"Less than truthful": Jan. 6 committee members call out Secret Service "inconsistencies"

Lawmakers react to the "bombshell" revelation that Secret Service agents were warned about Jan. 6

Published October 14, 2022 2:22PM (EDT)

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) chair of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, delivers remarks during a hearing in the Cannon House Office Building on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022 in Washington, DC.  (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) chair of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, delivers remarks during a hearing in the Cannon House Office Building on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The Secret Service was warned as early as Dec. 26, 2020 that former President Donald Trump's supporters were planning to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to messages revealed in Thursday's congressional hearing. 

Agents in charge of risk management surrounding the protests were aware of online chats on pro-Trump websites that promised armed violence at the Capitol and threatened to kill then-Vice President Mike Pence. 

More than a week before the riot, Secret Service agents received a tip that extremist groups like the Proud Boys were going to storm the Capitol with the intention of killing people. "They think they will have a large enough group to march into DC armed and will outnumber the police so they can't be stopped," the tipster wrote.

The tipster urged the agents to listen and take action immediately. "Their plan is to literally kill people," the message read. "Please, please take this tip seriously and investigate further."

Politico also reported that the Secret Service received information related to "January 2021 warnings about chatter on social media about bringing weapons and warnings that right-wing groups were establishing 'quick reaction forces' in Virginia and 'standing by the ready should POTUS request assistance.'"

The newly revealed messages come after news that several national security agencies — including the FBI, Pentagon, and Capitol Police — had advance notice of the attack but failed to take action to prevent it.

"As we have seen, the Secret Service and other agencies knew of the prospect of violence well in advance of the president's speech at the Ellipse," said Jan. 6 committee member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

"The Secret Service had advance information—more than 10 days beforehand—regarding the Proud Boys planning for January 6th," Schiff said on Thursday. "We know now that the Proud Boys and others did lead the assault on our Capitol building."

"Despite this, certain White House and Secret Service witnesses previously testified that they had received no intelligence about violence that could have potentially threatened any of their protectees on January 6th, including the vice president," he added. "Evidence strongly suggests that this testimony is not credible."

Secret Service Deputy Director Faron Paramore released a statement saying that the agency is not a part of the "Intelligence Community" and that it did share relevant information. 

"In the weeks leading up to Jan. 6, Secret Service was in constant communication and sharing information with our law enforcement partners in the Washington, D.C. area regarding available protective intelligence and open-source information concerning potential violence," Paramore said.

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Thursday's hearing also revealed a post on a pro-Trump site threatening to bring a sniper rifle to the Capitol. In another Dec. 30 email, one Secret Service agent shared more online threats towards Pence claiming that the U.S. Marshals Service was "seeing a lot of violent rhetoric directed at government people, entities, in addition to our protected persons." 

"Intelligence about this risk was directly available to the U.S. Secret Service and others in the White House in advance of the speech, in advance of the march to the Capitol," Schiff explained.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., one of the two Republicans on the panel, told CNN's Jake Tapper "I don't know what's going on in the Secret Service."

Kinzinger also expressed concern about "inconsistencies" from the agency that still haven't been cleared up, pointing to anonymous sources at the Secret Service that disputed Cassidy Hutchinson's statements. He added that Secret Service official Tony Ornato, who was invoked by Hutchinson, vowed to testify to the committee but "never came in."

"They didn't come in to talk to us. There are a lot of inconsistencies that we're going to continue to investigate, from things people have said, to evidence that we have gotten," he said. "That will be either explored in the future or definitely in the report."

Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., also shared her concerns about the lack of swift response from law enforcement.

"You know what's going through my mind is what about the Capitol Police who were having to fight for their lives to protect us and another branch of law enforcement knew what was going to happen? It just leads to a lot more questions," Bustos told Raw Story outside of the congressional committee hearing room.

Bustos said that the Secret Service's warnings of the attack in the weeks before were a "bombshell" for her during the hearing.

"There's a million more questions," she said. "How could a branch of law enforcement had known this was going to happen and not done anything to stop it, proactively?"

Bustos was in the Capitol on Jan. 6 and shared her indignation for the former president.

"[Trump] owes the American public answers," she said. "He owes the police officers who fought for their lives, he owes the families of the police officers who lost their lives answers, he owes all of us who were there on Jan. 6 answers."

When asked if Ornato and other Secret Service agents were lying about their lack of knowledge, Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., responded that they were "less than truthful." 

"I think that they should come in and talk to the committee again. We said we would recall a number of witnesses. I think I'll leave it at that," Aguilar told CNN.

Aguilar also stated that the committee's report will be released before the end of the year. While this is the last of the planned hearings, he added, "some things could change, as the committee always maintains the ability to have hearings and call witnesses based on information in front of us. Clearly with this step of subpoena to the former president, we are open to activity in the near future."

After years of experience covering the Secret Service, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Carol Leonnig told MSNBC that she knows their protective intelligence unit takes "every threat with the utmost seriousness. Every threat." Leonnig summarized that on Jan. 6, "the entity that's responsible for the protection of our government officials kinda shrugged."

"Is this a dropping of the ball or is it more of an intentional grounding?" asked Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence. On MSNBC, Figliuzzi posited that Secret Service agents likely dismissed the threats, asking themselves "should we allow it to happen, or not?"

"Under any other circumstances," Figliuzzi claimed, "this would have been shut down."

By Samaa Khullar

Samaa Khullar is a former news fellow at Salon with a background in Middle Eastern history and politics. She is a graduate of New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism institute and is pursuing investigative reporting.

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Adam Schiff Aggregate Capitol Riot January 6 Politics Secret Service