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Ohio congressional delegates leading investigation into Capitol siege

"We'll be seeing arrests immediately and consistently over the coming days, all over the country," U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan said Friday.
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U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th (left), and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Cincinnati, R-Ohio

WASHINGTON — Wednesday's siege of the U.S. Capitol likely had some level of sophistication.

Explosive devices placed at Republican and Democratic national committee buildings may have been distractions, or possibly part of a larger, yet unknown plan that wasn't executed, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan told reporters Friday. No possible connection, foreign or domestic, is going to be ruled out, he said.

He and other federal lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Cincinnati, R-Ohio, have many questions and are heading up investigations into the Jan. 6 insurrection and how Capitol and federal authorities failed to respond appropriately.

"There was an epic fail on preparation, an epic fail on intelligence," Ryan said, adding though initial intelligence may have underestimated the threat, authorities should have prepared for the "worst-case scenario."

"They should have been absolutely prepared for the absolute worst. We were told they were. They obviously weren't," he said. "The intelligence and threat assessment piece is going to be a big part of the oversight we're doing now and in the days to come."

Ryan, chairman of the House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds the Capitol Police and is also seeking an investigation, said the "rank and file" police officers "are to be commended" for keeping lawmakers safe during the siege.

The issue rests with the force's "upper echelon," including Chief Steven Sund, whose resignation takes effect Jan. 16.

Ryan said he's requested all the video footage, emails, text messages and other leads available from the Capitol that day to create a minute-by-minute timeline of the events of Jan. 6.

Federal authorities continue to comb through social media posts from rioters who created their own photo and video evidence when bragging about their role online, and are using facial recognition technology to identify others captured on camera. The Metropolitan Police Department has collected images of rioters engaged in criminal activity. MPD is offering rewards of up to $1,000 for information that leads to arrests or indictments. 

Several dozen people have been arrested so far, according to The Washington Post.

Richard Barnett, 60, of Arkansas, the man seen in widely circulated photos sitting at a desk inside U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office, feet propped up, was arrested Friday and charged with several counts including entering and remaining on restricted grounds and theft of public property — specifically, a piece of mail.

When asked why so few arrests were made Wednesday — video footage from the Capitol Building showed rioters calmly filing out — Ryan said he feels the lack of manpower meant the more pressing priority was to clear the Capitol, which was the "right choice."

"We'll be seeing arrests immediately and consistently over the coming days, all over the country," Ryan said Friday, later adding, "So much of the investigation is going to rely on videos [and] also relying on personal accounts from people."

In the Senate

Portman is also taking the lead in investigating security failures when what he called a criminal mob stormed the Capitol Building on Wednesday.

Portman, who also on Friday expressed his heartbreak following the news of a Capitol police officer who died from injuries suffered during the attack, joined Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich.; Roy Blunt, R-Miss.; and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., in announcing bipartisan hearings on the incident.

The group said the mob attempted to interrupt the formal count of the Electoral College votes and attempted to subvert American democracy.

Portman and Peters lead the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, while Blunt and Klobuchar head the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.

“Wednesday’s violent and criminal acts directed at our Capitol, a symbol of American democracy, will forever be a stain on our nation’s history,” the group said in a statement announcing the investigation. “Due to the heroic acts of many, the perpetrators of this attack failed to achieve their goal. It is our duty as bipartisan leaders of the Senate committees with jurisdiction over homeland security, oversight and Capitol operations to examine the security failures that led to Wednesday’s attack.”

The U.S. Capitol was transformed into a shocking scene Wednesday as supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the building, overwhelming police officers and sending the nation's lawmakers fleeing.

The violent scene played out in Washington, on TV and across social media as the congressional session that had convened to count the results of the Electoral College came to an abrupt halt.

“Let us be clear: An attack on the Capitol Building is an attack on every American,” the group’s statement said. “We plan to conduct oversight and hold bipartisan hearings on these horrific events, and work together to make the necessary reforms to ensure this never happens again.”

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Cleveland, D-Ohio, speaking to reporters Friday, said "Everyone who participated in the attack on this country must be held accountable."

He also questioned law enforcement's response, which he said was clearly "not prepared," and the actions of some officers seen on video allowing rioters through barricades and posing for selfies with them. Though he said many Capitol police officers "were doing their jobs ... some were, frankly, too friendly to the rioters. That was pretty clear."

—— Reporters Justin Dennis of Mahoning Matters and J.D. Davidson of The Center Square contributed to this report.