The chaos wrought by the siege on the Capitol last week revealed that the law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction had no coordinated plan to defend against an attack — especially one specifically aimed at powerful elected officials — despite warnings for years about the growing threat of domestic terrorism.

The Capitol Police and Washington’s Metropolitan Police had rebuffed offers days before for more help from the National Guard beyond a relatively modest contingent to provide traffic control, so no additional troops had been placed on standby. It took just over four hours for them to arrive.

Those were just two failures in a dizzying list that day and the leading up to the attack — that resulted in the first occupation of the United States Capitol since British troops set the building ablaze during the War of 1812. But the death and destruction this time was caused by Americans, rallying behind the inflammatory language of an American president, who refused to accept the will of more than 81 million other Americans who had voted him out of office

A full reckoning will take months or even years, and many lawmakers have called for a formal commission to investigate.

President Trump’s call at a rally that day for the crowd to march on the nearby Capitol was surely a spark that helped ignite the deadly riots that left five dead — including a policeman and a woman who stormed the building — injured dozens of others and damaged the country’s reputation for carrying out peaceful transfers of power. But the tinder for the blaze had been gathering for months, with every tweet that the election had been stolen, every refusal by Republican lawmakers to recognize Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the next president, every dog-whistle call that emboldened white supremacist groups to violently strike.


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