The U.S. Capitol Police force was caught unprepared by a mob of pro-Trump extremists on Wednesday, in a failure to protect the seat of American democracy unparalleled in modern times.
Rioters, many bearing Trump garb, breached the barricades set up by the under-staffed police force and swarmed the Capitol, disrupting the certification of President-Elect Joe Biden’s election and forcing the evacuation of Vice President Mike Pence and other lawmakers.
One woman was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer, Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee III told reporters on Wednesday night, without providing more details about the circumstances of the shooting. He said at least 14 officers were also injured, one seriously, during the disruptions.
Calm was eventually restored after the National Guard was called out and more than a dozen people were arrested. Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered a 6 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew and later extended an emergency declaration for 15 days, pushing it just past Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
Senator Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, said the breach on Wednesday requires another look at the crowd security plans for Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
“I think, you know, that’s always a high security moment anyway because we’re outside and it has so many different targets to it. There’s always a significant security concern there,” said Blunt, the chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.
But Blunt told reporters that the events Wednesday “obviously means you want to look more; you want to take one more really hard look at what you thought your crowd security concerns might be for Jan 20.”
With Washington routinely the scene of large protests, the Capitol Police “should have been preparing for this for years,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress, an advocacy group. “So the question is, ‘Why did they fail so terribly?”’
The failure is all the more remarkable because local authorities were on high alert over the arrival of thousands of Trump supporters as they gathered to hear the defeated president—who had invited the protests—bemoan the unfounded allegations of election fraud.
“They knew this group was coming, they knew it was going to be enormous but they didn’t do any preparation to control the crowd such as fencing, barricades, and cement structures to prevent traffic and people flow,” said Timothy Dimoff, a former SWAT force member who runs a security consulting company.
A spokesperson for the Capitol Police did not respond to a request for comment on criticism surrounding preparations for the day.
The mayhem shortly after midday signaled the start of an extraordinary episode that saw District of Columbia police, officers from neighboring Virginia and Maryland, and the D.C. National Guard join to recover control of the U.S. Capitol from the president’s supporters.
“It was clear that the crowd was intent on causing harm to our officers by deploying chemical irritants on police, to force entry into the United States Capitol building,” Contee said at an earlier news conference.
“What we witnessed was unlawful and riotous behavior,” Contee said.
Protesters flooded the building, with some of them entering the Senate chamber and sitting at the dais while one man apparently entered House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. Video on social media showed a police officer desperately trying to hold back more than a dozen protesters as they ran up the stairs inside the building.
Around 3 p.m., the District of Columbia’s National Guard called out its entire roster of about 1,100 people to help restore control, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said. The D.C. National Guard is unique among such forces because it reports only to the president.
By nightfall, police were using flash-bang devices to disperse crowds around the building. The Capitol was declared secure on Wednesday evening, about four hours after the mob stormed the building. Debate on certification of the Electoral College soon resumed, with lawmakers clearly shaken by the day’s events.
On the floor of the Senate Wednesday evening, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called the breakdown at the Capitol “a stain on our country not so easily washed away.” Many Republicans put the blame on Donald Trump, with longtime ally Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas saying it was “past time for the president to accept the results of the election, quit misleading the American people, and repudiate mob violence.”
‘Go Home Now’
While Trump eventually told violent protesters who stormed the U.S. Capitol to “go home now,” he earlier egged them on to help stop the transfer of power from taking place.
“President Trump doesn’t say go out and attack the Capitol but he is encouraging people to believe that the election was stolen,” said Jessica Stern, a professor on terrorism and white supremacy at Boston University. “The pressure has built up to the point they felt inspired to act now.”
The Capitol Police force describes its mission as protecting “Congress, Members of Congress, employees, visitors, and Congressional buildings and grounds from crime, disruption, and terrorism.”
The department has an authorized sworn strength of more than 2,000 and an annual budget of $460 million. In addition it has more than 350 civilian personnel who provide operational and administrative support.
Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the second-ranking House GOP leader, applauded their efforts.
“You saw the Capitol Police do what they do every day. They risked their lives for us,” Scalise said in a statement after the Capitol had been secured. “They keep the Capitol safe — those heroes that we love.”
But Democratic Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, chairman of the panel responsible for funding the Capitol Police, told reporters that some law enforcement officials should lose their jobs.
“It’s pretty clear that there’s going to be a number of people who are going to be without employment very, very soon,” Ryan said in a digital press conference Wednesday. He criticized “the lack of professional planning and dealing with what we knew was going to occur.”
Ryan, chairman of the House Appropriations Legislative Branch subcommittee, said he talked to House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving and Capitol Police officials about the long-planned protest as recently as Tuesday, and that it was clear demonstrators were not supposed to be “anywhere near the Capitol,” instead restricted to a nearby area to “protest and express your view,” Ryan said.
House Administration Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, promised a review of Capitol security.
“The breach today at the U.S. Capitol raises grave security concerns,” Lofgren said in a statement.
People who went up the Capitol steps should have been immediately arrested, and there should have been reinforcements ready to help, Ryan said.
“There were clearly enormous strategic and planning failures by the Capitol Police, by the sergeant at arms, and anybody else who was a part of coordinating this effort here,” Ryan said.
The U.S. Capitol Historical Society, a congressionally chartered educational group, posted a message on its website Wednesday under the heading, “Democracy is Stronger Than Terror.”
The then-unfinished building first housed Congress in 1800 and was famously overrun and burned by British troops in 1814, during the War of 1812.
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In support of political contributions
Most Americans don’t want CEOs involved in politics. A poll conducted last week by Golin and Ipsos found only 41% favored CEOs weighing in on disputed elections, and only 43% wanted them speaking out on impeachment. On the other hand, 74% say CEOs should call for unity and a peaceful transfer of power, and 57% believe it was appropriate for CEOs to speak out after the January 6 insurgency at the Capitol. That pretty well tracks with the way most CEOs and business groups have behaved since election day. They kept their powder dry until all legitimate avenues for disputing the election were exhausted, then came out strongly endorsing the election results and attacking efforts to undermine them. Relatively few have backed impeachment. (You can see the poll results here.)
But how about political contributions? That’s the question raised last week, as a host of companies—Marriott, AT&T, American Express, Best Buy, Cisco, Comcast, Dow and Amazon among them—suspended campaign contributions to members of Congress who challenged the election results. Another large group—Microsoft, Boeing, Blackrock, Coca-Cola, JP Morgan, Ford, GM, UPS, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup—temporarily halted all political contributions to members of both parties. (Quartz has a more comprehensive list of what companies did here.)
Some business leaders are even contemplating permanently shutting their political action committees and exiting the money game altogether. But absent a broader overhaul of campaign finance—which is unlikely anytime soon—I think that’s a mistake. Most big companies remain balanced players in the money game, dividing their dollars roughly equally between members of each party. Walmart, for instance, has kept its contributions at exactly 50-50. Their strategies have less to do with trying to influence outcomes, and more to do with assuring they have access to whoever wins.
The more important question for 2021 is how big business uses that access. There are a host of issues where business has the potential to help broker positive outcomes for the U.S. economy and society: economic stimulus, infrastructure, worker training, climate change. On each of these, business leaders occupy the center, and can help bring the parties together to solve urgent problems.
But on tax and regulatory issues, in particular, corporations will be playing defense. And they’ll be tempted to use what influence they can muster to seek tax breaks and regulatory exemptions that aren’t in the broader public interest. That’s where the commitment to stakeholder capitalism will be tested. The nation desperately needs business involved in government. But business, now more than ever, needs to use its influence to focus on solving long-term challenges.
Why Big Tech regulation is good for private equity, according to one CEO
Increased scrutiny of Big Tech’s power may have some shareholders sweating it. But not so for private investors.
With a new Biden administration and recent threats to crack down on some of the biggest tech behemoths (from Facebook to Amazon), there seems to be support for more regulation. And according to alternative investment manager Hamilton Lane’s CEO, Mario Giannini, that might be good news for the private equity industry.
“Reducing the dominance of large technology companies…is probably not great for some portions of the industry, but good for private equity,” Giannini tells Fortune. In Congress, which now maintains a slim Democratic majority, “I think everyone is interested in saying, ‘Amazon is too powerful, Google [is too powerful],’ pick your name,” he says, arguing there’s bipartisan support for more regulation.
As to what lawmakers do about it, “I’m not sure,” says Giannini, but “to the extent that they do anything to diminish the power of those companies, that’s good for private equity because it creates opportunity for smaller companies.”
To be sure, government scrutiny of large tech companies is a tale as old as time, but lately regulators appear to be turning up the heat on the biggest names: Facebook was recently hit with an antitrust lawsuit alleging it has squashed competition, while players like Amazon and Apple, big winners of the pandemic era, have found themselves the subject of government ire over antitrust concerns. Google, meanwhile, is in hot water once more for its search and search advertising practices. And companies like Facebook and Amazon could be facing their own headwinds in Europe, too.
According to Giannini, whose firm has $73 billion in assets under management and advises on $474 billion in additional assets, the dominance of those FAANG names has been top of mind for private equity firms when scouting for deals.
“Right now, when any private equity [firm] does a deal, …if it’s not their first question, it’s one of their top three questions: ‘Is Amazon going to enter this space, yes or no?’ And that has a huge impact—’Is Google in this space?’” he says.
It isn’t just an issue in tech. Companies like Amazon are moving into health care, for instance, by launching online pharmacies. “If all of the sudden the government [would] say, ‘I’m not going to allow Amazon to encroach in certain areas,’ then I think for private equity, oddly enough, that becomes a net positive because you do then have an opportunity with other companies,” says Giannini.
Though some on the Street argue the threat of sweeping legislative changes to hamper Big Tech’s reach is still minor, the new (albeit slim) Democratic majority in Congress poses “a clear negative for Big Tech as…we would expect much more scrutiny and sharper teeth around FAANG names,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives wrote in a recent note.
For private investors, says Giannini, that just “creates different opportunity sets.”
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