Mark Warner: ‘We need to come down hard’ in response to Capitol violence
The debate over electoral votes from Arizona had just begun, and then there started to be a flurry of activity, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner said Thursday.
A reporter on a conference call had asked him to share what he remembered from the domestic terrorist attack on the United States Capitol from a day earlier.
“You saw Sen. Grassley removed as president pro tem, and an older member. And then you saw the Secret Service come in and rush the vice president off the dais. It was a confusing few minutes, because there did not seem to be an orderly plan of how we would secure the floor and where we would move the senators and their staff,” Warner said.
He next thought back to his time as governor, when the region was engulfed in the terror of the sniper incidents that had the Mid-Atlantic in a panic for a tense few weeks.
The other thought that came to mind was 9/11. His gubernatorial campaign headquarters was a smile from the Pentagon, and he still remembers the smell of the smoke from the plane crash, and trying to reassure his young staff that they were going to be alright.
“I saw that same kind of fear on many of the young staff who were part of the Senate clerk’s office or floor staff yesterday. And while there was, I don’t think maybe the senators felt immediate fear on the floor, but there wasn’t that sense of calm, the orderly process in front of us that I think we all would have hoped for,” Warner said.
Earlier in the call, Warner was hopping mad, and vowing to get to the bottom of the intelligence and law enforcement failures that allowed a ragtag group of pro-Trump extremists to briefly seize control of the Capitol.
“In my role as a member of the Gang of Eight, I was in contact with the FBI and others because I was concerned in advance of the event that this needs to be focused on as acts of domestic terrorism. I was in contact with senior officials at the FBI leading up to yesterday where they on a regular basis reassured me that they had the resources and appropriate intelligence to take on this threat. They were flat wrong,” Warner said.
“Yesterday was an embarrassment, in terms of their response, in terms of having appropriate resources ready to deploy, images of some Capitol Police at least taking selfies with these thugs, in some cases even letting these insurrectionists through gates. Our country needs a full and thorough investigation of what went wrong in terms of preparation,” Warner said.
That was the hard thing to digest as the drama unfolded on live TV in front of the world – that Capitol Police and the FBI were obviously not prepared at all for what was happening.
“We knew for weeks that Jan. 6 was going to be a difficult day. Clearly the folks in the Trump administration knew. Many of the Cabinet secretaries basically were out of the country yesterday because they realized the potential violence could happen,” Warner said.
“Why were we not better prepared? Why were there not more resources available? This takes away from none of the brave Capitol Police and other law enforcement that tried to do their job, but they were so undermanned and under-resourced, and it is outrageous. This was a crowd of thugs, God willing, most of them unarmed. But the ability for criminal elements, terrorist elements in this country or abroad, to look at those images of what happened yesterday, and plan for potential future attacks against our Capitol, absolutely requires us to have a thorough and full investigation, and if need be to make significant changes in some of the law enforcement leadership, to make sure this will never happen again.”
Warner brought up another Richmond flashback – to a year ago, when more than 2,000 heavily armed Second Amendment supporters descended upon the state capital to rally in support of gun rights.
Weeks of preparation and resource planning helped ensure that the final outcome was peaceful and largely uneventful.
“If the Commonwealth of Virginia could prepare and make sure that that day of protests kept peaceful, and why the hell couldn’t the United States government with all our resources, do the same?” Warner said.
“There had been so much chatter on social media, not just some of the traditional sites, but some of these new right wing sites, like Parlor, that anyone that didn’t anticipate and couldn’t have predicted that there was the possibility of this kind of activity happening shouldn’t be in the intelligence or law enforcement business,” Warner said.
Yeah, there’s the fire.
In the end, Warner stressed that “we’ll get through this.”
“But the images of yesterday, the images of those of us who were here, and seeing that violence, the images that are plastered across media around the world, will soon fade. So, we need that investigation into what happened and why we weren’t better prepared. We need to come down hard,” Warner said.
Story by Chris Graham