The new investigations highlight the pressure to secure Washington and other American cities. Here’s the latest in politics.
Published: 2021-01-16 09:34 am
Inquiries Into the Capitol Assault Aim to Address Security Lapses
Speaker Nancy Pelosi named Russel L. Honoré, a retired Army lieutenant general, to lead a security review of the Capitol in the wake of the riot.Credit...Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Government leaders and law enforcement announced new investigations on Friday into the security failures that led to the assault on the Capitol last week, showing how the pressure to secure Washington and other American cities is increasing amid growing threats of violent unrest ahead of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inauguration next week.

Capitol Police said they had opened an investigation into whether members of Congress inappropriately gave visitors access to the Capitol ahead of the storming of the building, after several lawmakers raised concerns that their own colleagues might have allowed members of a pro-Trump mob inside in the days leading up to the assault.

The new inquiry came to light as Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Friday that she had named Russel L. Honoré, a retired Army lieutenant general, to lead a security review of the Capitol in the wake of the riot.

And inspectors general from a range of federal agencies are opening a coordinated investigation into why the federal government was caught flat-footed during the siege on Jan. 6 and to come up with protocols to prevent such failures in the future.

State capitols around the country are also on high alert.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has activated the Michigan National Guard to help with security around the state Capitol in Lansing, following a similar move by Gov. Gavin Newsom of California authorizing the deployment of 1,000 National Guard troops to surround the state Capitol grounds in Sacramento.

In Washington, the National Park Service announced that the National Mall would be closed for a week. Thousands of National Guard members continue to flood into the city, blocking streets and installing perimeters intended to safeguard next week’s ceremonies.

As the Biden administration prepares to take leadership of a nation in turmoil, Vice President Mike Pence telephoned Vice President-elect Kamala Harris Thursday to congratulate her and offer his belated assistance, according to two officials briefed on the call, which was described as gracious and pleasant. It is another instance of Mr. Pence filling a leadership role that President Trump has all but abdicated.

Mr. Pence will also be stepping in for the president on the day of Mr. Biden’s inauguration — although it is traditional for the outgoing and incoming first families to meet at the White House on the morning of the inauguration, Mr. Trump has said he will not meet with Mr. Biden nor will he attend the swearing- in ceremony.

He is instead planning to take off from Joint Base Andrews before Mr. Biden’s inauguration, in a relatively low-key conclusion to one of the most tumultuous terms of any president in history. But Mr. Trump does hope to depart to the blare of a military band, with a red carpet and military honors, those briefed on the planning said.

As Mr. Trump plans his departure, in the wake of a second impeachment, Ms. Pelosi declined to provide an official timeline for his Senate trial. The case is likely to advance even if Mr. Trump has already left office, with Democrats and some Republicans aiming to prevent him from holding public office again.

National Guard troops deployed to the Capitol change shifts on Wednesday. National Guard officials said they would most likely need at least 25,000 troops in Washington, 5,000 more than they projected this week.Credit...Jason Andrew for The New York Times

Law enforcement officials are vetting hundreds of potential airplane passengers and beefing up airport security as officials amplify warnings of violence before the presidential inauguration from extremists emboldened by the Capitol attack last week.

The Transportation Security Administration is increasing the number of federal marshals on flights and explosive-detection dogs at airports. Screening officers will be deployed to assist a militarized “green zone” in downtown Washington.

Federal officials say the security perimeter, which includes an increasing number of armed members of the National Guard, is necessary to prevent an attack from domestic extremists.

The extremists “remain a concern due to their ability to act with little to no warning, willingness to attack civilians and soft targets, and ability to inflict significant casualties with weapons that do not require specialized knowledge,” federal officials wrote in the bulletin obtained by The New York Times.

David P. Pekoske, the Transportation Security Administration administrator, said in a statement on Friday that the agency was vetting “hundreds of names” before the event on Jan. 20. Commercial airlines have tracked an increase in passengers checking in firearms on their way to airports in the Washington area, according to a separate bulletin from the Justice Department.

Federal agencies have also begun to identify those captured on video at the Capitol with weapons or engaging in violence and putting them on a “no-fly” list aimed at preventing suspected terrorists from boarding flights, according to an administration official.

Federal law enforcement officials have said they continue to be alarmed by an increase in chatter from groups like the boogaloo, a far-right group that aims to start a second civil war, and other racist extremists threatening to target the nation’s capital to protest Mr. Biden’s decisive victory in the popular vote and Electoral College.

Mr. Biden has resisted calls to move the celebration indoors for the sake of safety. His inauguration committee had already been planning a scaled-back celebration with virtual components because of the coronavirus.

National Guard officials said they would most likely need at least 25,000 troops in Washington, 5,000 more than they projected this week, for duties ranging from traffic control to security in and around the Capitol itself. That number, roughly more than three times the number of American troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria, could still grow.

Nurses prepare the Covid-19 vaccine in Atlanta on Thursday. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has announced his plans to ramp up vaccination efforts nationwide.Credit...Nicole Craine for The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., racing against a surge in coronavirus cases and the emergence of a new variant that could worsen the crisis, is planning a vaccination offensive that calls for greatly expanding access to the vaccine while using a wartime law to increase production.

“We remain in a very dark winter,” Mr. Biden told Americans in a speech in Wilmington, Del., on Friday. “The honest truth is this: Things will get worse before they get better.”

But he also tried to offer hope for an end to a pandemic that has taken nearly 390,000 American lives and frayed the country’s economic and social fabric.

Mr. Biden pledged to increase vaccination availability in pharmacies, build mobile clinics to get vaccines to underserved rural and urban communities, and encourage states to expand vaccine eligibility to people 65 and older. He also vowed to make racial equity a priority in fighting a virus that has disproportionately infected and killed people of color.

The president-elect’s expansive vision is colliding with a sobering reality: With only two federally authorized vaccines, supplies will be scarce for the next several months. Mr. Biden is clearly prepared to assert a role for the federal government that President Trump refused to embrace, using the crisis to rebuild the nation’s public health services and Washington’s money to hire a new health work force and deploy the National Guard. But many of his bold promises will be difficult to realize.

“It won’t mean that everyone in this group will get vaccinated immediately, as the supply is not where it needs to be,” he acknowledged. But as new doses become available, he promised, “we’ll reach more people who need them.”

The vaccine distribution plan comes one day after Mr. Biden proposed a $1.9 trillion rescue package to combat the economic downturn and the Covid-19 crisis, including a $20 billion “national vaccine program.” The president-elect has said repeatedly that he intends to get “100 million Covid vaccine shots into the arms of the American people” by his 100th day in office.

Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican, is facing a backlash from Trump loyalists for her vote to impeach him.Credit...Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

As President Trump prepares to leave office with his party in disarray, Republican leaders including Senator Mitch McConnell are maneuvering to thwart his grip on the G.O.P. in future elections, while forces aligned with Mr. Trump are looking to punish Republican lawmakers and governors who have broken with him.

The bitter infighting underscores the deep divisions Mr. Trump has created in the G.O.P. and all but ensures that the next campaign will be a pivotal test of the party’s direction.

The friction is already escalating in several swing states in the aftermath of Mr. Trump’s incitement of the mob that attacked the Capitol last week. They include Arizona, where Trump-aligned activists are seeking to censure the Republican governor they deem insufficiently loyal to the president, and Georgia, where a hard-right faction wants to defeat the current governor in a primary election.

In Washington, Republicans are particularly concerned about a handful of extreme-right House members who could run for Senate in swing states, potentially tarnishing the party in some of the most politically important areas of the country. Mr. McConnell’s political lieutenants envision a large-scale campaign to block such candidates from winning primaries.

But Mr. Trump’s political cohort appears no less determined, and his allies have been laying the groundwork to take on Republican officials who voted to impeach Mr. Trump — or who merely acknowledged the plain reality that Joseph R. Biden Jr. had won the presidential race.

Republicans on both sides of the conflict are acknowledging openly that they are headed for a showdown.

“Hell yes we are,” said Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump.

An early test for the party is expected in the coming days, with Trump loyalists attempting to strip Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming of her House leadership role in retaliation for her vote to impeach the president.

If that effort proves successful, it could further indicate to voters and donors that the party’s militant wing is in control — a potentially alarming signal to more traditional Republicans in the business community.

Police officers huddled in the Capitol on Jan. 6 after the building had finally been marked clear following the violent assault from a pro-Trump mob.Credit...Erin Schaff/The New York Times

In the days leading up to the mob attack on the Capitol, congressional security officials never let House and Senate leaders know that the Capitol Police had warned they might need National Guard backup, according to a congressional aide and other people familiar with the matter.

The police request, made to the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms, was prompted by intelligence that showed Trump supporters planned to target the Capitol itself as Congress certified the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6, according to a congressional official. The Capitol Police asked the sergeants-at-arms to request that the National Guard be placed on standby.

But the sergeants-at-arms, Michael C. Stenger of the Senate and Paul Irving of the House, rejected the request without raising the issue with either the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, or Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to the aide and another person familiar with the matter.

Mr. Stenger and Mr. Irving, who have resigned amid the fallout from the violence, would most likely have had to ask the leaders whether to approve the requests for such a serious measure, according to former sergeants-at-arms.

The sergeants-at-arms and the chief of the Capitol Police were also among officials who briefed lawmakers the day before the riot and reassured them that they were prepared for the events that day, going so far as to say the National Guard was on standby, though only a modest contingent was on duty to provide traffic control. The sergeants-at-arms are the chief law enforcement officers for the House and Senate, responsible for security matters and keeping order.

Their inaction was a key breakdown in a series of security decisions that left the Capitol inadequately protected as thousands of Trump rioters breached the building, leading to the melee that killed a Capitol Police officer and at least one of the rioters.

CreditCredit...The New York Times/Mel D. Cole

Rosanne Boyland, a 34-year-old Trump supporter from Georgia who died during the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, appears to have been killed in a crush of fellow rioters during their attempt to fight through a police line, according to videos reviewed by The Times.

The manner of her death had been unclear until The Times discovered that the clothes and backpack strap of a woman in widely circulated videos match those that Ms. Boyland wore in a picture taken of her earlier that day.

The rush that led to Ms. Boyland’s death began when rioters, captured on video, massed together in a dangerous crush and attempted to use the weight of their combined bodies to push officers back in a tunnel on the west side of the Capitol, trapping many people in the process.

Even as they first began to push, a rioter could be heard on video warning: “Stop pushing, somebody’s going to get hurt.”

The Times was able to spot Ms. Boyland on the ground in the hours that follow and subsequent attempts by rioters to resuscitate her and get her medical attention. But she was pronounced dead at a local hospital at 6:09 p.m, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.

Two witnesses, one of whom tried to help her, gave similar accounts of her death.

“By the time that they decided to pick the person up and give them to a police officer, she had blue lips and blood was coming out of her nose,” he said on the video. “I don’t think that person will be revived.”

Evan Hill, Arielle Ray and

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