One of the main reasons for skepticism about the Left’s Capitol riot narrative has been the behavior of the mainstream media, which has worked overtime to blame it on Trump while either being coy, or protecting coyness on the part of others (e.g., the FBI), about the details of the events on that ugly day. There is an awful lot we still don’t know, and some things we have been affirmatively misinformed about.
Among the latter, the cause of death for Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick is an important one, in that it has seemed to firmly establish that a law enforcement officer was killed by rioters on 6 January 2021.
At American Greatness, Julie Kelly had an article on Sunday, 14 February, reporting that the New York Times had essentially retracted its original claims about Officer Sicknick’s death.
The gist of the retraction relates to the reported cause of death, which had not actually been established by any formal authority when NYT first reported it: “The paper continued to revise its story within the body of the original January 8 story: ‘Law enforcement officials initially said Mr. Sicknick was struck with a fire extinguisher, but weeks later, police sources and investigators were at odds over whether he was hit. Medical experts have said he did not die of blunt force trauma, according to one law enforcement official.’”
Kelly goes on to point out that NYT changed the wording on its citation of unnamed sources, from “two law enforcement officials” to “officials close to the Capitol Police.” The latter, as she observes – “officials close to the Capitol Police” – could be a lot of people, up to and including Nancy Pelosi.
Kelly has been following this, and published a previous column on 12 February previewing how NYT had been backing off from the assertions in the original report, which appeared on 8 January. She notes with interest that the NYT correction, added to that original report, came on 12 February, shortly after her piece was posted. She wonders also if the “Times’ correction might be one reason why Democrats on Saturday reversed their demand to subpoena witnesses.”
After all, says Kelly, “House impeachment managers cited the original January 8 Times’ article as evidence in their impeachment memo: ‘The insurrectionists killed a Capitol Police officer by striking him in the head with a fire extinguisher.’”
If the NYT report cited backed off on that claim, entered as evidence for impeachment, it would undermine more than the impeachment case. It would undermine the narrative about the Capitol riot.
I am willing to stipulate, even in the face of the NYT revision, that it’s very possible Officer Sicknick would still be alive if not for the Capitol riot on 6 January. Even if he had a preexisting condition (unconfirmed reports have suggested a blood clot), his role in dealing with the riot may have exacerbated it and perhaps made death from it more likely.
But if someone were on trial for homicide in Sicknick’s case, it’s also very possible there’d be reasonable doubt that there was even an attack on him. No cause of death has been officially given in his case, and it doesn’t sound so far like there’s enough for a prosecutor to work with in court (including the identity of someone who could be prosecuted for specifically related acts).
Having the statement in the impeachment memo inspected would not go well for the House managers. Kelly puts it this way: “Any arrangement to compel testimony would have provided Trump’s legal team with an opportunity to expose yet another myth in the Democrats’ ‘incitement’ case against the former president.”
And as she also notes, all the other mainstream media ran with the NYT story out of the gate, and continue to run with it to this day.
No one wants to have to expose myths about Officer Sicknick’s death. The thought of his death makes me sick to my stomach, in fact. But it’s no honor being done to him, for the mainstream media and House Democrats to build an impeachment case on a narrative of his death that turns out to be false.
The chronicle of the riot: a first-hand account from a unique source
The other thread of information I’ll address in this article is the resignation letter sent to Nancy Pelosi by former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund. Pelosi and others demanded Sund’s resignation after 6 January, and he marked his resignation with a letter dated 1 February 2021.
The letter has gotten limited coverage, which may be because it in effect contradicts two of the main plot points of the Left’s evolving 6 January narrative. One is that there was extensive prior knowledge, apparently at the FBI, that “extremist” groups were working on a coordinated plot for 6 January. Chief Sund indicates no such knowledge being provided to law enforcement authorities as they prepared for the 6 January rally at the National Mall.
But it’s the other we’ll look at here. Kyle Becker (along with MSM outlets; my h/t goes to Becker) got a copy of the complete letter last week, after ABC News had initially reported it on 6 February. ABC reported only minimal excerpts from it, and we’ll see how that in turn minimized the impact on the narrative about this next topic. The full letter delivers a bigger wallop.
The topic is the nature of the Capitol breach and how it began. The mainstream media have been at pains to depict it as involving “the crowd” that marched to the Capitol building in response to Trump’s rally speech. A number of eyewitnesses have asserted that that wasn’t the case – and the timeline backs them up. At the time the Capitol breach began, right around 12:50 PM on Wednesday, 6 January, Trump was still talking. And according to numerous eyewitnesses, people who had come to hear him speak had only left the Ellipse and begun heading for the Capitol some 30 minutes or less before Trump’s speech ended, around 1:15.
Some of “the crowd” were present to observe portions that they could see of the initial assault on the Capitol building. Videos posted to social media show that a number of unarmed people in the crowd, exercising very poor judgment, following the assault force into the building. The number appears by the videos to be in the low hundreds.
But in his letter, compiled from his vantage point in the security command center, Sund gives a different picture of what happened. Sund’s description not only matches that of a few on-site observers who said the attackers looked like a “professional” force, mimicking some of the tactics of Antifa (see here and here, for example; one of the reports cites Sund from comments in January) – his letter intensifies and solidifies that impression significantly.
Here is his succinct paragraph recounting the initial attack, mounted about 12:50 PM on the West Front of the Capitol, facing the Mall:
When the group arrived at the perimeter, they did not act like any group of protestors I had ever seen. Unlike other heated protests, these protesters did not simply congregate to angrily voice their grievances. As soon as this group arrived at our perimeter, they immediately began to fight violently with the officers and to tear apart the steel crowd control barriers, using them to assault the officers. It was immediately clear that their primary goal was to defeat our perimeter as quickly as possible and to get past the police line. This mob was like nothing I have seen in my law enforcement career. The group consisted of thousands of well-coordinated, well-equipped violent criminals. They had weapons, chemical munitions, protective equipment, explosives, and climbing gear. A number of them were wearing radio ear pieces indicating a high level of coordination.
Generic MAGA ralliers have no such profile. (In fact, the groups being fingered in recent arrests and indictments have no such profile; e.g., the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and Three Percenters. The processes of courts of law will have to sort their cases out; the point here is that none of these groups has any history of these activities. Of note, meanwhile, the national leader of the Proud Boys in the last few years has been a once “prolific” informant for the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, Enrique Tarrio.)
The profile seen on 6 January was of radical cadre tactics, most closely associated with Communist revolts the world over, from Russia and China and Eastern Europe to Cuba and Cambodia, and the Nazi and international Communist street fighting in Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s. The tactics require training and extensive coordination. We can deal with all the ramifications of that for the emerging narrative about “what the FBI knew” at another time.
Although there have been hints from bystanders of such an uncharacteristic profile in the 6 January attack (i.e., uncharacteristic for Trump-supporting rally-goers), many readers are likely to be seeing this picture of the attack for the first time.
There was someone who saw it clearly and comprehensively – Chief Sund – and this is what he saw. Through his eyes, it doesn’t look like what we’ve been told about it. (Just for starters, there’s no way Viking Dude participated in the onslaught described by Sund.)
Sund goes over the process of trying to get the National Guard dispatched for immediate assistance. But he also gives an update from a bit later in the day, one whose implications have been equally unclear from MSM coverage (emphasis added):
In the Command Center, I could see that the USCP and MPD officers were fighting with all they had to protect the Capitol building. I saw officers hit with pipes, wooden sticks, flag poles, and sprayed with mace and bear spray, all while trying to defend themselves against projectiles being directed at them. The mob was violently and ruthlessly attacking law enforcement officers in an effort to breach their lines. The officers fought courageously against the violent attackers for over an hour before any individuals in the mob were able to breach the Capitol Building. At some entrances to the Capitol, law enforcement fought with the mob for hours to prevent them from accessing the building.
It is startling to read these words, along with the description of the original breach, and ponder that if they applied to the Trump supporters who made their way down the Mall from the Ellipse that afternoon, the media would surely have publicized them heavily. Even though they apparently don’t apply, it would still be to the advantage of the Capitol riot narrative to try to associate them with Trump supporters.
But the implications of Sund’s account have been making no headway in MSM coverage.
Not, at least, as Sund tells the story.
The MSM filter
The interesting thing is that ABC News, reporting on Sund’s letter – of which they had a complete copy at the time – glossed over the richer, more informative details in it about the forcible breach of the Capitol building.
This paragraph represents the entirety of ABC’s summary of the actual breach in the 6 February report:
As the crowd was attempting to breach the building, Sund wrote, the Capitol Police Dignitary Protection Division prepared to evacuate congressional leadership. Capitol Police “attempted to secure hallways to prevent the mob from advancing further into the building” and “initiated evacuations” of members of Congress to safe locations.
Notice that it refers to “the crowd” attempting to breach the building, without making the distinction Sund does, or noting his arresting characterization: “they did not act like any group of protestors I had ever seen. … This mob was like nothing I have seen in my law enforcement career. The group consisted of thousands of well-coordinated, well-equipped violent criminals.”
To my eyes, “thousands” sounds like a lot more than I recall seeing. But I have to rely on media coverage. Sund was the on-scene commander with a comprehensive view through security cameras and reports from the individual police units fighting the battle.
Serious questions are raised by this. Why haven’t the media made points like this clear to us? Is it actually the case that they didn’t know? (They can’t fly news helicopters over restricted airspace, after all.) But even if it was, why wouldn’t they highlight all of the information in Sund’s account as an essential element of public information, once they did know?
ABC News effectively muted the impact of Sund’s letter by quoting from it so selectively and continuing to refer to the breaching force as “the crowd,” implicitly as if it consisted of Trump supporters who showed up for the demonstration.
Make no mistake: the media are emphasizing the violence. But they’re not giving prominence to Chief Sund’s professional, command-level assessment of the type of force that committed it, and how.
Other news outlets have reported the letter, but all have focused, like ABC, on the problems with intelligence alertment and obtaining National Guard support. Fox News made the full letter available on 7 February, but even Fox gave little attention to Sund’s description of the original breach. Fox’s report did nothing to set it in the context of previous information and clarify that it didn’t fit the narrative of Trump supporters straggling down the Mall and turning into a mob at the Capitol.
Sund’s information doesn’t really fit with the emerging narrative about extremist groups either, and there’s a reason for that beyond the utter lack of relevant prior profile for the named groups implicated so far.
The reason is this obvious, basic question: where are all those “thousands” of violent breachers now?
A few hundred unarmed idiots from the MAGA crowd were arrested after they entered the already breached Capitol building. (And again, as I’ve said repeatedly, I am all in favor of hammering them for their participation.) A very few individuals have been indicted on charges of plotting forcible entry beforehand. The latter are the ones DOJ is associating with the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and Three Percenters. (A recent summary from CBS is here.)
But I’ve seen nothing to indicate that “thousands of well-coordinated, well-equipped violent criminals” have been apprehended – or, just as important, that they are even being sought, as such. Why not? How is that possible? (Calls for the public to inform on Capitol rioters have been more in the nature of asking for tips on MAGA travelers.)
We seem to have parallel narratives that agree there was violence. Sund’s seems to put it in a realistic context. The narrative of the media, which is also that of the House impeachment managers, studiously ignores the wording of Sund’s description of the violent initial breach, while attributing the violence to Trump, and eliding how that connection would be made.
How do we reconcile the following pieces of information we’ve been given so far: that the FBI had its eye on “extremists” plotting the 6 January attack as far back as November; that the intelligence prior to 6 January, per Chief Sund, did not include that information from the FBI; that the intelligence Sund did have nevertheless made him want to line up National Guard support beforehand; that the Trump White House, as confirmed by Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, ordered 10,000 National Guard troops on alert before the 6 January protest; that Capitol officials (i.e., apparently the Sergeants at Arms of the two chambers; see Sund) resisted requesting the Guard; that a professional-cadre-style force of thousands showed up on 6 January to mount a focused breaching attack on the Capitol building before Trump finished speaking; that the Capitol Police fought with it in some locations for hours; and yet afterward, the arrests and indictments of more than a month come nowhere near accounting for that force of thousands, and no one is talking about that?
It’s not the media, the law enforcement organizations, or the political leadership who are owed complete and truthful answers about these matters. It’s the American people.