson said. “And I honestly think people thought Trump was going to make them wealthy."

Jess Brown, professor emeritus of government and public affairs at Athens State University, said many people share a “frustration" with the way the economy has declined in north Alabama.

“People who lack specialized skills and probably an education beyond a high school diploma in today's market are not experiencing social mobility," he said. “That simply was not the case for generations of people following the industrialization of America."

“Intellectual Rathole"

For most of his adult life, Greeson got the majority of his news from mainstream sources like CNN and AL.com, according to his wife, Kristi, who answered questions through the family attorney, McDaniel.

But over the past few years, Greeson gravitated toward Fox News and other conservative outlets as he became enamored with Trump and the good he believed the president was doing for the economy and for American industry.

In the days after Trump lost his reelection bid in November, Greeson posted on Parler that he, like many diehard Trump fans, no longer trusted Fox News, and that the cable channel had “jumped ship." Instead, he declared that he would only consume news produced by the pro-Trump, far-right outlet Newsmax, and that he would use Parler instead of Facebook.

“I'm done with Facebook and Fox News!" he wrote in a November Parler post, called a Parley.

“We can't get anything true from the news media," he wrote in another November Parley. “NewsMax is the only channel I'm trusting at this point."

Greeson's wife, who declined to respond to questions about her own politics or how her husband's political transformation impacted their family, told McDaniel she saw the shift in her husband's media habits.

Greeson became convinced that Trump had won the November election, a false narrative ceaselessly pushed by both the president and many far-right outlets.

Brown said it didn't surprise him to learn that Greeson's views intensified as he consumed increasingly fringe media.

“The new media landscape of America encourages extreme political behavior," Brown said. “Do I think there's a component or subset of the electorate in north Alabama that's gone down that intellectual rathole? I certainly do, but I think they've gone down that same rathole in Colorado and in Montana and other places."

In the weeks after the election, Greeson posted a series of violent messages on Parler, calling for people to take up arms against a political system he considered corrupt. He shared support for the white supremacist Proud Boys movement, called for Obama to “be put to death" and expressed his apparent hope that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would die of COVID-19.

On Nov. 29, Greeson called for members of Congress to support Trump's attempts to overturn the election: “Stand the fuck up! Our President is being took (sic) out of office in [a] coup and you motherfuckers do nothing!! It might take a few years but Trump and the American people will take you fucks out of your office."

A Final Trip

On Jan. 5, Greeson drove from Alabama to Washington, where he did some sightseeing that evening and spent the night at a friend's house in Virginia. The next day, he joined the crowd of protesters who had gathered on the National Mall to express support for Trump and demand that Congress “stop the steal" and overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

McDaniel said that despite Greeson's menacing online rhetoric, his wife does not believe he had any intention of committing violence on Jan. 6. And unlike Coffman and some other attendees of the events that day, police have not alleged that Greeson had illegal weapons or committed a crime in Washington.

“I think that he looked at social media as something where he was just talking to friends. Nothing in this man's life would lead anyone to believe that he was headed up there to do anything bad or anything sinister," McDaniel said. “According to [Kristi Greeson], he was just a really big Trump supporter, and he wanted to go up there and show his support and live the experience."

Little information about exactly what happened in the minutes and hours preceding Greeson's death is available. In a written statement sent to members of the media after his death, his wife noted that he “had a history of high blood pressure, and in the midst of the excitement, suffered a heart attack."

McDaniel said Greeson was on the phone with his wife when he went into cardiac arrest.

“He was talking to her on the phone and he quit talking," McDaniel said. “She was upset because she thought he had hung up on her."

McDaniel said that in the days following Greeson's death, his wife spoke on the phone with a reporter who saw her husband in the moments before his death and a person who attempted to resuscitate him, and that they both told her Greeson was outdoors on the Capitol grounds at the time.

The Metropolitan Police Department incident report states that he “was in the area of the United States Capitol in attendance of first ammendment (sic) activities" when he had a heart attack.

According to the incident report, Greeson was declared dead at 2:05 p.m. on Jan. 6. Minutes later, the first rioters broke into the Capitol.

'Where they countin’ the votes?!' New video details tense moments as Capitol mob sought out lawmakers

More than 10 million people have seen the video shot by HuffPost reporter Igor Bobic showing a Black Capitol Police officer leading pro-Trump rioters away from where senators were holed up in the Capitol on Jan. 6.


Now, ProPublica has uncovered new footage — amid a trove of content archived from the now-shuttered social platform Parler — that reveals the raw moments before Officer Eugene Goodman's actions. The clip, recorded minutes after crowds breached a barrier outside, allows the public to see and hear new details from a turbulent day that ultimately led to President Donald Trump's second impeachment.

As the just-under-two-minute recording begins and the door is opened, cheers are heard from crowds of demonstrators gathered outside. Once inside, the mob fans out, passing a Senate appointments desk and heading toward a bank of elevators.

Half of the video depicts the showdown between Goodman and the angry mob, and lets viewers see more clearly the size of the crowd and its rage. “Where they countin' the votes?!" yells a man in the crowd repeatedly after rioters approach Goodman, who was blocking a corridor and stairs that lead to the Senate floor and other key offices.



Goodman had been guarding the entrance before demonstrators broke open a door moments earlier on the west side of the Capitol. After a loud crack, rioters are seen streaming into the building to the sound of glass breaking. Some chanted “U-S-A" as they sought out lawmakers.

The video also shows the brief, but tense, standoff with Goodman as he keeps his hand on his gun holster. Goodman — eyes wide and mask sliding below his face — continues trying to keep the crowd at bay. “Don't do it!" someone shouts.

It soon became clear that Goodman was outnumbered. He turns and heads up the stairs he had been blocking moments earlier.

“Are you going to beat us all?" a man in the crowd says. Seconds later, the camera pans to the floor and cuts out.

The Justice Department said this week that at least 30 people have been charged for crimes committed at the Capitol.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced a bill to award Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal for luring the mob away from lawmakers. Goodman is a 40-year-old U.S. Army veteran and deployed with the 101st Airborne Division to Iraq for a year, The Washington Post reported.

Derek Willis, Jeff Kao, Lisa Song contributed reporting.

Do you have access to information about the attack on the Capitol that should be public? Email jack.gillum@propublica.org. Here's how tosend tips and documentsto ProPublica securely.

Suspect wanted for killing of Capitol Police Ofc. Brian Sicknick.

Suspect wanted for killing of Capitol Police Ofc. Brian Sicknick. Twitter/@ManikRathee

'No one took us seriously': Black cops warned about racist Capitol police officers for years

When Kim Dine took over as the new chief of the U.S. Capitol Police in 2012, he knew he had a serious problem.

Since 2001, hundreds of Black officers had sued the department for racial discrimination. They alleged that white officers called Black colleagues slurs like the N-word and that one officer found a hangman's noose on his locker. White officers were called “huk lovers" or “FOGs" — short for “friends of gangsters" — if they were friendly with their Black colleagues. Black officers faced “unprovoked traffic stops" from fellow Capitol Police officers. One Black officer claimed he heard a colleague say, “Obama monkey, go back to Africa."

In case after case, agency lawyers denied wrongdoing. But in an interview, Dine said it was clear he had to address the department's charged racial climate. He said he promoted a Black officer to assistant chief, a first for the agency, and tried to increase diversity by changing the force's hiring practices. He also said he hired a Black woman to lead a diversity office and created a new disciplinary body within the department, promoting a Black woman to lead it.

“There is a problem with racism in this country, in pretty much every establishment that exists," said Dine, who left the agency in 2016. “You can always do more in retrospect."

Whether the Capitol Police managed to root out racist officers will be one of many issues raised as Congress investigates the agency's failure to prevent a mob of Trump supporters from attacking the Capitol while lawmakers inside voted to formalize the electoral victory of President-elect Joe Biden.

Already, officials have suspended several police officers for possible complicity with insurrectionists, one of whom was pictured waving a Confederate battle flag as he occupied the building. One cop was captured on tape seeming to take selfies with protesters, while another allegedly wore a red “Make America Great Again" hat as he directed protesters around the Capitol building. While many officers were filmed fighting off rioters, at least 12 others are under investigation for possibly assisting them.

Two current Black Capitol Police officers told BuzzFeed News that they were angered by leadership failures that they said put them at risk as racist members of the mob stormed the building. The Capitol Police force is only 29% Black in a city that's 46% Black. By contrast, as of 2018, 52% of Washington Metropolitan police officers were Black. The Capitol Police are comparable to the Metropolitan force in spending, employing more than 2,300 people and boasting an annual budget of about a half-billion dollars.

The Capitol Police did not immediately respond to questions for this story.

Sharon Blackmon-Malloy, a former Capitol Police officer who was the lead plaintiff in the 2001 discrimination lawsuit filed against the department, said she was not surprised that pro-Trump rioters burst into the Capitol last week.

In her 25 years with the Capitol Police, Blackmon-Malloy spent decades trying to raise the alarm about what she saw as endemic racism within the force, even organizing demonstrations where Black officers would return to the Capitol off-duty, protesting outside the building they usually protect.

The 2001 case, which started with more than 250 plaintiffs, remains pending. As recently as 2016, a Black female officer filed a racial discrimination complaint against the department.

“Nothing ever really was resolved. Congress turned a blind eye to racism on the Hill," Blackmon-Malloy, who retired as a lieutenant in 2007, told ProPublica. She is now vice president of the U.S. Capitol Black Police Association, which held 16 demonstrations protesting alleged discrimination between 2013 and 2018. “We got Jan. 6 because no one took us seriously."

Retired Lt. Frank Adams sued the department in 2001 and again in 2012 for racial discrimination. A Black, 20-year veteran of the force, Adams supervised mostly white officers in the patrol division. He told ProPublica he endured or witnessed racism and sexism constantly. He said that before he joined the division, there was a policy he referred to as “meet and greet," where officers were directed to stop any Black person on the Hill. He also said that in another unit, he once found a cartoon on his desk of a Black man ascending to heaven only to be greeted by a Ku Klux Klan wizard. When he complained to his superior officers, he said he was denied promotions and training opportunities, and suffered other forms of retaliation.

In an interview, he drew a direct line between racism in the Capitol Police and the events that unfolded last week. He blamed Congress for not listening to Black members of the force years ago.

“They only become involved in oversight when it's in the news cycle," said Adams, who retired in 2011. “They ignored the racism happening in the department. They ignored the hate."

The department's record in other areas of policing have drawn criticism as well.

In 2015, a man landed a gyrocopter on the Capitol lawn — top officials didn't know the airborne activist was coming until minutes before he touched down. In 2013, when a lone gunman opened fire at the nearby Navy Yard, killing 12 people, the Capitol Police were criticized for standing on the sidelines. The force's leadership board later determined its actions were justified.

Last month, days after a bloody clash on Dec. 12 between militant Trump supporters and counterprotesters, Melissa Byrne and Chibundu Nnake were entering the Capitol when they saw a strangely dressed man just outside the building, carrying a spear.

He was a figure they would come to recognize — Jacob Chansley, the QAnon follower in a Viking outfit who was photographed last week shouting from the dais of the Senate chamber.

They alerted the Capitol Police at the time, as the spear seemed to violate the complex's weapons ban, but officers dismissed their concern, they said.

One officer told them that Chansley had been stopped earlier in the day, but that police “higher ups" had decided not to do anything about him.

We don't “perceive it as a weapon," Nnake recalled the officer saying of the spear.

Chansley told the Globe and Mail's Adrian Morrow that Capitol Police had allowed him in the building on Jan. 6, which would normally include passing through a metal detector, although he was later charged with entering a restricted building without lawful authority, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. As of Tuesday, he had not yet entered a plea.

For Byrne and Nnake, their interactions with the “QAnon Shaman" on Dec. 14 highlighted what they perceive as double standards in how the Capitol Police interact with the public.

Like many people who regularly encounter the force, Nnake and Byrne said they were accustomed to Capitol officers enforcing rules aggressively — later that day, Nnake was told that he would be tackled if he tried to advance beyond a certain point. “As a Black man, when I worked on the Hill, if I forgot a badge, I couldn't get access anywhere," he told ProPublica.

Congress, which controls the agency and its budget, has a mixed record of oversight. For the most part, Congress has been deferential toward the force, paying attention to its workings only after serious security failures, and even then, failing to meaningfully hold its leaders accountable.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat from D.C. who is a nonvoting member of Congress, told ProPublica she believes a national commission should be formed to investigate what occurred at the Capitol on Jan. 6, similar to what followed 9/11.

“Congress deserves some of the blame," she told ProPublica. “We have complete control over the Capitol Police. ... Long-term concerns with security have been raised, and they've not been dealt with in the past."

The force has also suffered a spate of recent, internal scandals that may prove pertinent as Congress conducts its investigation.

Capitol Police officers accidently left several guns in bathrooms throughout the building in 2015 and 2019; in one instance, the loaded firearm was discovered by a small child.

The agency has been criticized for a lack of transparency for years. Capitol Police communications and documents are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and, unlike many local law enforcement agencies, it has no external watchdog specifically assigned to investigate and respond to community complaints. The force has not formally addressed the public since the riot last week.

“All law enforcement is opaque," said Jonathan M. Smith, executive director of the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. “At least most local police departments are subject to some kind of civilian oversight, but federal police agencies are left to operate in the shadows."

The agency's past troubles have rarely resulted in reform, critics said.

After the April 2015 gyrocopter incident, Congress held a hearing to examine how 61-year-old postal worker and activist Doug Hughes managed to land his aircraft after he livestreamed his flight. Dozens of reporters and news cameras assembled in front of the Capitol to watch the stunt, which was designed to draw attention to the influence of money in politics. Capitol Police did not learn of the incoming flight until a reporter reached out to them for comment, minutes before Hughes landed.

Dine defended the force's response to the incident, pointing out that Hughes was promptly arrested and no one was hurt.

Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, then the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, harshly criticized the department and other federal agencies for what he perceived as an intelligence failure.

“The Capitol Police is terrible and pathetic when it comes to threat assessment," Chaffetz told ProPublica in an interview. “They have a couple people dedicated to it, but they're overwhelmed. Which drives me nuts. ... It's not been a priority for leadership, on both sides of the aisle." He said he is not aware of any serious changes to the force's intelligence gathering following the debacle.

Norton, who also pressed Dine at the hearing, told ProPublica the intelligence lapses surrounding the gyrocopter landing should be considered a “forerunner" to last week's riot.

“For weeks, these people had been talking about coming to the Capitol to do as much harm as they can," Norton said. “Everyone knew it. Except the Capitol Police." Reports show the force had no contingency plan to deal with an escalation of violence and mayhem at last week's rally, even though the FBI and the New York Police Department had warned them it could happen.

Law enforcement experts said that the agency is in a difficult position. While it has sole responsibility for protecting the Capitol, it must work with other nearby federal law enforcement agencies, Washington's Metropolitan Police and the National Guard in case of emergencies.

In an interview, Nick Zotos, a former D.C. National Guard commander who now works for the Department of Homeland Security, said that the roughly two dozen agencies responsible for public safety in Washington can cause territorial disputes, finger-pointing and poor communication.

“This is not a D.C. thing, necessarily, although it's probably the worst in D.C.," Zotos said. “Police departments just don't play with each other nicely."

Blackmon-Malloy told ProPublica that divisions within the Capitol Police could be just as dangerous, not only for Congress but for Black officers themselves. “Now you got to go to work on the 20th," she told ProPublica, alluding to the inauguration. “And stand next to someone who you don't even know if they have your back."

Trump built a national debt so big --even before the pandemic-- that it’ll weigh down the economy for years

One of President Donald Trump's lesser known but profoundly damaging legacies will be the explosive rise in the national debt that occurred on his watch. The financial burden that he's inflicted on our government will wreak havoc for decades, saddling our kids and grandkids with debt.

The national debt has risen by almost $7.8 trillion during Trump's time in office. That's nearly twice as much as what Americans owe on student loans, car loans, credit cards and every other type of debt other than mortgages, combined, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It amounts to about $23,500 in new federal debt for every person in the country.

The growth in the annual deficit under Trump ranks as the third-biggest increase, relative to the size of the economy, of any U.S. presidential administration, according to a calculation by a leading Washington budget maven, Eugene Steuerle, co-founder of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. And unlike George W. Bush and Abraham Lincoln, who oversaw the larger relative increases in deficits, Trump did not launch two foreign conflicts or have to pay for a civil war.

Economists agree that we needed massive deficit spending during the COVID-19 crisis to ward off an economic cataclysm, but federal finances under Trump had become dire even before the pandemic. That happened even though the economy was booming and unemployment was at historically low levels. By the Trump administration's own description, the pre-pandemic national debt level was already a “crisis" and a “grave threat."

The combination of Trump's 2017 tax cut and the lack of any serious spending restraint helped both the deficit and the debt soar. So when the once-in-a-lifetime viral disaster slammed our country and we threw more than $3 trillion into COVID-19-related stimulus, there was no longer any margin for error.

Our national debt has reached immense levels relative to our economy, nearly as high as it was at the end of World War II. But unlike 75 years ago, the massive financial overhang from Medicare and Social Security will make it dramatically more difficult to dig ourselves out of the debt ditch.

Falling deeper into the red is the opposite of what Trump, the self-styled “King of Debt," said would happen if he became president. In a March 31, 2016, interview with Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of The Washington Post, Trump said he could pay down the national debt, then about $19 trillion, “over a period of eight years" by renegotiating trade deals and spurring economic growth.

After he took office, Trump predicted that economic growth created by the 2017 tax cut, combined with the proceeds from the tariffs he imposed on a wide range of goods from numerous countries, would help eliminate the budget deficit and let the U.S. begin to pay down its debt. On July 27, 2018, he told Sean Hannityof Fox News: “We have $21 trillion in debt. When this [the 2017 tax cut] really kicks in, we'll start paying off that debt like it's water."

Nine days later, he tweeted, “Because of Tariffs we will be able to start paying down large amounts of the $21 trillion in debt that has been accumulated, much by the Obama Administration."

That's not how it played out. When Trump took office in January 2017, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office was projecting that federal budget deficits would be 2% to 3% of our gross domestic product during Trump's term. Instead, the deficit reached nearly 4% of gross domestic product in 2018 and 4.6% in 2019.

There were multiple culprits. Trump's tax cuts, especially the sharp reduction in the corporate tax rate to 21% from 35%, took a big bite out of federal revenue. The CBO estimated in 2018 that the tax cut would increase deficits by about $1.9 trillion over 11 years.

Meanwhile, Trump's claim that increased revenue from the tariffs would help eliminate (or at least reduce) our national debt hasn't panned out. In 2018, Trump's administration began hiking tariffs on aluminum, steel and many other products, launching what became a global trade war with China, the European Union and other countries.

The tariffs did bring in additional revenue. In fiscal 2019, they netted about $71 billion, up about $36 billion from President Barack Obama's last year in office. But although $36 billion is a lot of money, it's less than 1/750th of the national debt. That $36 billion could have covered a bit more than three weeks of interest on the national debt — that is, had Trump not unilaterally decided to send a chunk of the tariff revenue to farmers affected by his trade wars. Businesses that struggled as a result of the tariffs also paid fewer taxes, offsetting some of the increased tariff revenue.

By early 2019, the national debt had climbed to $22 trillion. Trump's budget proposal for 2020 called it a “grave threat to our economic and societal prosperity" and asserted that the U.S. was experiencing a “national debt crisis." However, that same budget proposal included substantial growth in the national debt.

By the end of 2019, the debt had risen to $23.2 trillion and more federal officials were sounding the alarm. “Not since World War II has the country seen deficits during times of low unemployment that are as large as those that we project — nor, in the past century, has it experienced large deficits for as long as we project," Phillip Swagel, director of the CBO, said in January 2020.

Weeks later, COVID-19 erupted and made the financial situation far worse. As of Dec. 31, 2020, the national debt had jumped to $27.75 trillion, up 39% from $19.95 trillion when Trump was sworn in. The government ended its 2020 fiscal year with the portion of the national debt owed to investors, the metric favored by the CBO, at around 100% of GDP. The CBO had predictedless than a year earlier that it would take until 2030 to reach that approximate level of debt. Including the trillions owed to various governmental trust funds, the total debt is now about 130% of GDP.

Normally, this is where we'd give you Trump's version of events. But we couldn't get anyone to give us Trump's side. Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, referred us to the Office of Management and Budget, which is a branch of the White House.

OMB didn't respond to our requests. The Treasury directed us to comments made by OMB director Russell Vought in October, in which he predicted that as the pandemic eases and economic growth rebounds, the “fiscal picture" will improve. The OMB blamed legislators for deficits when Trump submitted his proposed 2021 budget: “Unfortunately, the Congress continues to reject any efforts to restrain spending. Instead, they have greatly contributed to the continued ballooning of Federal debt and deficits, putting the Nation's fiscal future at risk."

Still, the deficit growth under Trump has been historic. Steuerle, of the Tax Policy Center, has done a comparison of every American president using a metric called the “primary deficit." It's defined as the deficit minus interest costs, because interest is the only budget expense that presidents and Congress can't control unless they want to do the unthinkable and default on the debt. Steuerle examined the records of 45 presidents to see how the primary deficit had shrunk or grown relative to the size of the economy between the first and final years of each president's administration.

Trump had the third-biggest primary deficit growth, 5.2% of GDP, behind only George W. Bush (11.7%) and Abraham Lincoln (9.4%). Bush, of course, not only passed a big tax cut, as Trump has, but also launched two wars, which greatly inflated the defense budget. Lincoln had to pay for the Civil War. By contrast, Trump's wars have been almost entirely of the political variety.

Our national debt is now at its highest level relative to our economy since the end of World War II. After the war ended, the extraordinary military expenses disappeared, a postwar recovery began and the debt began to fall rapidly relative to the size of the economy.

But that's not going to happen this time. When World War II ended 75 years ago, Social Security was in its infancy and Medicare didn't exist. Today, many of our biggest and most rapidly growing expenses, especially Social Security and Medicare, are baked into the budget because of our nation's aging population. These outlays are slated to rise sharply. Steuerle recently calculated that Social Security, health care and interest costs are projected to absorb 122% of the total growth in federal revenues from 2019 to 2030.

What's more, our investment in the future — things like research and development, education, infrastructure, workforce training and such — is declining as a proportion of the budget. OMB data shows that in 1970, mandatory spending (such as Social Security and Medicare, but not including interest on the debt) and investment each made up around 30% of total federal spending. But as of 2019, the most recent available year, mandatory spending had doubled to around 61% of total federal spending while investment fell by more than half, to around 12.5%.

Spending more and more on past promises and shrinking the proportion of spending for the future doesn't bode well for our kids and grandkids. Had Trump done what he said he'd do and paid off part of the national debt before COVID-19 struck rather than adding significantly to the debt, the situation would be considerably less dire. And had Trump done a better job of coping with COVID-19, the economic and human costs would've been greatly reduced.

In addition to forcing us to reduce the proportion of the budget spent on the future to help pay for the past, there's a second reason that huge and growing budget deficits matter: interest costs.

Bigger debt ultimately means bigger interest costs, even in an era when the Federal Reserve has forced down Treasury rates to ultralow levels. The government's net interest cost (including interest paid to government trust funds) was around $523 billion in the 2020 fiscal year. That outstrips all spending on education, employment training, research and social services, Treasury data shows.

Interest costs are way below where they'd be if the Fed hadn't forced rates down to try to stimulate the economy and mitigate the impact of the pandemic. One-year Treasury securities cost taxpayers a minuscule 0.10% in interest at year-end, down from 1.59% at the end of 2019. The 10-year Treasury rate was 0.93%, down from 1.92%.

In late December, the Fed reported boosting its Treasury holdings by more than $2 trillion from a year earlier. The increase is primarily in longer-term securities. That has kept the federal government from having to raise trillions of dollars in the capital markets, and therefore has kept longer-term interest rates way below where they would otherwise be.

But unless something changes, even the Fed's promise to keep interest rates near current levels for several years won't fend off future problems. Most of the government's borrowing to fund pandemic relief has been shorter-term borrowing that will have to be refinanced in the coming years. If rates rise, so will the government's interest expense.

Even with rates where they are, interest on the debt is already going to be the fastest-growing budget category this decade, according to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which tracks the issue. Annual net interest costs are projected to double in 10 years and grow so large beyond 2030 that interest will become a driving factor in annual deficit growth, according to Peterson estimates.

Listen to what CBO Director Swagel had to say on the subject in a report to congressional Republicans in December: “Although the current low interest rates indicate that the debt is manageable for now and that the United States is not facing an immediate fiscal crisis, in which interest rates abruptly escalated or other disruptions occurred, the risk and potential budgetary consequences of such a crisis become greater over time."

Trump was asked about this risk during a virtual discussion with the Economic Club of New York last October. “If we have another stimulus bill out of Congress, are you worried that the entire amount of federal debt will be too large for us to pay off in a sensible way?" asked David Rubenstein, a private equity executive.

Trump answered by falsely claiming that the U.S. was starting to pay off the national debt before the pandemic, and he claimed that future economic growth would let it do so. “I think you're going to see tremendous growth, David, and the growth is going to get it done," Trump said.

Two months later, when Congress finally approved $900 billion of economic stimulus that is being financed with debt, Trump challenged Congress to spend — and borrow — even more. Then he went golfing.

Trump administration says the inconvenience of rescheduling executions outweighs the 'harm' to prisoners set to die

The Trump administration is charging ahead with plans for three back-to-back executions this week, even though two of the condemned prisoners are sick with COVID-19 and multiple courts have objected to the government's aggressive maneuvers.

Despite outstanding legal obstacles in all three cases, the executions remain on the calendar. The three prisoners' fate will ultimately be decided by President Donald Trump and the Supreme Court. Neither has intervened to stop the 10 executions carried out since July.

In their determination to kill Nos. 11, 12 and 13 — capping an unprecedented string of federal executions after a 17-year hiatus — Justice Department officials scheduled executions in defiance of court orders, flouted pandemic safety measures and lied about it, and demanded that judges yield to the administration's self-imposed deadline of Jan. 20.

Their filings don't explicitly acknowledge what everybody knows: They're running out of time to execute people before the inauguration of Joe Biden, who opposes the death penalty.

Instead, their legal rationale for why they cannot wait appears to rest in part on the availability of the private contractors whom the government hired to carry out the executions. Justice Department lawyers argued in court in the past several weeks that the inconvenience of rescheduling these private contractors would "irreparably harm" the government more than the prisoners would be irreparably harmed by dying.

The government has not said who the contractors are or why it hired them. But according to court papers, the contractors have already taken time out of their busy schedules to work this week's executions. The contractors "have made themselves available and presumably have made any necessary arrangements for personal and work-related matters based on the executions scheduled in January," Bureau of Prisons lawyer Rick Winter said in a declaration. The contractors would need at least a month's notice to reschedule, Winter said in another court filing.

Based on the contractors' limited availability, the Justice Department says execution dates "cannot be rescheduled with relative ease." As government lawyers have put it in various court filings, rebooking the contractors would amount to "significant practical burdens," "severe operational burdens," "complex logistical considerations" and "significant, unwarranted logistical challenges."

This, according to the Justice Department, would "inflict irreparable harm on the government." The prisoners, on the other hand, do not face irreparable harm if they lose their last-ditch legal bids to stop or delay their executions, according to the Trump administration. "They cannot show that they will be irreparably harmed," government lawyers wrote in an emergency court filing on New Year's Eve.

The White House, the Justice Department and the Bureau of Prisons did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The contractors' scheduling constraints help explain why the Justice Department clustered its executions together, two or three at a time, despite concerns from BOP officials. Noting that conducting multiple executions a day was found to be a factor in a 2014 Oklahoma execution that went awry, BOP leaders were worried about the strain on their staff. But according to a deposition, the agency went ahead and scheduled multiple executions in a week because that's what then-Attorney General William P. Barr wanted.

Tuesday: Lisa Montgomery

Tuesday's execution of Lisa Montgomery was scheduled despite a court-ordered halt that was in effect at the time. The court order was meant to give Montgomery more time to work on her case because her lawyers caught COVID-19 while visiting her in prison.

The Trump administration fought back, arguing that she had just as much time as all the other "federal death-row inmates who have been scheduled for execution during this year — all of them during the pandemic."

A federal judge in Washington said the execution date violated the Justice Department's own regulations, but the appeals court disagreed. The court-ordered halt expired on Dec. 31.

Montgomery is the only woman on federal death row and would be the first woman to be executed by the federal government since 1953. Convicted in 2007 of a gruesome murder-kidnapping, Montgomery suffers from severe mental illness and trauma, according to her lawyers. International human rights experts with the United Nations and Organization of American States have said her life should be spared, though their recommendations are not binding on U.S. courts.

The Justice Department has accused Montgomery's legal team of stall tactics. "Montgomery seeks delay for its own sake based on alleged procedural violations that she could have raised many months — if not years — ago," the government lawyers, led by Missouri U.S. attorney Timothy A. Garrison and acting D.C. U.S. attorney Michael R. Sherwin, said in a Wednesday court filing. They even suggested that Montgomery should have raised her complaints before her execution was first announced in October.

That notion stunned Montgomery's lawyers. The government's "suggestion that Mrs. Montgomery should have challenged an execution date before it was set would be laughable if the stakes were not so serious," her lawyers said in response on Thursday. "The fact that this litigation is occurring at all — and now so close to the scheduled execution date — is because [the administration] unlawfully abbreviated the time between notice and a scheduled execution in an unprecedented rush to the execution chamber."

Thursday: Corey Johnson

The government is planning to proceed with executing Corey Johnson and Dustin Higgs this week even though the condemned men both tested positive for COVID-19.

The federal death row facility in Terre Haute, Indiana, has had an outbreak of more than 400 cases after the Nov. 19 execution of Orlando Hall. Each execution brings 50 to 125 people to the facility, including BOP staff, the private contractors, victims' family members, journalists and other witnesses. The warden, T.J. Watson, said in a sworn declaration that the facility followed "rigorous safeguards and precautions," including rapid tests and contact tracing using surveillance footage.

But that assurance, a federal judge would later conclude, "has proven to be wholly false." When six members of Hall's execution team tested positive for the coronavirus, BOP conducted contact tracing for only one of them at most. In response, the government explained that it couldn't do contact tracing without compromising the execution team's "unique mission."

"The identities of execution team members are kept confidential to the greatest extent possible, from inmates, the public, and even from other BOP staff members," government lawyers said in a Jan. 4 filing. "Contact tracing would reveal their identities, or information leading to the disclosure of their identities, so as to threaten their safety and subject them to threats and harassment from inmates, members of the public and others."

In December, Higgs started coughing and having chills, then labored breathing. Johnson developed a cough, headache, runny nose, fatigue and body aches. Both inmates tested positive on Dec. 16. Their conditions continued to worsen, and lawyers cited medical experts who said both men have suffered lung damage.

They argue the lung damage will cause Johnson and Higgs to suffer more painful executions because of how the government's lethal injection drug works. The lawyers presented evidence that the drug, a sedative called pentobarbital, would flood the prisoners' lungs with froth and foam, causing pain and terror akin to death by drowning. The suffering would be even more prolonged, they said, for people with lungs damaged by COVID-19.

The Justice Department hired its own medical experts who argued that Johnson and Higgs wouldn't suffer from the lethal injection because they wouldn't be awake. But even if the drug did simulate death by drowning, the government lawyers argued the pain would be "comparable" to death by hanging. Hanging has not been deemed unconstitutional in repeated Supreme Court reviews, as recently as 2019.

Other prisoners at Terre Haute filed their own lawsuit, arguing that the government's execution plans, without adequate COVID-19 prevention measures, exposed them to an unconstitutional health risk. A federal judge in Indiana, after finding that BOP had "deliberately chosen not to implement CDC guidance," sided with the prisoners.

In this case, the judge said the cost to the government of taking these measures could not outweigh the danger to the prisoners' health: "These additional precautions would not be costless, but any costs to the [government] do not outweigh the risk to the [prisoners] of contracting COVID-19 if executions go forward as scheduled without additional precautions." On Thursday she ordered the executions to stop unless BOP enforced mask wearing, logged all exposures, tested all impacted staff daily for two weeks and conducted contact tracing for anyone who tested positive.

The prisoners asked the judge to insist that BOP explain in advance what steps it will take to comply with the order before proceeding with the executions. "It is important to review [BOP's] actions in advance of any further executions, given [BOP's] prior inconsistent implementation of COVID-19 safety precautions and inaccurate disclosures regarding those precautions," the prisoners' lawyers said in a Sunday filing.

But the Justice Department said it will move ahead with the executions and argued it shouldn't have to spell out its measures for the prisoners. "Now that they have a narrower injunction imposing certain COVID precautions, they should not be permitted to convert it into a court-appointed COVID monitorship," lawyers led by acting Indiana U.S. attorney John C. Childress said in a Monday court filing.

"Nobody needs to carry out any executions during a pandemic," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit that tracks executions. "If an execution were lawful, it could be carried out later when it was safe to do so. What we've seen here is purely political."

Separately, Johnson is appealing to stop his execution on the basis that he is intellectually disabled. Johnson was convicted of multiple murders and sentenced to death nine years before the Supreme Court held that executing people with intellectual disabilities is unconstitutional. According to Johnson's lawyers, he could not name the months of the year at age 13, scored an IQ of 69 when he was 16 and has been unable to earn a GED.

In a January 2020 deposition, Associate Deputy Attorney General Brad Weinsheimer said the Justice Department did not consider prisoners' mental health when choosing whom to execute.

Friday: Dustin Higgs

As for Higgs, he was convicted in 2000 in Maryland, which later abolished the death penalty. Since the Federal Death Penalty Act requires the government to follow the law of the state where the prisoner was sentenced, the Justice Department asked the court to reassign Higgs' case to Indiana.

Without waiting for a ruling, the Justice Department scheduled Higgs' execution for Friday. (The announcement incorrectly said that Higgs "murdered three women," when in fact he did not pull the trigger; his co-defendant, who did, was sentenced to life without parole.)

On Dec. 29, the federal court in Maryland denied the Justice Department's request to move Higgs' case to Indiana. The government immediately appealed. The court scheduled a hearing for Jan. 27 — 12 days after Higgs' execution date (and seven after Biden's inauguration).

Rather than reschedule the execution to accommodate the court's timeline, the Justice Department said the court should change its schedule in order to keep the execution date. "In order to meet that deadline," Maryland U.S. attorney Robert K. Hur said, "the Court should either dispense with oral argument or schedule oral argument on Monday, Jan. 11." Hur argued that the Supreme Court frowns on "last-minute stays" — but this was not a case of a prisoner's eleventh-hour claim. It was the government seeking a last-minute emergency order.

Higgs' lawyers were galled by the government's "extraordinary demand."

"The requested rush to decide by an arbitrary date is a situation that the government itself created," they said in a Friday filing. "When the government set Mr. Higgs's execution date, it knew that it had no legal authority to execute him. It acted in the hope that the legal authority would appear before the date that it had selected. That its hope has not yet been fulfilled is no reason for this court to dance to the tune played by the government."

The Justice Department argues that the court lacked the power to refuse its request to reassign Higgs' case to a state that still has the death penalty. While the government acknowledged that it can't execute Higgs without a ruling in its favor, the U.S. attorney's office indicated it will appeal to the Supreme Court if the lower court doesn't agree by Tuesday.

"[Higgs] is just making a 'gotcha' argument, but the loophole he tries to create does not exist," Hur's team said in a Saturday filing. The U.S. attorney's office said allowing the court's decision to stand would amount to "nullification of the executive branch's sovereign authority."

Do you have access to information about federal executions that should be public? Email Isaac at isaac@propublica.org. Here's how to send tips and documents to ProPublica securely.



Members of several well-known hate groups identified at Capitol riot

Members of the ultranationalist street gang known as the Proud Boys were easy to spot at the protests that flared across the United States throughout 2020, often in the middle of a brawl, typically clad in black and yellow outfits.

But in December, as the group's leaders planned to flood Washington to oppose the certification of the Electoral College vote this week for President-elect Joe Biden, they decided to do something different.

“The ProudBoys will turn out in record numbers on Jan 6th but this time with a twist...," Henry “Enrique" Tarrio, the group's president, wrote in a late-December post on Parler, a social media platform that has become popular with right-wing activists and conservatives. “We will not be wearing our traditional Black and Yellow. We will be incognito and we will spread across downtown DC in smaller teams. And who knows....we might dress in all BLACK for the occasion."

The precise composition of the mob that forced its way into the Capitol on Wednesday, disrupting sessions of both houses of Congress and leaving a police officer and four others dead, remains unknown. But a review by a ProPublica-FRONTLINE team that has been tracking far-right movements for the past three years shows that the crowd included members of the Proud Boys and other groups with violent ideologies. Videos reveal the presence of several noted hardcore nativists and white nationalists who participated in the 2017 white power rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that President Donald Trump infamously refused to condemn.

Tarrio does not appear to have been present during the insurrection. Two days before members of the House and Senate gathered to certify the Electoral College results, Washington's Metropolitan Police Department arrested Tarrio and charged him with possessing high-capacity firearm magazines and destruction of property over the burning of a Black Lives Matter banner last month. A judge barred him from entering the city while he awaits trial.

But it appears that Tarrio's followers heeded his advice. A journalist working with ProPublica and FRONTLINE encountered members of the Proud Boys in dark clothes walking through Washington on the night before the attack. The four men posed for a photo and confirmed their membership in the group. Few participants involved in the Capitol siege were seen wearing Proud Boys colors or logos.

But since the incident, Proud Boys social media channels have flaunted their direct role in the attack and looting of the Capitol.

One prominent Proud Boys account encouraged rioters as the chaos was unfolding: “Hold your ground!!!... DO NOT GO HOME. WE ARE ON THE CUSP OF SAVING THE CONSTITUTION."

So far, police have arrested more than 80 people in connection with the attack, including at least one Proud Boy, Nick Ochs. They have seized pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails and arrested at least six people on illegal firearms charges, including one Maryland man who was captured in the visitors' center of the Capitol. More arrests are expected.

As the crowds ringing the Capitol swelled on Wednesday, a small group of men clad in body armor shuffled toward the doors at the center of the building's east-facing facade.

The eight men, whose movements were captured on video, were identified by ProPublica and FRONTLINE as members of the Oath Keepers, a long-standing militia group that has pledged to ignite a civil war on behalf of Trump. Members of the group joined the protesters and insurrectionists flooding into the Capitol. Footage from later in the day shows Oath Keepers dragging a wounded comrade out of the building.

Stewart Rhodes, a former soldier and Yale law school graduate, who founded the Oath Keepers in 2009 and built it into a nationwide network, was seen on video standing outside the Capitol building. While he was not seen entering the Capitol, he could be seen talking with his militia followers throughout the day.

Several other of the participants ProPublica and FRONTLINE identified from video have direct links to the white nationalist movement, which has seen a resurgence of activity during the Trump era.

One was Nick Fuentes, an internet personality who streams a daily talk show on DLive, an alternative social media platform. Fuentes, who marched in Charlottesville during the 2017 white power rally there, speaks frequently in anti-Semitic terms and pontificates on the need to protect America's white heritage from the ongoing shift in the nation's demographics. He has publicly denied believing in white nationalism but has said that he considers himself a “white majoritarian."

Fuentes, who spoke at pro-Trump rallies late last year in Michigan and Washington, D.C., said he was at the rally on Wednesday but didn't follow the mob into the Capitol. One group of Fuentes' supporters, who call themselves the Groyper Army, was filmed running through the Capitol carrying a large blue flag with the America First logo.

Days before the Capitol was stormed, Fuentes seemed to encourage his followers to kill state legislators in a bid to overturn Biden's electoral victory, as Megan Squire, a computer science professor at Elon University who follows online extremist communities, noted on Twitter.

“What can you and I do to a state legislator — besides kill him?" he said with a smirk. “We should not do that. I'm not advising that, but I mean, what else can you do, right?"

Squire fears that Fuentes' incendiary rhetoric will inspire his followers to engage in more drastic — even lethal — acts of political violence. “Instead of trying to appear democratic he's making an argument for fascism, for monarchism," she said. “He's criticizing democracy at every turn. He doesn't believe in democracy and it's scary because his fans find him fascinating."

DLive recently announced that it has booted Fuentes from its platform.

Another figure inside the Capitol with ties to white nationalists was Tim Gionet, a livestreamer who uses the handle Baked Alaska and who participated in the Charlottesville rally, which left one woman dead. Gionet was photographed within the Capitol and apparently used DLive to stream from within the building as events unfolded. Part of his video appeared to show him in Nancy Pelosi's office, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.

Other extremist figures present either at the rally or within the Capitol included Vincent James Foxx, an online propagandist for the Rise Above Movement, a now-defunct Southern California white supremacist group.

Also on scene: Gabe Brown, a New Englander who helped create Anticom, a now-defunct organization devoted to physically combating leftists. In 2017, Anticom members posted a vast trove of bomb-making manuals to a private online chatroom.

The militant group members joined with scores of others who rampaged inside the Capitol.

Rep. André Carson, a Democrat from Indiana, said the scene reminded him of a Ku Klux Klan rally. Photos from within the Capitol showed one unidentified man carrying a Confederate battle flag and another wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with a skull and the words “Camp Auschwitz," a reference to the infamous Nazi death camp.

Carson and other House members who spoke to ProPublica and FRONTLINE said the body would be launching an extensive investigation of the Capitol Police force and its mishandling of Wednesday's events.

The rioters, said Carson, who is Black, “were hostile. They were venomous. And I think there was a sense of entitlement that they carried that somehow their country was being taken away from them."

After the siege, a Boogaloo Bois group called the Last Sons of Liberty, which includes militants from Virginia, posted a video to Parler purporting to document their role in the incident — a clip that shows members inside the Capitol. A loose-knit confederation of anti-government militants, the Boogaloo Bois have been tied to a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and to the murder of two law enforcement officers in California. ProPublica and FRONTLINE have been unable to independently confirm their involvement.

Some far-right activists are already calling for retribution over the death of Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran from California who was shot and killed by a security officer. “We've got a girl that's dead. She's shot, laying on the ground in there," said Damon Beckley, leader of a group called DC Under Siege, in an interview just outside the Capitol while the riot was ongoing. “We're not putting up with this tyrannical rule. ... If we gotta come back here and start a revolution and take all these traitors out — which is what should happen — then we will."

Another person took to Parler to say that they were planning to show up, armed, in Washington for Inauguration Day. “Many of us will return on January 19, 2021 carrying Our weapons," wrote the Parler user, who goes by the handle Colonel007. “We will come in numbers that no standing army or police agency can match."

The Proud Boys also celebrated on social media. On Parler, one Proud Boys leader posted a photo of members of Congress cowering in fear and captioned it with a menacing statement: “Today you found out. The power of the people will not be denied."

'This political climate got my brother killed': Officer Brian Sicknick died defending the Capitol. His family waits for answers.

The grieving family of a slain Capitol Police officer says he was a private man whose death shouldn't be politicized. But now it is forced to make sense of the reality that he is a victim of political violence, his legacy forever linked to an insurrection in the U.S. Capitol.

"He spent his life trying to help other people," the officer's eldest brother told ProPublica. "This political climate got my brother killed."

Brian David Sicknick, 42, died Thursday of injuries he sustained while trying to protect the Capitol from a mob of violent rioters supporting President Donald Trump who rushed the building to disrupt the certification of the presidential election.

Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. (Courtesy of Sicknick Family)

Before the officer's death had officially been announced late Thursday, the Sicknick family was rushing from its home in New Jersey to see him in a Washington-area hospital as word circulated on social media that a Capitol Police officer had succumbed to grave injuries.

Last they had heard, Sicknick was in critical condition on a ventilator, according to family members who spoke to ProPublica. While some news reports had said an unnamed officer was in critical condition after being bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher, family members did not have details of his injuries. They say Sicknick had texted them Wednesday night to say that while he had been pepper-sprayed, he was in good spirits. The text arrived hours after a mob's assault on the Capitol had left more than 50 officers injured and five people dead.

"He texted me last night and said, 'I got pepper-sprayed twice,' and he was in good shape," said Ken Sicknick, his brother, as the family drove toward Washington. "Apparently he collapsed in the Capitol and they resuscitated him using CPR."

But the day after that text exchange, the family got word that Brian Sicknick had a blood clot and had had a stroke; a ventilator was keeping him alive.

"We weren't expecting it," his brother said.

As apparently premature news of Sicknick's death spread in law enforcement circles, the U.S. Capitol Police Department remained silent, including no response to an early request for confirmation from ProPublica on Thursday evening. The family learned from reporter phone calls that something was wrong."We have not gotten any calls," Ken Sicknick said when first contacted. Brian Sicknick was the youngest of three siblings, all boys. "We're kind of overwhelmed right now. You guys are getting reports of his death before I even got anything."

Nearly an hour later, the department issued a statement rebutting news reports that an officer had died. The department finally reported that Sicknick had died at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, adding that this was the result of injuries sustained during the attack the previous day.

By the time family members reached the hospital, they say, Sicknick was dead.

In separate interviews with ProPublica, family members say they are still waiting to learn exactly what happened. They described Sicknick as the kindest of the three siblings. They said he went to a technical school to study electronics but ditched it to follow his dream of becoming a police officer. They couldn't confirm the time of death.

The family's grief and confusion comes amid serious questions about how a secretive police department that is well-funded and highly trained at quelling violent protests and protecting members of Congress had failed to protect one of its own from an attack that had been planned out in plain sight.

Sicknick during basic training in 1997. (Courtesy of New Jersey National Guard)

In a press release, the department said: "The entire USCP Department expresses its deepest sympathies to Officer Sicknick's family and friends on their loss, and mourns the loss of a friend and colleague."

The Sicknick family issued its own press release Friday, urging the public and reporters to not politicize Sicknick's death.

"Please honor Brian's life and service and respect our privacy while we move forward in doing the same. Brian is a hero and that is what we would like people to remember," the statement said.

Still in shock, one family member, who agreed to talk but asked not to be named, said Sicknick had sometimes expressed frustrations with his job.

"Occasionally he would mention that they were very understaffed and they worked a lot of hours," the family member said. "And morale could be low."

Larry Schaefer, who spent 34 years on the force before retiring last year and knew Sicknick, said Wednesday's breach of the Capitol was unfathomable until he saw it on his TV screen."We handle demonstrations on a regular basis," Schaefer said. "We're prepared for this kind of stuff. We hold people back in a perimeter. We're set up for mass arrests, to load buses of people away."

He said he blames department leaders for the tragedy. Under pressure from congressional leaders, Chief Steven Sund of the Capitol Police and two other security officials have resigned.

After Sicknick struggled to find a policing job early on, his family said, in 1997 he joined the New Jersey National Guard "as a means to that end." He was deployed to Saudi Arabia and Kyrgyzstan during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was honorably discharged in 2003, according to a Guard spokesman.

He subsequently trained to be a Capitol Police officer, graduating in 2008. The family came down to see the graduation ceremony, in "one of those big fancy buildings," one family member said.

One of his first assignments was working the inauguration of former President Barack Obama, a moment that filled Sicknick and the family with pride.

Twelve years later, Sicknick was a member of the department's First Responder Unit when Trump, in the final days of a presidency that fomented anger and division, held a rally that precipitated the Capitol attack.

In a press release Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said, "The violent and deadly act of insurrection targeting the Capitol, our temple of American Democracy, and its workers was a profound tragedy and stain on our nation's history."

"I send our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Officer Brian Sicknick," Pelosi said. "The perpetrators of Officer Sicknick's death must be brought to justice."

After a forced hiatus from Twitter, Trump returned to his favorite platform on Friday to honor his supporters, whom he called "patriots," and to announce he will not attend the inauguration of Joe Biden.

In a statement, Trump's deputy press secretary Judd Deere said: "Anytime a member of law enforcement dies in the line of duty it is a solemn reminder to us all that they run toward danger to maintain peace. The President and the entire Administration extend our prayers to Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick's family as we all grieve the loss of this American hero."

Mollie Simon contributed reporting.

Trump supporters planned their assault on the Capitol in plain sight -- but DC police were unprepared

The invasion of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday was stoked in plain sight. For weeks, the far-right supporters of President Donald Trump railed on social media that the election had been stolen. They openly discussed the idea of violent protest on the day Congress met to certify the result.

“We came up with the idea to occupy just outside the CAPITOL on Jan 6th," leaders of the Stop the Steal movement wrote on Dec. 23. They called their Wednesday demonstration the Wild Protest, a name taken from a tweet by Trump that encouraged his supporters to take their grievances to the streets of Washington. “Will be wild," the president tweeted.

Ali Alexander, the founder of the movement, encouraged people to bring tents and sleeping bags and avoid wearing masks for the event. “If D.C. escalates… so do we," Alexander wrote on Parler last week — one of scores of social media posts welcoming violence that were reviewed by ProPublica in the weeks leading up to Wednesday's attack on the capitol.

Thousands of people heeded that call.

For reasons that remained unclear Wednesday night, the law enforcement authorities charged with protecting the nation's entire legislative branch — nearly all of the 535 members of Congress gathered in a joint session, along with Vice President Mike Pence — were ill-prepared to contain the forces massed against them.

On Wednesday afternoon, a thin line of U.S. Capitol Police, with only a few riot shields between them and a knot of angry protesters, engaged in hand-to-hand combat with rioters on the steps of the West Front. They struggled with a flimsy set of barricades as a mob in helmets and bulletproof vests pushed its way toward the Capitol entrance. Videos showed officers stepping aside, and sometimes taking selfies, as if to usher Trump's supporters into the building they were supposed to guard.

A former Capitol policeman well-versed in his agency's procedures was mystified by the scene he watched unfold on live television. Larry Schaefer, a 34-year Capitol Police veteran who retired in December 2019, said his former colleagues were experienced in dealing with aggressive crowds.

“It's not a spur-of-the-moment demonstration that just popped up," Schaefer said. “We have a planned, known demonstration that has a propensity for violence in the past and threats to carry weapons — why would you not prepare yourself as we have done in the past?"

A spokesperson for the Capitol Police did not respond to a request for comment.

In recent years, federal law enforcement agencies have stepped up their focus on far-right groups, resulting in a spate of arrests. In October, the FBI arrested a group of Michigan extremists and charged them with plotting to kidnap the state's governor. On Monday, Washington police arrested Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the far-right group the Proud Boys, on charges of burning a Black Lives Matter banner.

Conversations on right-wing platforms are monitored closely by federal intelligence. In September, a draft report by the Department of Homeland Security surfaced, identifying white supremacists as the biggest threat to national security.

The warnings of Wednesday's assault on the Capitol were everywhere — perhaps not entirely specific about the planned time and exact location of an assault on the Capitol, but enough to clue in law enforcement about the potential for civil unrest.

On Dec. 12, a poster on the website MyMilitia.com urged violence if senators made official the victory of President-elect Joe Biden.

“If this does not change, then I advocate, Revolution and adherence to the rules of war," wrote someone identifying themselves as I3DI. “I say, take the hill or die trying."

Wrote another person: “It's already apparent that literally millions of Americans are on the verge of activating their Second Amendment duty to defeat tyranny and save the republic."

The easily overpowered police force guarding the Capitol on Wednesday posed a stark contrast to the tactics deployed by local police during this summer's Black Lives Matter protests. Then, the city felt besieged by law enforcement.

On June 1, following a few days of mostly peaceful protests, the National Guard, the Secret Service and the U.S. Park Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a nonviolent crowd in Lafayette Square outside the White House to allow Trump to pose with a Bible in front of a nearby church.

“We need to dominate the battlespace," then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said on a call with dozens of governors, asking them to send their National Guard forces to the capital.

On June 2 — the day of the primary election in Washington — law enforcement officers appeared on every corner, heavily armed in fatigues and body armor. Humvees blocked intersections. Buses full of troops deployed into military columns and marshaled in front of the Lincoln Memorial in a raw show of force. Police kettled protesters in alleys. Choppers thudded overhead for days and sank low enough over protesters to generate gale-force winds.

Such dominance was nowhere in evidence Wednesday, despite a near-lockdown of the downtown area on Tuesday night. Trump supporters drove to the Capitol and parked in spaces normally reserved for congressional staff. Some vehicles stopped on the lawns near the Tidal Basin.

The contrast shook Washington's attorney general, Karl Racine, who seemed to be almost in disbelief on CNN Wednesday evening.

“There was zero intelligence that the Black Lives Matter protesters were going to 'storm the capitol,'" he remembered, after ticking down the many police forces present in June. “Juxtapose that with what we saw today, with hate groups, militia and other groups that have no respect for the rule of law go into the capitol. ... That dichotomy is shocking."

The question of how law enforcement and the national security establishment failed so spectacularly will likely be the subject of intense focus in coming days.

David Carter, director of the Intelligence Program at Michigan State University, said that sometimes, the best intelligence in the world doesn't translate into adequate preparedness. Perhaps the security officials responsible for protecting the Capitol simply could not envision that a crowd of Americans would charge through a police line and shatter the glass windows that stood as the only physical barrier to entering the building.

“I go back to the 9/11 commission report," Carter said. “It was a failure of imagination. They didn't imagine something like this. Would you imagine people were going to break into the Capitol and go into the chambers? That failure of imagination sometimes makes us drop the ball."

Capitol rioters planned for weeks in plain sight -- but the police weren’t ready

The invasion of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday was stoked in plain sight. For weeks, the far-right supporters of President Donald Trump railed on social media that the election had been stolen. They openly discussed the idea of violent protest on the day Congress met to certify the result.

“We came up with the idea to occupy just outside the CAPITOL on Jan 6th," leaders of the Stop the Steal movement wrote on Dec. 23. They called their Wednesday demonstration the Wild Protest, a name taken from a tweet by Trump that encouraged his supporters to take their grievances to the streets of Washington. “Will be wild," the president tweeted.

Ali Alexander, the founder of the movement, encouraged people to bring tents and sleeping bags and avoid wearing masks for the event. “If D.C. escalates… so do we," Alexander wrote on Parler last week — one of scores of social media posts welcoming violence that were reviewed by ProPublica in the weeks leading up to Wednesday's attack on the capitol.

Thousands of people heeded that call.

For reasons that remained unclear Wednesday night, the law enforcement authorities charged with protecting the nation's entire legislative branch — nearly all of the 535 members of Congress gathered in a joint session, along with Vice President Mike Pence — were ill-prepared to contain the forces massed against them.

On Wednesday afternoon, a thin line of U.S. Capitol Police, with only a few riot shields between them and a knot of angry protesters, engaged in hand-to-hand combat with rioters on the steps of the West Front. They struggled with a flimsy set of barricades as a mob in helmets and bulletproof vests pushed its way toward the Capitol entrance. Videos showed officers stepping aside, and sometimes taking selfies, as if to usher Trump's supporters into the building they were supposed to guard.

A former Capitol policeman well-versed in his agency's procedures was mystified by the scene he watched unfold on live television. Larry Schaefer, a 34-year Capitol Police veteran who retired in December 2019, said his former colleagues were experienced in dealing with aggressive crowds.

“It's not a spur-of-the-moment demonstration that just popped up," Schaefer said. “We have a planned, known demonstration that has a propensity for violence in the past and threats to carry weapons — why would you not prepare yourself as we have done in the past?"

A spokesperson for the Capitol Police did not respond to a request for comment.

In recent years, federal law enforcement agencies have stepped up their focus on far-right groups, resulting in a spate of arrests. In October, the FBI arrested a group of Michigan extremists and charged them with plotting to kidnap the state's governor. On Monday, Washington police arrested Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the far-right group the Proud Boys, on charges of burning a Black Lives Matter banner.

Conversations on right-wing platforms are monitored closely by federal intelligence. In September, a draft report by the Department of Homeland Security surfaced, identifying white supremacists as the biggest threat to national security.

The warnings of Wednesday's assault on the Capitol were everywhere — perhaps not entirely specific about the planned time and exact location of an assault on the Capitol, but enough to clue in law enforcement about the potential for civil unrest.

On Dec. 12, a poster on the website MyMilitia.com urged violence if senators made official the victory of President-elect Joe Biden.

“If this does not change, then I advocate, Revolution and adherence to the rules of war," wrote someone identifying themselves as I3DI. “I say, take the hill or die trying."

Wrote another person: “It's already apparent that literally millions of Americans are on the verge of activating their Second Amendment duty to defeat tyranny and save the republic."

The easily overpowered police force guarding the Capitol on Wednesday posed a stark contrast to the tactics deployed by local police during this summer's Black Lives Matter protests. Then, the city felt besieged by law enforcement.

On June 1, following a few days of mostly peaceful protests, the National Guard, the Secret Service and the U.S. Park Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a nonviolent crowd in Lafayette Square outside the White House to allow Trump to pose with a Bible in front of a nearby church.

“We need to dominate the battlespace," then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said on a call with dozens of governors, asking them to send their National Guard forces to the capital.

On June 2 — the day of the primary election in Washington — law enforcement officers appeared on every corner, heavily armed in fatigues and body armor. Humvees blocked intersections. Buses full of troops deployed into military columns and marshaled in front of the Lincoln Memorial in a raw show of force. Police kettled protesters in alleys. Choppers thudded overhead for days and sank low enough over protesters to generate gale-force winds.

Such dominance was nowhere in evidence Wednesday, despite a near-lockdown of the downtown area on Tuesday night. Trump supporters drove to the Capitol and parked in spaces normally reserved for congressional staff. Some vehicles stopped on the lawns near the Tidal Basin.

The contrast shook Washington's attorney general, Karl Racine, who seemed to be almost in disbelief on CNN Wednesday evening.

“There was zero intelligence that the Black Lives Matter protesters were going to 'storm the capitol,'" he remembered, after ticking down the many police forces present in June. “Juxtapose that with what we saw today, with hate groups, militia and other groups that have no respect for the rule of law go into the capitol. ... That dichotomy is shocking."

The question of how law enforcement and the national security establishment failed so spectacularly will likely be the subject of intense focus in coming days.

David Carter, director of the Intelligence Program at Michigan State University, said that sometimes, the best intelligence in the world doesn't translate into adequate preparedness. Perhaps the security officials responsible for protecting the Capitol simply could not envision that a crowd of Americans would charge through a police line and shatter the glass windows that stood as the only physical barrier to entering the building.

“I go back to the 9/11 commission report," Carter said. “It was a failure of imagination. They didn't imagine something like this. Would you imagine people were going to break into the Capitol and go into the chambers? That failure of imagination sometimes makes us drop the ball."

'Nobody' hurt -- 'just a perp': NYPD officers shoot and kill man in his own home

Twenty months after Kawaski Trawick was shot and killed by an officer, the New York Police Department has disclosed the nearly full footage of what happened. It shows not only the shooting itself, which the department released footage of last month, but also the minutes afterward.

Other officers converged on the building in the Bronx after the officer who fired at Trawick reported “shots fired." Many of the arriving officers activated body-worn cameras, which captured what they said.

“Who's injured?" a sergeant asks as she arrives in front of Trawick's door. Two officers respond in near-unison: “Nobody. Just a perp."

As ProPublica detailed last month, Trawick was shot just 112 seconds after officers arrived at his apartment.

A more experienced, Black officer had tried to stop his younger, white partner from using force. The younger officer first fired his Taser without a verbal warning to Trawick, who had been standing with a bread knife and stick. When Trawick started running toward the officers seconds later, the officer shot Trawick twice, killing him almost instantly.

Trawick's mother, Ellen Trawick, told ProPublica the further footage “upsets me on so many levels. I don't see why they would refer to my son as a 'perp' — he had not committed a crime, he was not committing a crime and he was in his own home."

Kawaski Trawick, who had struggled with his mental health and drugs, had called 911 after he locked himself out of his apartment. Firefighters had let Trawick back in, but police arrived soon after. Others in the building had also called 911 saying Trawick was banging on doors and walking the halls with a stick and knife.

“Why are you in my home?" Trawick repeatedly demanded to know after officers arrived. The older officer, Herbert Davis, and his partner, Brendan Thompson, did not answer him. Instead, they told him again and again to put the bread knife down.

About 30 seconds into the encounter, Davis told Thompson, “We ain't gonna tase him." When Thompson fired his Taser anyway and then aimed his gun after Trawick got up, Davis briefly pushed it down saying, “No, no — don't, don't, don't, don't, don't." (Here is an annotated video of the encounter.)

The newly disclosed footage shows Davis gave this account to colleagues minutes later: “He came at us with a knife. We tased him to stop him because we were trying to tell him to put it down."

The day after the April 14, 2019, shooting, a top NYPD official told reporters it “appears to be justified. This guy's charging at them, with a knife in one hand, a stick in the other, screaming at them, in a confined space."

The NYPD declined to release further details on the case for more than a year and a half, saying doing so could interfere with its investigation. The NYPD released some video of the shooting about a month ago, soon after ProPublica's story and after the Bronx district attorney published footage.

The NYPD released the latest footage to the nonprofit organization New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, which had sued, demanding the full, unedited footage. The NYPD sent the group multiple videos in late December, the night before a court hearing in the case. The footage includes some redactions by the NYPD to cover things like civilians' faces.

“It's good that we've been able to get footage, but there's been an enormous delay," said Benjamin Reed, a lawyer representing New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “We first filed our request in the spring of 2019, shortly after the incident."

In June of 2020, during the height of Black Lives Matter protests, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the NYPD to quickly release body-worn camera footage after an officer fires a weapon or seriously injures a civilian. The department has said it's working through a backlog of footage. The NYPD has also faced criticism for not sharing footage with investigators from the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

Asked for the latest on the Trawick case, the NYPD told ProPublica that its investigation is complete but pending review by the police commissioner, who has final say over any discipline. The NYPD told ProPublica in November that both officers remain on active duty. (Davis has declined to comment and Thompson has not returned requests for comment.)

The latest Trawick footage shows the reaction not only of officers. It captures the building's superintendent distraught in the minutes after the shooting. He had called 911 that night saying Trawick had threatened him after the super wouldn't open Trawick's door. “Why did you have to shoot that man?" the super repeatedly asks an officer. “Y'all gonna shoot me too? Come on, y'all couldn't tase him or something?"

“We did that," an officer responded. “It didn't work."

Lucas Waldron and Mollie Simon contributed reporting.

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