This morning on CBS This Morning, Senator Portman discussed the bipartisan investigation he is co-leading in the Senate into the January 6 Capitol riot that resulted in seven deaths, including three police officers. Yesterday, Portman, as Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), questioned the current and former officials responsible for securing the Capitol on January 6 during a joint hearing of HSGAC and the Senate Rules Committee. He stressed the need for greater coordination between law enforcement and intelligence groups to effectively respond to significant threats.
Excerpts of the interview can be found below and a video can be found here.
PORTMAN ON STATUS OF BIPARTISAN INVESTIGATION INTO CAPITOL RIOTS:
“Well, I think we’ve got big problems in two ways. One, we weren’t properly prepared. That goes to the intelligence failure you just talked about, and you said it exactly right. There was plenty of other evidence, though, in addition to the FBI report that never reached the right people. There was evidence at the public media, as an example, that there would be violence. And then second, our police officers were not properly trained, and not properly equipped. They had not been trained on infiltration, they did not have riot gear, as compared to, as an example, the Metropolitan Police Department in the District of Columbia that have that kind of equipment and training. And then finally, after the attack occurred, why did it take so long to get reinforcements there, particularly National Guard – and as you say there are differences of opinion there. We’re going to get to the bottom of it. We have to, because it’s so important that this never happens again.”
PORTMAN ON NEED FOR COORDINATION BETWEEN LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE GROUPS:
“The Norfolk office of the FBI provided a report – the Joint Terrorism Task Force, we know that. That report then came to the Capitol Hill police, but it got stuck in their intelligence division at the level of Sergeant. It never got up to the decision-makers. That’s a problem, and that’s part of what you’re pointing out continues to be a problem, is that the intelligence is out there, but it often doesn’t get to the right people in a timely manner. If it had, I think they would have been much better prepared, including calling in the National Guard to help, and frankly, being better prepared not to have the perimeter be so far out, be able to anticipate what was going to happen, and yet they didn’t have that intelligence and were not prepared. Again, I will say that there was a lot of information out there that this was likely to be a violent encounter, so I don’t think the intelligence report not being there excuses the fact that they weren’t better prepared.”
PORTMAN ON UNIQUE NATURE OF CAPITOL RIOT:
“Well what we heard yesterday was that there had been a couple of other MAGA rallies that had occurred and that law enforcement, I think pretty much across the board, was looking at that as the model. That was not the model. This was very different. And again, this goes to intelligence to know that those previous demonstrations, although there had been some violence associated with them, usually after the demonstration, as I understand it, usually on the street, relatively small numbers of people, this was different in kind. And again, looking at the information that was on the web, both on the dark web and the open web, that information should have been able to be extracted, and it was different in kind.”
PORTMAN ON THE MAKEUP OF THE CAPITOL RIOTERS:
“The reality is that we had intelligence as to what was going to happen, we knew some of the groups that were likely to be involved -- Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and so on – and that was not just evident in terms of the intelligence but also when you look at the arrests that were actually made. Recall that there have actually been about 200 arrests. We know who these individuals are. So we ought to be sure we’re sticking to the facts.”
PORTMAN ON OUTLOOK FOR REPUBLICAN PARTY:
“Well I think he will be, Tony, because he’s got a high approval rating among Republicans, and we as a party have to focus in my view on the polices and the ideals. And, frankly, in the 2020 election, others did quite well. We picked up 15 seats in the House, as I understand it. We did better than expected in the Senate races. We did better in terms of statehouses -- we picked up three additional states in terms of the Republican majorities in the statehouses. So when you stick to the policies and the ideals of the party, including some of the issues regarding the economy, which was going quite well prior to COVID-19, and kind of get back to basics, I think that’s what we ought to be as a party. It shouldn’t be about personality, it shouldn’t be about one individual, it should be about what we stand for as a party.”