with Tobi Raji

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The investigations

JAN. 6 REVIEW CONTINUES: Top officials responsible for security at the Capitol on Jan. 6 blamed wide-ranging intelligence failures for the deadly attack on the Capitol by supporters of former president Donald Trump. Forced to answer for this next week: Officials from the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. 

Law enforcement will be grilled about the accusations that their warnings of potential violence were not robust enough. Defense officials will be expected to explain the slow deployment of National Guard troops as the extent of the assault became clear. And DHS will be under pressure to crack down more aggressively on domestic extremism. 

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, told Power Up that the bipartisan group of senators involved in the joint investigation are still finalizing their witness list but that hearings next week will also take a broader look at the extremist groups involved. 

Peters said that he's personally most focused on the broader questions of domestic terrorism which he called “the most pressing security threat to the country. He's spoken with DHS Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas — and Peters says he was promised action on this issue was forthcoming but declined to disclose any details. 

  • “After 9/11, we realized major gaps in intelligence and DHS was created in the ashes of 9/11, with a bigger focus on foreign terrorism Jan. 6 should do the same,” Peters said.
  • Peters urged law enforcement and the Biden administration to take online threats and extremism more seriously during the hearing: “The federal government must start taking these online threats seriously to ensure they don’t cross into the real-world violence.”

Key questions remain after Tuesday's testimony from three Capitol security officials who have resigned — Capitol Police chief Steven A. Sund, House sergeant-at-arms Paul D. Irving and Senate sergeant-at-arms Michael C. Stenger. 

“Contee and Sund both warned that the Capitol attack reflected a larger failure of domestic intelligence to take threats from homegrown extremists as seriously as those coming from foreigners. Both did so in the context of explaining their failure to act on an intelligence bulletin issued by the FBI’s Norfolk field office the day before the attack,” Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian report. It warned that extremists were prepared to travel to D.C. to go to “war, as was first reported by The Post in January. 

  • “Sund disclosed for the first time that the bulletin was forwarded to Capitol Police through the Joint Terrorism Task Force, but it reached only as far as the department’s intelligence division. It was not forwarded to Sund or to the two sergeants-at-arms. Contee said the D.C. police department also received the report but said it came as an undistinguished email, not as a priority alert demanding immediate attention.”
  • “I would think that something of that nature would rise to the level of more than just an email,” Contee said. “I assure you that my phone is on 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Another lingering point of contention is why it took nearly two hours to law enforcement officials to approve the National Guard deployment of hundreds of troops. "[Contee], whose officers engaged in some of the most violent clashes of the day, described how he was frustrated at the slow deployment of National Guard troops,” our colleagues Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian report. 

  • In a phone call with Capitol security officials, D.C. leaders and Defense Department brass, Contee said: “There was not an immediate yes of, ‘The National Guard is responding,’ ‘The National Guard is on the way.’  The response was more asking about the plan: What was the plan for the National Guard? . . . How this looks with boots on the ground on the Capitol?”
  • “In written testimony, Sund reported that a top general said in a 2:30 p.m. call on Jan. 6 that he did not like the ‘visual’ of the military guarding the Capitol and that he would recommend the Army secretary deny the request even after the mob had breached the building,” per New York Times's Luke Broadwater and Michael Schmidt.

There was also finger-pointing and conflicting accounts of the day's events. 

  • Irving rejected Sund’s account as “categorically false” that he turned down a request for military assistance before the riot because of “optics.” “Rather, Irving said that he, Sund and Stenger had agreed at the time that the intelligence assessment they received — indicating a pro-Trump rally similar to two others that had taken place in the weeks before — did not justify a military deployment,” per our Post colleagues.
  • “Irving also disputed Mr. Sund’s timeline of the events on Jan. 6 that indicated the former sergeant-at-arms had waited about a half-hour to contact political leaders about calling for the Guard,” per the Times.

The disputes prompted even more criticism. “Instead of cohesive leadership, we heard Stenger, Irving and former Chief Sund give contradicting accounts about the department’s handling of requests for backup from the National Guard,” Gus Papathanasiou, the chairman of the Capitol Police union, said after the hearing, per Broadwater and Schmidt. “It’s maddening.”

There was also criticism from lawmakers, who noted that crossed wires aside there was an abundance of public information available that indicated that Trump supporters were planning violence against members of Congress. “ … Tuesday’s joint hearing by two Senate committees also spotlighted the stark warnings that were issued before Congress met in a joint session to formalize President Biden’s victory,” our colleagues Beth Reinhard and Matt Zapotosky report. 

  • “One came in the form of the Capitol Police’s own intelligence report three days before the attack, as The Washington Post first reported. In a 12-page memo, the agency’s intelligence unit warned that ‘Congress itself’ could be targeted by angry Trump supporters who saw the electoral college vote certification as ‘the last opportunity to overturn the results of the presidential election.’”
  • “The internal Capitol Police memo concluded that Jan. 6 was shaping up to be a perfect storm of dangerous elements — the large size of the expected crowds, the likelihood of demonstrators bringing deadly weapons and the proximity of the protests to Capitol grounds. Promoting all of this chaos and violence: ‘President Trump himself,’ the memo noted.”
  • “Separately, dozens of people on a terrorist watch list were in D.C. on the day of the riot, including many suspected white supremacists, as The Post has reported.”

On the Hill

HAPPENING TODAY: William J. Burns, President Biden's pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, will appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He is expected to breeze through. 

  • “As a veteran U.S. diplomat, Burns led secret negotiations with Iran and Libya over their weapons programs, served as ambassador in Jordan and Russia, oversaw U.S. relations with the Middle East and then ascended to the highest levels of the State Department,” the Wall Street Journal's Warren P. Strobel reports.
  • During the hearing, “Burns is expected to outline four priorities: China, technology, the CIA’s workforce and strengthening U.S. partnerships, including ties with allied intelligence services.

Three more nominees — Deb Haaland for interior, Xavier Becerra for health and human services and Merrick Garland for attorney general — were grilled before separate committees Tuesday.

  • Haaland “fielded sharp questions from Republicans over what some called her ‘radical’ ideas that include opposition to fracking and to the Keystone XL oil pipeline,” our colleague Ashraf Khalil reports.
  • Becerra “pledged to work to expand health insurance coverage, curb prescription drug costs and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in medical care.”
  • Garland received bipartisan praise during his second day of confirmation hearings and an endorsement from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), per Politico’s Marianne Levine.

And nominations are still rolling in. 

Biden’s cabinet is finally starting to take shape:

  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield was confirmed 78-20 Tuesday as United States ambassador to the United Nations. “Democrats and moderate Republicans [praised] her decades of experience serving under presidents of both parties,” our colleagues John Hudson and Anne Gearan report.
  • Tom Vilsack will lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture once again after the Senate voted 92-7 to confirm his nomination. The former Iowa governor “will be tasked with helping farmers hard hit by former president Trump's trade wars and the coronavirus pandemic, which has deepened the challenges of hunger and food insecurity,” CNN’s Alex Rogers and Jeff Zeleny report.

THINGS ARE STILL TENSE FOR TANDEN: But the White House appears resolute. “There is one candidate to lead the budget department. Her name is Neera Tanden,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday.

  • Republicans aren't budging either. “At a lunch on Tuesday, McConnell said he hopes Republicans would stay unified against Tanden, whom they view as too partisan to lead the White House's Office of Management and Budget,” CNN reports.
  • “Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said that Biden should withdraw his nomination of Tanden, arguing that the president should instead choose someone who has not ‘promoted wild conspiracy theories and openly bashed people on both sides of the aisle,’” our colleague Felicia Sonmez reports.
  • A wild card?: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said “she would wait to take a position on the nomination until after the committees vote,” per CNN. “I've got time.”

ALSO HAPPENING TODAY: Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he expects a [a ruling today] on whether a $15 minimum wage increase can be included in the fast-tracked covid-19 relief bill,” Bloomberg’s Erik Wasson reports

  • And Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell has a message for Republicans who believe the $1.9 trillion package will cause inflation to skyrocket: “This is not a problem for this time."

On the calendar for Friday: 

The campaign

BIDEN SHIFTS OPERATION TO DNC: “Biden has shifted the remnants of his campaign operation, including the donor and volunteer network that got him elected and several key staff members, over to the Democratic National Committee,” our colleague Michael Scherer reports

  • Big picture: The move is “part of a broader effort to build up the party before the 2022 midterm elections and a potential 2024 reelection campaign.”
  • Why it matters: “The decision to house his operation at the national party, and to continue fundraising and organizing efforts there, is intended to signal his commitment to Democratic candidates at all levels.”

Global power

‘IT’S SO GREAT TO SEE YOU, JOE’: Biden met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his first bilateral meeting with a world leader since taking office.

  • Details: The meeting outlined “The U.S.-Canada Partnership Roadmap,” a blueprint for combating covid-19, reversing the economic downturn, addressing climate change, bolstering security and defense, and building global alliances.
  • Biden: “The U.S. has no closer friend, no closer friend than Canada.”
  • Trudeau: “U.S. leadership has been sorely missed over the past years.”

Biden administration takes its first swipe at Russia. “The Biden administration is preparing sanctions and other measures to punish Moscow for actions that go beyond the sprawling SolarWinds cyber­espionage campaign to include a range of malign cyberactivity and the near-fatal poisoning of a Russian opposition leader,” our colleague Ellen Nakashima reports

  • “Officials also are developing defensive measures aimed at making it harder for Russia and other sophisticated adversaries to compromise federal and private-sector computer networks.”
  • “The aim is to convey a broader message that the Kremlin has used cyber tools to carry out an array of actions hostile to the interests of the United States and its allies: interfering in elections, targeting coronavirus vaccine research and creating a permissive atmosphere for criminal hackers.”

At the White House

MORE ON 100 DAYS: "Biden on Wednesday will formally order a 100-day government review of potential vulnerabilities in U.S. supply chains for critical items, including computer chips, medical gear, electric-vehicle batteries and specialized minerals," our colleague David Lynch reports.

  • "Biden’s executive order, which he is scheduled to sign this afternoon, also is aimed at avoiding a repeat of the shortages of personal protective gear such as masks and gloves experienced last year during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic."
  • Key: “The administration officials who briefed reporters said the president’s order was not aimed at China, though they acknowledged that U.S. reliance upon 'strategic competitor nations' will be among the risks evaluated.”

The pause is on pause: "A federal judge late Tuesday indefinitely banned President Joe Biden’s administration from enforcing a 100-day moratorium on most deportations," the Associated Press's Nomaan Merchant reports.

  • "U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton issued a preliminary injunction sought by Texas, which argued the moratorium violated federal law and risked imposing additional costs on the state."

Biden will head to Houston on Friday with First Lady Jill Biden “as Texas works to recover from major winter storms and power outages,” CNN's Maegan Vazquez reports.

Outside the Beltway

MEMORIALIZING THE 500,000: A day after the country's coronavirus death toll surpassed 500,000, congressional leaders from both parties held a moment of silence on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

Congressional leaders from both parties on Feb. 23 held a moment of silence for the 500,000 lives lost to coronavirus. (The Washington Post)

Some good news: “The White House said on Tuesday that weekly shipments of coronavirus vaccines to the states would rise by one million doses to 14.5 million,” the New York Times’s Sharon LaFraniere and David E. Sanger report.

  • 2.1 million doses are headed to pharmacies across the country.

The people

Tiger Woods is “awake, responsive and recovering” following a single-car accident on Tuesday.

Viral

#VIEWS