“Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.”
That was just some of the inciting rhetoric FBI officials observed online ahead of the deadly pro-Trump riots targeting the US Capitol building last week, according to a new report, contradicting statements the bureau made in a press conference on Tuesday that said it had “no indication” of warnings about the mob.
The Washington Post reported that the FBI field office in Norfolk, Virginia released an internal warning of the potential for violence during demonstrations scheduled as Congress was convening to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Federal agencies and the United States Capitol Police department have both received criticism from lawmakers for their apparent unpreparedness during the violent riots, which left at least 14 officers injured and one dead as a result of injuries he sustained in the clash.
Law enforcement officials said last week that they did not have intelligence indicating violence at the demonstrations in support of President Donald Trump and his false claims of a rigged election. The new report appears to indicate officials within the bureau were sounding the alarm well before the rioters befell Washington and ransacked the offices of government.
The Justice Department announced on Tuesday that it was investigating “significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy” and collected 100,000 pieces of digital evidence from the public since the Capitol riots.
Videos posted to social media have also shown accounts of the president’s supporters who were allegedly involved in the Capitol riots being escorted off of planes. Those reports appeared to indicate the rioters had been added to no-fly lists as a result of the deadly mob attacks.
The Virginia field office drafted a situational information report approved for release, according to the newspaper, which read as follows: “As of 5 January 2021, FBI Norfolk received information indicating calls for violence in response to ‘unlawful lockdowns’ to begin on 6 January 2021 in Washington. D.C.”
It continued: “An online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating ‘Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled. Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.”
Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge at the FBI Washington Field Office, said on Tuesday that the bureau worked with other field offices in the weeks leading up to 6 January “for any intelligence” about people traveling to “the DC area to cause violence" and "immediately shared" information with law enforcement partners.
He joined acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin for their first press briefing six days after the mob threatened lawmakers in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Mr D’Antuono said that the FBI was aware that people intended to travel to the nation’s capital to commit acts of violence, though he said that the bureau “had no indication information was linked to a specific person" and "was a matter of an online discussion."
“As offensive as a statement can be, the FBI cannot open an investigation without a threat of violence or alleged criminal activity,” he said.
He said that agencies had disrupted travel among people who had planned violence, including the arrest of Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio in the days leading up to the riot. He was arrested by Metropolitan Police Department officers after admitting to destroying a Black Lives Matter banner on a historic African-American church during last month’s violent demonstrations. He was subsequently charged with possessing two high capacity firearm magazines at the time of his arrest.
Federal law enforcement has faced mounting criticism over its perceived inability to respond to explicit far-right violence, openly organized on social media platforms for weeks, and whether they failed to register how a largely white right-wing crowd fiercely devoted to the president could endanger police, in stark contrast to the overt federal response against protesters during 2020’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
Lawmakers from across the country have since called for additional security measures throughout the transition of power, with President-elect Joe BIden insisting he was confident his inauguration ceremonies could go forward as planned with the Secret Service conducting oversight of the day, which has been declared a special national security event.
The document obtained byThe Washington Post was reportedly shared with others in the bureau, though it remained unclear to what extent the FBI was aware of specific calls for violence online ahead of the riots. The FBI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
FBI director Christopher Wray, field offices and the Department of Homeland Security have warned for months about the potential for far-right violence in the days leading up to and following the election, as well as the rising threats of white supremacist groups, which the director has unambiguously labeled a “national threat priority” posing significant risks to national and economic security.
The document notes that the information reflects only alerts from the FBI’s Norfolk office and was not unintended to be shared outside law enforcement circles, and offices “are requested not to take action based on this raw reporting without prior coordination with the FBI,” according to The Post.
A security advisory shared among federal, state and local agencies to brief law enforcement about potential vulnerabilities was never produced, The Wall Street Journal has reported.
DHS spokesperson Chase Jennings told The Independent on Friday that DHS set up a virtual situation room on 5 January and received a call for support from US Capitol Police at 2.30pm on 6 January, as attacks on the Capitol were underway. “DHS had open channels with partners and shared information on those channels as necessary,” he said in a statement.