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House report questions police response to Jan. 6 pipe bombs

Republican-led subcommittee airs concerns the day before hearing on law enforcement investigation

Capitol Police line the barricades as Trump rioters gather on the East Front of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Capitol Police line the barricades as Trump rioters gather on the East Front of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A House subcommittee examining the work of the now-disbanded select committee to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol has “serious concerns” about the response from Capitol Police and other law enforcement to pipe bombs discovered near the Capitol that day, according to a report released Monday.

The House Administration Committee’s oversight panel, led by Chairman Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., said in the report that their investigation obtained evidence that law enforcement came up short in several ways when responding to the bombs near the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee headquarters.

Among them, the report said a failure to properly maintain a secure perimeter around the pipe bombs allowed pedestrians and traffic to come near the bombs, and a failure to stop commuter trains from moving across a bridge near the DNC put citizens in danger.

Capitol Police radio channels transmitted inaccurate information that allowed civilians and law enforcement units to breach the perimeter, the report states, and law enforcement failed to prevent contamination of the crime scene by letting people and cars to go through it.

The information about the pipe bombs comes ahead of the subcommittee’s hearing set for Tuesday titled “Three Years Later: Assessing the Law Enforcement Response to Multiple Pipe Bombs on January 6, 2021.”

Capitol Police Assistant Chief Sean Gallagher is among the witnesses scheduled to testify about the bombs.

The law enforcement response is part of an 81-page report that took swipes at the work of the Jan. 6 select panel. Loudermilk, who was alleged by the Jan. 6 select committee to have given reconnaissance tours the day before the insurrection, has used much of his oversight role to criticize that panel’s work.

“Despite the threat the pipe bombs posed and the possible role they played in diverting resources away from the Capitol, the Select Committee invested almost no resources into investigating the pipe bombs,” the report states.

The report revealed some new details but largely recounted what had been produced through the work of other congressional committees, Capitol Police inspector general reports, news reports and other reviews done by the government.

On the pipe bombs, the subcommittee said it reviewed Capitol Police CCTV footage, radio transcripts and documents, and remains committed to “conducting proper oversight of the security failures that day,” the report states.

“Specifically, effective oversight must ensure that the next time viable pipe bombs or explosive devices are found on Capitol grounds, law enforcement personnel are prepared to respond appropriately and in accordance with standard operating procedures,” the report states.

Capitol Police testimony

Gallagher, in his written testimony for Tuesday’s hearing, said that the Capitol Police bomb squad “remains one of the largest and most capable squads in the region” and said changes since Jan. 6 pipe bombs “will ensure that the Department is even better prepared to respond to any similar incidents.”

After the scenes were cleared, the FBI took the bombs and is the lead agency on the investigation, Gallagher said.

All the bomb squad directives and standard operating procedures have been reviewed and revised as necessary, Gallagher said, and the bomb squad is currently in the process of modernizing and increasing its vehicle response capability.

Some bomb squad technicians have begun receiving advanced specialized training from the Certified Explosive Specialist Program at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the department has a bomb technician training with an elite FBI team, Gallagher said.

Authorities have yet to identify and prosecute the person who planted the pipe bombs. The FBI said there are no suspects at this time and have offered a $500,000 reward for information about the pipe bomber.

The suspect placed pipe bombs near the RNC and DNC in a Capitol Hill neighborhood south of the Capitol building between approximately 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 5, 2021, the FBI said.

Loudermilk posted on his social media account last month in response to a report from a self-described “J6 conspiracy theorist, insurrection denier” about a new surveillance video from Jan. 6, 2021.

“Declassified with Julie Kelly” said it obtained from Loudermilk grainy surveillance footage from DNC headquarters that “adds yet another question to the unsolved mystery” of the pipe bomber.

“New J6 footage that raises more serious and troubling questions. How could a bomb-sniffing dog miss a pipe bomb at the DNC?” Loudermilk wrote. “We’ll add this to our long list of unanswered questions and continue getting to the truth.”

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