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Pro-Trump Mob's Storming Of U.S. Capitol Reveals Many Security Issues


How did President Trump supporters manage to break into the U.S. Capitol yesterday? Well, as we've been hearing, there wasn't much in the way of security stopping them, and they took advantage of that, smashing windows, looting and breaking into offices, including Nancy Pelosi's. NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre is following this one. Good morning, Greg.

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.

KING: Still early hours of the morning. What's happening now at the Capitol?

MYRE: Well, just a few hours ago, the Congress resumed its business and certified Joe Biden's Electoral College victory. So order has been restored, but there's still a lot more to sort out. The D.C. mayor, Muriel Bowser, imposed a curfew overnight, and she's imposed emergency restrictions for the next 15 days. That will get us past the January 20 inauguration. And we're still sorting out a lot of details here. There were four deaths. One woman was apparently part of the mob yesterday. She was shot by Capitol Police. And then there were three deaths that are being described as medical emergencies right around the Capitol grounds, more than a dozen police injured, more than 50 arrests. Police found Molotov cocktails, guns, two pipe bombs, one at the Democratic National Committee building, one at the Republican National Committee, both near the Capitol. And, of course, there's a ton of unanswered questions here.

KING: Including a big one, Greg, which is who was in charge yesterday? Because watching this as it went down, it just was not clear who the authorities were.

MYRE: Well, that's exactly right, Noel. Now, this is a perennial D.C. problem because there's so many fiefdoms in the city. Mayor Bowser sent a letter a few days ago saying that the D.C. police would be the lead agency here and they would coordinate with others like the Capitol Police, who are responsible for the Capitol building. She wanted a limited National Guard presence, about 340 members working in shifts. They would be unarmed, no military uniforms. And they were supposed to help with traffic and subway efforts and crowd control but not law enforcement. So law enforcement was supposed to be the job of the D.C. police.

KING: There were so many people predicting that this day would be volatile. Our own reporter, Hannah Allam, had been on air the past couple days saying there will be protests. Did the city just fail to plan for the worst type of protest?

MYRE: Well, that does certainly seem to be the case. And we have to recall what happened last summer during the Black Lives Matter protest. President Trump wanted a real show of force. He even demanded active duty troops during these protests. He got talked out of that. But there were federal forces used or very aggressive tactics in the streets. Mayor Bowser was upset with this, and she didn't want this big show of force. So as a result, there was this sort of limited police security presence. And when the mob reached the Capitol, there just wasn't a lot of security there. And we saw the crowd just surge in. And the full National Guard wasn't mobilized and didn't come out until last night, hours after this had happened.

KING: OK, interesting, though, that it was a conscious choice. What do you envision happens next in order to keep this from happening again?

MYRE: Well, you know, what we saw yesterday was extremely rare. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker said the last time the Capitol was attacked like this was in the War of 1812 when the British set fire to the Capitol. We've got two more tense weeks until the inauguration. So I think we're going to see a lot of heavy security and restrictions in place. Now, because of COVID, there will be limited crowds for the inaugural, and that might make security a little bit easier. But I would expect security officials to err on the side of too much rather than too little security.

KING: NPR's Greg Myre. Thanks, Greg.

MYRE: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on the intelligence community, a position that follows his many years as a foreign correspondent covering conflicts around the globe.