Emails and messages among members of the US Secret Service at least 10 days before the attack on the US Capitol reveal that the agency was well aware of violent threats and plans to occupy the halls of Congress, according to the House select committee investigating the assault.
A Secret Service field office relayed one tip sent to the FBI warning that members of the far-right nationalist gang the Proud Boys planned to march, armed, into Washington DC.
The message sent on 26 December, 2020 said “their plan is to literally kill people.”
“Please please take this tip seriously and investigate further,” the message read, according to the committee.
The FBI also briefed the Secret Service on 5 January, 2021, one day before the attack, that right-wing groups planned “quick reaction forces” staged near the Capitol that were “standing by at the ready” should Donald Trump “request assistance.”
Those “quick reaction forces” are also central to federal prosecutors’ argument that the far-right anti-government group the Oath Keepers planned for weeks to forcefully disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s election, with members of the militia facing charges of seditious conspiracy in connection with the attack.
After underscoring his links to the attack and his steadfast plans to reject the outcome of the election, the former president also has been subpoenaed by the committee.
Committee members argued that Mr Trump and his rhetoric were “central” to the violence on 6 January.
US Rep Elaine Luria said Mr Trump’s failed attempts to overturn the results informed his decision to make a “coordinated, multi-part plan to ensure he stayed in power,” and that he was the “driver” and “personally, directly involved” in executing his attempt to subvert the will of the American people.
Other messages from the Secret Service shared by the committee describe how agents observed online threats against Vice President Mike Pence, who is described in one message shared with agents as a “dead man walking” if he did not support Mr Trump’s baseless efforts to reject the outcome of the election.
The committee also revealed that Secret Service was aware of planning and violent chatter on far-right social media platforms and message boards in the days after the 2020 election – and that members of the crowd that would later enter the Capitol to block those results were armed.
“Certain White House and Secret Service witnesses previously testified that they had received no intelligence about violence that could potentially threaten any of their protectees on 6 January,” according to committee member Adam Schiff.
“Evidence strongly suggests that this testimony is not credible.”
The congressman said the violence at the Capitol was “entirely consistent with the violent rhetoric circulating in the days beforehand on pro-Trump websites.”
For years, federal law enforcement agencies have sounded the alarm about rising threats of far-right violence in congressional testimony, in-depth reports and internal memos.
Users on far-right social media platforms openly discussed plans to fulfill the former president’s plans to upend the results of the 2020 election.
They posted about January 6 on pro-Trump message board The Donald and QAnon-hosting 8Kun, and on platforms and messaging apps like Parler, Gab and Telegram.
Organising efforts and discussion were not limited to more-obscure corners of the internet but on mainstream platforms like Facebook groups and on Instagram stories, Reddit, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube.
In September 2020, months before Election Day, the FBI issued an intelligence report warning that far-right groups and white supremacists pose a “violent extremist threat” to the US, specifically within a time period between Election Day and the 2021 presidential inauguration, which could serve as a “potential flashpoint” for violence.
The committee subpoenaed the Secret Service for communications surrounding the attack in July, following reporting that most text messages shared among agents on their official mobile phones on 5 January and 6 January were deleted as part of a pre-planned phone upgrade.
Secret Service has provided the committee with roughly 1 million electronic communications, according to the committee. Those do not include texts.
A statement from Secret Service spokesperson Steve Kopek said the agency continues to “fully cooperate” with the committee.
“While no additional text messages were recovered, we have provided a significant level of details from emails, radio transmissions, Microsoft Teams chat messages and exhibits that address aspects of planning, operations and communications surrounding [6 January]”, he said in a statement this week.
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