The president nominated three people to the beleaguered agency’s board on a day when the postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, a major Republican donor, faced questioning on Capitol Hill.
Thomas Kaplan and
WASHINGTON — President Biden on Wednesday announced three nominees to fill vacant seats on the Postal Service’s board of governors, a move to increase Democratic influence on the future of the beleaguered agency.
If the nominees are confirmed by the Senate, Democrats and Democratic appointees would gain a majority on the nine-member board. That would give them the power to oust Louis DeJoy, a major Republican donor who has served as postmaster general since last year, should they decide to. The board, not the president, hires and fires the postmaster general.
The announcement came on the same day that the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing on how to address the post office’s widespread service and financial problems, marking the first time that Mr. DeJoy had testified before lawmakers since the election in November.
The Postal Service catapulted to the national spotlight last summer amid nationwide slowdowns that coincided with operational changes instituted by Mr. DeJoy, raising fears ahead of the election about vote-by-mail delays. Democrats accused Mr. DeJoy, a supporter of President Donald J. Trump, of trying to undercut mail balloting at a time when Mr. Trump was also promoting a false narrative that it was rife with fraud.
But Mr. DeJoy has also drawn fire for continued delivery problems since the election, as the Postal Service struggles to find a sounder financial footing.
In his opening statement on Wednesday, Mr. DeJoy offered an apology for the service’s slow delivery times during the 2020 holiday season.
“We must acknowledge that during this peak season, we fell far short of meeting our service targets,” he said. “Too many Americans were left waiting for weeks for important deliveries of mail and packages. This is unacceptable, and I apologize to those customers who felt the impact of our delays.”
He promised that the agency would “do better” and added, “Above all, my message is that the status quo is acceptable to no one.”
Mr. Biden’s announcement was his most direct action to date to address the service’s problems. The president’s nominees are Anton Hajjar, the former general counsel of the American Postal Workers Union; Amber McReynolds, the chief executive of the National Vote at Home Institute; and Ron Stroman, who resigned last year as deputy postmaster general and later served on Mr. Biden’s transition as the leader of the agency review team for the Postal Service.
“These experienced and tested leaders will ensure the U.S.P.S. is running at the highest of service standards and that it can effectively and efficiently serve all communities in our country,” the White House said in its announcement.
Mr. DeJoy said Postal Service leaders had been developing a 10-year strategy for the agency that would include “a commitment to six- and seven-day-a-week delivery service to every address in the nation.”
He later acknowledged, however, that the Postal Service was “evaluating all service standards,” suggesting that it might not be able to meet its current benchmarks for timely mail delivery.
Lawmakers are debating a bill that would repeal a financially burdensome requirement that the service pre-fund its retiree health care, among other provisions. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have expressed some support for the changes.
But during the hearing, Republicans reminded the committee of the political sparring last summer amid the delivery delays, calling out Democrats for what they saw as unfair accusations levied against Mr. DeJoy.
“Why should we believe that the rabid resistance is not going to continue?” said Representative Jody B. Hice, Republican of Georgia. “If moving blue boxes and mail sorters and trying to bring sanity to overtime usage is somehow viewed as criminal activity by the postmaster, then what in the world is going to happen to the business plan that he comes up with?”
The delays last year prompted a slew of lawsuits that forced the Postal Service to temporarily postpone the operational changes. But service issues have continued to plague the agency, and some Democrats have called for Mr. Biden to replace the entire Postal Service board.
Asked by Representative Jim Cooper, Democrat of Tennessee, how long he planned to serve in his post, Mr. DeJoy responded: “A long time. Get used to me.”
At another point, Mr. DeJoy said Mr. Biden had not called on him to resign, nor had any members of the board.
Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., Democrat of New Jersey, praised the president’s announcement on Wednesday, saying in a statement that it was an “important step, and I hope only the beginning.” But Mr. Pascrell added that Mr. Biden should remove the existing board members, whom he said had “been silent and complicit to the DeJoy sabotage.”
On Tuesday, the Postal Service chose Oshkosh Defense, a manufacturer of military vehicles, for a $482 million deal to provide the next generation of postal delivery trucks, over an electric-vehicle maker.
Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.
House Panel Advances Bill to Study Reparations in Historic Vote
The legislation, which would create a panel to consider reparations for slavery, is being considered as President Biden works to address racial inequity.
A House committee voted on Wednesday to recommend for the first time the creation of a commission to consider providing Black Americans with reparations for slavery in the United States and a “national apology” for centuries of discrimination.
The vote by the House Judiciary Committee was a major milestone for proponents of reparations, who have labored for decades to build mainstream support for redressing the lingering effects of slavery. Democrats on the panel advanced the legislation establishing the commission over Republican objections, 25 to 17.
The bill — labeled H.R. 40 after the unfulfilled Civil War-era promise to give former slaves “40 acres and a mule” — still faces steep odds of becoming law. With opposition from some Democrats and unified Republicans, who argue that Black Americans do not need a government handout for long-ago crimes, neither chamber of Congress has committed to a floor vote.
But as the country grapples anew with systemic racism laid bare by the coronavirus pandemic and the death of George Floyd and other Black men in confrontations with the police, the measure has drawn support from the nation’s most powerful Democrats, including President Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader. Polling suggests that public support is growing, too, though it remains far from widespread.
“We’re asking for people to understand the pain, the violence, the brutality, the chattel-ness of what we went through,” Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas, said during a committee debate late Wednesday. “And of course, we’re asking for harmony, reconciliation, reason to come together as Americans.”
The renewed interest in reparations comes as Mr. Biden has positioned addressing racial inequities at the center of his domestic policy agenda, proposing billions of dollars in investments in Black farmers, business owners, neighborhoods, students and the poor. The White House has said Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion jobs agenda is intended, in part, to “tackle systemic racism and rebuild our economy and our social safety net so that every person in America can reach their full potential.”
The question of reparations to former slaves and their descendants has vexed and divided policymakers for generations, caught up in larger questions about the legacy of racism in America and white denial of the crippling effects of the slave economy. It presents thorny practical questions as well, like who should benefit, what form reparations might take and how to pay for them.
William T. Sherman, the Union general, made the first widespread attempt in 1865 with a special battlefield order to seize 400,000 acres of costal land and award it in parcels to former slaves. But after President Abraham Lincoln died later that year, his successor, Andrew Johnson, quickly rescinded it. No subsequent plan has come close to enactment.
Black representatives in Congress began rekindling the issue three decades ago when they first proposed a commission to explore it. The bill before the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday would establish a body to study the effects of slavery and the decades of economic and social discrimination that followed, often with government involvement, and propose possible ways to address the yawning gap in wealth and opportunity between Black and white Americans. It would also consider a “national apology” for the harm caused by slavery.
Proponents of reparations from the federal government differ on what form, precisely, they should take. Some favor direct cash payments of varying sizes, others no-interest loans for prospective Black homeowners and free college tuition.
Evanston, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, pledged $10 million this year in reparations in the form of housing grants to Black residents who can prove they or their ancestors were victims of redlining or other housing discrimination. But any national program would be much larger, with costs projected to range from the billions to trillions of dollars.
Though his administration does not use the reparations label, Mr. Biden has embraced versions of many of those proposals in his far-reaching attempts to combat the coronavirus pandemic and restart the sputtering American economy.
Mr. Biden’s coronavirus stimulus law, the American Rescue Plan, for example, invested tens of billions of dollars in food assistance programs, direct payments to Americans and monthly support for children — programs that applied regardless of race, but would provide significant aid to Black Americans. It also earmarked $5 billion in aid and debt relief to help Black farmers mitigate years of discriminatory agricultural subsidy and lending policies.
“We understand that we don’t need a study to take action right now on systemic racism,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in February. “So he wants to take actions within his own government in the meantime.”
Mr. Biden’s jobs and infrastructure proposals, now at the top of Congress’s agenda, would go further, earmarking hundreds of billions of dollars for Black, brown and other “underserved communities” for job training, school investments, mortgage support, business loans, replacing lead pipes and cleaning up toxic waste. One proposed provision pledges $20 billion to reconnect neighborhoods, many of them historically Black, destroyed by interstate highways; another would set aside $20 billion for improving research capabilities at historically Black colleges and universities.
Republicans have dismissed many of the programs as unnecessary, unpopular or too expensive, and appear to be lining up to oppose the plans outright in Congress unless Democrats agree to scale them back significantly.
Even if they do become law, though, academics who have shaped the debate over reparations insist Mr. Biden’s plans are not a substitute. William A. Darity Jr., a professor of public policy at Duke University who has written a book on reparations, said such proposals “are kind of shadow boxing at the issue.”
“If this is about the full ramifications on Black wealth, about the destruction of entire businesses or neighborhoods, or the deprivation and loss of land, then we are talking about numbers that are far beyond the reach of what are relatively small programmatic initiatives,” Mr. Darity said.
Mr. Darity’s vision of reparations primarily focuses on closing the wealth gap between African-Americans and white people, something that he estimates would take $10 trillion or more in government funds, an enormous figure that alienates lawmakers in both parties.
Roy L. Brooks, a law professor at the University of San Diego who has also written on the issue, argued that the purpose of reparations should be viewed neither as primarily monetary nor as something that could be dealt with in the course of normal policymaking.
“You miss an opportunity to really bring home to the American people the enormity of the atrocity that was visited upon African-Americans for 250 years of slavery and then another 100 years of Jim Crow,” he said.
Opponents argue that the wrongs of slavery are simply too far past and too diffuse to be practically addressed now. They question why taxpayers, many of whom came to the United States long after slavery ended, should foot a potentially large bill for payments to Black Americans — and whether such payments would be a benefit at all.
“Reparation is divisive. It speaks to the fact that we are a hapless, hopeless race that never did anything but wait for white people to show up and help us — and it’s a falsehood,” Representative Burgess Owens, Republican of Utah and a descendant of slaves, said during the debate on Wednesday. “It’s demeaning to my parents’ generation.”
Mr. Owens has compared the idea of reparations to a “redistribution of wealth or socialism,” arguing that what Black Americans need is for government to get out of the way as they sought to pull themselves up like generations before them.
Some Democrats share those views, and others are skittish about embracing a bill they fear Republicans would weaponize against them by portraying it as a radical effort to use government to enforce a politically correct agenda.
D.C. Statehood and the Insurrection Threat
Commons to vote on declaration of genocide in Xinjiang province
Organisers seek backing of two-thirds of MPs for all-party motion citing China’s treatment of Uyghurs
Last modified on Wed 14 Apr 2021 11.02 EDT
The House of Commons is to be given a chance to vote to declare that a genocide is under way in Xinjiang province in China, in a move likely to damage Sino-British relations.
The organisers hope that at least two-thirds of MPs will vote on 22 April to back the all-party motion in a declaration of intent against China for its treatment of the Uyghur Muslims.
Relations are already at a low ebb after China sanctioned 10 individuals and entities in the UK in response to the Foreign Office imposing sanctions on four Chinese officials implicated in setting up detention camps in Xinjiang.
Ministers are likely to be asked to abstain in the vote on the basis that the government believes it is for the international courts alone to declare a genocide. The Foreign Office also supports the UN high commissioner on human rights being allowed by China to go to Xinjiang to conduct an unfettered inquiry.
China has already slapped sanctions on some MPs critical of China’s human rights record, including the chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, Tom Tugendhat, and the chair of the Conservative party policy board, Neil O’Brien.
It is very rare for the Commons to make collective decisions on genocide, but MPs did vote in April 2016 by 278 to 0 in April 2016 to say the Yazidis had suffered genocide at the hands of Islamic State. The latest motion does not declare a terrorist group is committing genocide, but a fellow member of the UN security council.
The Foreign Office minister at the time, Tobias Ellwood, said he believed personally that a genocide was under way, but it was not for the UK government to have an opinion.
Although the new vote will be dismissed as non-binding on government, a large number of British MPs denouncing China for committing genocide could have a large diplomatic and moral impact.
The motion due to be included on the order paper on Thursday reads: “This house believes the Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in the Xinjiang region are suffering crimes against humanity and genocide.”
It also calls on the government to fulfil its obligations under the convention on the prevention of genocide and other instruments of international law to bring it to an end.
The motion points out that two of the UK’s closest allies – the US and Canada – have declared it a genocide.
The organisers of the motion are hoping that opposition frontbenches will impose a three-line whip to ensure there is a strong turnout on Thursday afternoon, and as many as 400 MPs will go through the division lobbies.
The Yazidi vote in 2016 was on a Wednesday when MPs were less likely to have already returned to their constituencies.
The foreign affairs select committee investigation into Xinjiang detention camps is looking at whether the UK should follow the US with a total ban on cotton imports from the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. It is also likely to recommend an update to the Modern Slavery Act, with a new corporate duty to prevent harm in business supply chains, so mandating companies to undertake due diligence or face fines. The Modern Slavery Act merely requires companies to publish reports on their diligence.
The committee has also been given evidence on “the conspicuous silence of the UN International Labour Organisation about the extent of forced labour in Xinjiang”.
The news of the vote comes as a group of parliamentarians led by Lord Patten and the shadow foreign secretary, Lisa Nandy, call for Boris Johnson to extend limited sanctions to Hong Kong officials.
In a letter to Johnson, more than 100 parliamentarians write: “This unprecedented attack on democratic representatives of the western world deserves a robust and coordinated response.
“The time has come to expand the list of Chinese officials sanctioned for the gross human rights abuses taking place against the Uyghurs, including the architect of the detention camps, Chen Quanguo, and to finally introduce Magnitsky sanctions against the officials and entities responsible for the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.”
Democrats Were Lukewarm on Campaign Biden. They Love President Biden.
Joe Biden never captured the hearts of Democratic voters in the way Barack Obama once did. But now that he is in office, he is drawing nearly universal approval from his party.
Lisa Lerer and
The old cliché has it that when it comes to picking their presidential candidates, Democrats fall in love. But the party’s primary race last year was hardly a great political romance: Joseph R. Biden Jr. drew less than 21 percent of the Democratic vote in the Iowa and Nevada caucuses and a dismal 8.4 percent in the New Hampshire primary.
While Mr. Biden went on to win his party’s nomination, he was never widely seen as capturing the hearts of Democratic voters in the way Barack Obama and Bill Clinton once did. For many of his supporters, he seemed simply like their best chance to defeat a president — Donald J. Trump — who inspired far more passion than he did.
Yet in the first few months of his administration, Mr. Biden has garnered almost universal approval from members of his party, according to polls, emerging as a kind of man-for-all-Democrats after an election year riddled with intraparty squabbling.
He began his term this winter with an approval rating of 98 percent among Democrats, according to Gallup. This represents a remarkable measure of partisan consensus — outpacing even the strongest moments of Republican unity during the presidency of Mr. Trump, whose political brand depended heavily on the devotion of his G.O.P. base.
And as Mr. Biden nears his 100th day in office, most public polls have consistently shown him retaining the approval of more than nine in 10 Democrats nationwide.
Pollsters and political observers mostly agree that Mr. Biden’s popularity among members of his party is driven by a combination of their gratitude to him for getting Mr. Trump out of office and their sense that Mr. Biden has refused to compromise on major Democratic priorities.
“He has this ability to appeal to all factions of the party, which is no surprise to the centrists, but somewhat of a surprise to the progressives,” Patrick Murray, the director of polling at Monmouth University, said in an interview.
During the primary, Mr. Biden was the establishment figure, a Washington centrist in a diverse field that included a number of younger and more progressive rivals. While he won a plurality of Democrats, he struggled to win support from the party’s younger and more liberal voters.
But as president, he has been governing much like a progressive without abandoning his longtime public identity as a moderate.
“He has found a winning formula, at least for now,” said David Axelrod, who served as a chief strategist to Mr. Obama. “His tone and tenure reassure moderates and his agenda thrills progressives.”
To that end, Mr. Biden has avoided taking up liberals’ most politically thorny proposals — like expanding the Supreme Court or canceling $1 trillion in student debt — while sticking to a public posture of bipartisan outreach and measured language. But his policy agenda has given progressives plenty to cheer, including the dozens of executive orders he has signed and the ambitious legislative agenda he has proposed, beginning with the passage of one of the largest economic stimulus packages in American history.
Some progressives say the crises facing the country and the urgency of solving them have helped Mr. Biden, who was being evaluated against what Democrats saw as months of inaction by the previous administration.
“Democrats were demanding shots in the arms and true economic help from the government,” said Faiz Shakir, who is a political adviser to Senator Bernie Sanders and managed Mr. Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign. “There was incredible unity in the Democratic Party of rising to the moment and acting quickly.”
Mr. Shakir pointed to the passing of a popular $1.9 trillion relief package shortly after Mr. Biden took office, a bill he muscled through without any Republican support — opting for Democratic unity over bipartisan compromise. The president’s embrace of stimulus payments as part of that legislation — a policy that put money in the pockets of 127 million Americans — within weeks of taking office certainly didn’t hurt his standing, Mr. Shakir said.
“It just had so many benefits for so many people,” he said.
That bill was especially well liked within Mr. Biden’s party: A Quinnipiac University poll conducted just before it passed found that it enjoyed support from 97 percent of Democrats. As a result, the president has been able to unify his party around major initiatives tied to liberal investments in the social safety net.
“The Democratic Party has shifted itself,” Mr. Murray said. “It has become more progressive, and you even have centrists who are on board with a few things that they wouldn’t have been happy with a few years ago.”
But Mr. Biden may also be benefiting from some forms of progress that were not entirely of his own making. Millions of Americans are being vaccinated daily, moving the country closer to emerging from the coronavirus pandemic. As the United States moves slowly but steadily toward herd immunity, forecasters anticipate a quickly expanding economy, with even Republicans like Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, predicting a financial boom that could last into 2023.
Mr. Biden took steps to hasten virus vaccine production, but some of his political success on that front can be attributed to savvy public positioning. By tamping down expectations for vaccine distribution during his first weeks in office, when Mr. Biden beat his own expectations, his team conjured an image of a White House working overtime to leave the efforts of the previous administration in the dust.
Though Mr. Trump laid the groundwork for widespread vaccine production with his Operation Warp Speed program, it is Mr. Biden who may be reaping the political benefit from that push — especially within his own party.
Indeed, Democrats’ antipathy for Mr. Trump has a lot to do with their fondness for the new president, said Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster. “Democrats utterly detested Donald Trump and Joe Biden saved them from Donald Trump, and so they love him,” Mr. Ayres said. “If you look at the overall job approval, not just among Democrats, Biden’s job approval is the inverse of Donald Trump’s.”
Mr. Biden is hardly the first president to enjoy broad support from his party upon taking office. It is typical for commanders in chief to start their first term with a broadly positive approval rating, as Mr. Biden did, although that is always subject to the pull of gravity after the first few weeks are over.
But in the history of Gallup polling going back to the mid-20th century, Mr. Biden is the first president to have started his term with the approval of more than 90 percent of partisans.
To a degree, this reflects the fact that as the two major parties have grown more entrenched in their ideological identities, voters at the center have become slightly less likely to identify with either one. As a result, there has been a recent uptick in the share of Americans calling themselves political independents.
“The partisan tribalism is such that you really are, in many ways, a true believer if you’re still going to call yourself a Democrat or a Republican,” Mr. Murray said. “What you’re left behind with is people who are going to be more staunch in their partisanship.”
Just a few decades ago, a president with sky-high approval within his party would also be relatively popular outside it. But Mr. Biden’s approval rating, though positive over all, remains low among Republicans and stuck in the low-to-mid-50s among independents.
“If you go back a generation and somebody has a 95 percent approval rating within their own party, that probably means they have about 50 percent approval among voters in the other party,” Mr. Murray said. “We don’t have that. We have this partisan split. His overall job rating is just above 50 percent. It’s still positive, but we would expect in former days that that would translate to a 60-percent approval rating.”
Is There Virtue in CEOs' Signaling?
‘It’s his turf’: why London’s mayoral race is personal for Boris Johnson
Analysis: at the root of the PM’s outburst against Sadiq Khan is his anger at the Tories’ expected humbling in May
Last modified on Tue 13 Apr 2021 16.05 EDT
Boris Johnson had almost finished his most recent Downing Street press conference, when his tone suddenly changed. Sadiq Khan had left a “black hole” in Transport for London’s finances, said the energised prime minister, and the capital’s mayor should be held to account for his profligacy.
Beyond the ensuing controversy about Johnson using a Covid-focused event to launch a partisan attack, his words demonstrated something else: the prime minister was still deeply invested in a city he ran for eight years, and painfully aware that a successor as Conservative mayor looks increasingly unlikely.
A series of polls, including one on Tuesday, put Khan, the Labour mayor who took over from Johnson in 2016, on 50% or more of first-choice votes on 6 May, more than 20 points ahead of his Tory rival, Shaun Bailey.
While many Conservatives privately blame Bailey’s often hapless campaign and candidacy for the gap, it also illustrates one of the starkest changes to affect British politics in recent years – a more general Conservative collapse in London.
Tony Travers, visiting professor at the London School of Economics’ department of government, has produced a chart showing how the general election vote share in London, which broadly tracked the wider totals in Britain for decades, started to diverge widely in the late 90s, and in particular since 2010.
At the 2019 election, Labour’s London vote share was 15 percentage points higher than its national total; the Conservatives’ was 13% points lower. Since 1992, the number of London seats held by Tory MPs has nearly halved.
It is, Travers says, in part down to national factors, such as changes in party allegiance that mean younger, urban voters increasingly support Labour. Additionally, London’s demographics have changed.
Johnson’s mayoral election wins in 2008 and 2012 were largely based on a “doughnut” strategy – harvesting votes from more suburban, and often more predominantly white, outer suburbs. However, Travers says, outer London is increasingly diverse – “more like inner London used to be”. A YouGov poll last week found Khan winning easily in outer London, with a 45% to 28% lead over Bailey on first preference votes.
The Conservatives could very easily drop below their current low of eight of the 25 London assembly seats, Travers predicted, while in the next round of London council elections, in 2022, more boroughs could become, in effect, one-party Labour states.
To an extent, history is repeating itself. The Conservative-led push to create the Greater London Council in the early 60s was in part to expand the capital’s local government into the suburbs, after 31 years of continuous Labour rule on its inner-city predecessor, London county council.
However, there is a notably personal element. Johnson’s eight years running London are central to his personal mythology as a politician, and were arguably key to his appeal to Conservatives to replace Theresa May, as someone who had proved he could win in Labour strongholds. He delivered on this, winning an 80-seat Commons majority by re-colouring much of Labour’s “red wall” seats in blue.
This time, Johnson’s appeal across the party divides was very different. In city hall, Johnson combined very recognisably Conservative attitudes to issues such as policing with an at times liberal image – an Islington-dwelling, cycling mayor who backed an amnesty for undocumented migrants. In contrast, as prime minister he was the designer of an ultra-tough Brexit, presiding over a No 10 fizzing with forays into culture wars on race, statues and the BBC.
As a politician, Johnson is famously adaptable, but some close observers wonder whether, at heart, he was more comfortable with the mayoral incarnation. One thing is certain: he seems to take the expected Conservative electoral humbling in London very personally.
“I think he feels it’s his turf, as it were, and it’s quite possible he resents the Tories losing there,” says Jenny Jones, a Green peer who, as a London assembly member, had many clashes with the then-mayor.
Jones wonders whether the government’s recent announcement that the London election system will be moved to first past the post, penalising smaller parties such as hers, could in part be a belated revenge: “I think he did find it very uncomfortable to be so challenged. It must have annoyed him that we were there, constantly drawing attention to his flaws.”
While Johnson remains publicly loyal to Bailey, there is an inescapable sense that he feels that if he were unleashed into the mayoral fray again, he would have a chance of defeating Khan.
But those on the other side of London’s political divide view this as fantasy. “Johnson has constantly underestimated Sadiq,” says one ally of the Labour mayor. “And he does seem to take Sadiq’s success very personally.” Khan, they argue, is as adept as Johnson in waging war in the “new age of social value politics”, for example his public disputes with Donald Trump.
And while Conservatives may hope that a disastrous London election next month will be largely down to Bailey’s failings, this would be a false comfort, the ally said: “That would make sense if more than half of Londoners had even heard of Shaun Bailey. But they haven’t.”
Police Told to Hold Back on Capitol Riot Response, Report Finds
Despite being tipped that “Congress itself is the target” on Jan. 6, Capitol Police were ordered not to use their most powerful crowd-control weapons, according to a scathing new watchdog report.
WASHINGTON — The Capitol Police had clearer advance warnings about the Jan. 6 attack than were previously known, including the potential for violence in which “Congress itself is the target.” But officers were instructed by their leaders not to use their most aggressive tactics to hold off the mob, according to a scathing new report by the agency’s internal investigator.
In a 104-page document, the inspector general, Michael A. Bolton, criticized the way the Capitol Police prepared for and responded to the mob violence on Jan. 6. The report was reviewed by The New York Times and will be the subject of a Capitol Hill hearing on Thursday.
Mr. Bolton found that the agency’s leaders failed to adequately prepare despite explicit warnings that pro-Trump extremists posed a threat to law enforcement and civilians and that the police used defective protective equipment. He also found that the leaders ordered their Civil Disturbance Unit to refrain from using its most powerful crowd-control tools — like stun grenades — to put down the onslaught.
The report offers the most devastating account to date of the lapses and miscalculations around the most violent attack on the Capitol in two centuries.
Three days before the siege, a Capitol Police intelligence assessment warned of violence from supporters of President Donald J. Trump who believed his false claims that the election had been stolen. Some had even posted a map of the Capitol complex’s tunnel system on pro-Trump message boards.
“Unlike previous postelection protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counterprotesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th,” the threat assessment said, according to the inspector general’s report. “Stop the Steal’s propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike.”
We analyzed the alternating perspectives of President Trump at the podium, the lawmakers inside the Capitol and a growing mob’s destruction and violence.
But on Jan. 5, the agency wrote in a plan for the protest that there were “no specific known threats related to the joint session of Congress.” And the former chief of the Capitol Police has testified that the force had determined that the likelihood of violence was “improbable.”
Mr. Bolton concluded such intelligence breakdowns stemmed from dysfunction within the agency and called for “guidance that clearly documents channels for efficiently and effectively disseminating intelligence information to all of its personnel.”
That failure conspired with other lapses inside the Capitol Police force to create a dangerous situation on Jan. 6, according to his account. The agency’s Civil Disturbance Unit, which specializes in handling large groups of protesters, was not allowed to use some of its most powerful tools and techniques against the crowd, on the orders of supervisors.
“Heavier, less-lethal weapons,” including stun grenades, “were not used that day because of orders from leadership,” Mr. Bolton wrote. Officials on duty on Jan. 6 told him that such equipment could have helped the police to “push back the rioters.”
Mr. Bolton’s findings are scheduled to be discussed on Thursday afternoon, when he is set to testify before the House Administration Committee. He has issued two investigative reports — both classified as “law enforcement sensitive” and not publicly released — about the agency’s shortcomings on Jan. 6. He is also planning a third report.
CNN first reported on a summary of the latest findings.
The report — titled, “Review of the Events Surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, Takeover of the U.S. Capitol” — reserves some of its harshest criticism for the management of the agency’s Civil Disturbance Unit, which exists to prevent tragedies like Jan. 6. Instead, nearly 140 officers were injured, and one, Officer Brian D. Sicknick, later collapsed and died after being assaulted by rioters.
The Civil Disturbance Unit, Mr. Bolton wrote, was “operating at a decreased level of readiness as a result of a lack of standards for equipment.” In particular, Mr. Bolton focused in on an embarrassing lack of functional shields for Capitol Police officers during the riot.
Some of the shields that officers were equipped with during the riot “shattered upon impact” because they had been improperly stored in a trailer that was not climate-controlled, Mr. Bolton found. Others could not be used by officers in desperate need of protection because the shields were locked on a bus.
“When the crowd became unruly, the C.D.U. platoon attempted to access the bus to distribute the shields but were unable because the door was locked,” the report said, using an abbreviation for the Civil Disturbance Unit. The platoon “was consequently required to respond to the crowd without the protection of their riot shields.”
Mr. Bolton also said that the agency had an out-of-date roster and staffing issues.
“It is my hope that the recommendations will result in more effective, efficient, and/or economical operations,” he wrote.
Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California and the chairwoman of the Administration Committee, called the inspector general’s findings “disturbing” but said he had provided Congress with “important recommendations” for an overhaul.
Since the Jan. 6 attack, Congress has undertaken a series of security reviews about what went wrong. The three top security officials in charge that day resigned in disgrace, and they have since deflected responsibility for the intelligence failures, blaming other agencies, each other and at one point even a subordinate for the breakdowns that allowed hundreds of Trump supporters to storm the Capitol.
“None of the intelligence we received predicted what actually occurred,” the former Capitol Police chief, Steven A. Sund, testified in February before the Senate. “These criminals came prepared for war.”
But the inspector general report makes clear that the agency had received some warnings about how Mr. Trump’s extremist supporters were growing increasingly desperate as he promoted lies about election theft.
“Supporters of the current president see Jan. 6, 2021, as the last opportunity to overturn the results of the presidential election,” said the assessment three days before the riot. “This sense of desperation and disappointment may lead to more of an incentive to become violent.”
The Department of Homeland Security warned the Capitol Police on Dec. 21 of comments on a pro-Trump website promoting attacks on members of Congress with a map of the tunnel system, according to the inspector general’s findings.
“Several comments promote confronting members of Congress and carrying firearms during the protest,” a Capitol Police analyst wrote.
Among the comments reported to the Capitol Police: “Bring guns. It’s now or never,” and, “We can’t give them a choice. Overwhelming armed numbers is our only chance.”
On Jan. 5, the F.B.I.’s Norfolk field office, in Virginia, relayed another threat from an anonymous social media thread that warned of a looming war at the Capitol.
“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,” the message read. “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.”
Last month, Mr. Sund testified that the F.B.I. report reached the Capitol Police the day before the attack, but not him directly. He said that an officer assigned to a law enforcement joint terrorism task force received the document and sent it to an unnamed intelligence division official on the force.
Nevertheless, Mr. Bolton said, Capitol Police fell short in several other ways in preventing a mob attack.
The agency did not train its recent recruits with the required 40 hours of civil disturbance training, citing concerns about the coronavirus, and failed to ensure its officers completed their 16 to 24 hours of annual training over “the past few years.”
Munitions stocked in the police armory were beyond their expiration date, and the agency repeatedly failed to adequately complete required quarterly audits of the unit, the inspector general said.
Moreover, within the agency, the Civil Disturbance Unit “has a reputation as an undesired assignment” and that fostered a “culture” that decreased “operational readiness,” the inspector general found.
Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.
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