Cassidy, Scalise react to Capitol Building takeover; former FBI agent says there was an ‘intelligence’ failure

Published: Jan. 6, 2021 at 7:15 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation reacted to the siege of the U.S. Capitol Building by protesters who converged on the nation’s capital in support of President Donald Trump. And a former FBI official says someone dropped the ball, in terms of intelligence, in order for the siege of the Capitol Building to take place.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican, is Louisiana’s senior U.S. senator.

“I was at my desk in the Senate Chamber when suddenly I realized people were moving quickly and said somebody, somebody said something about breaching the capitol,” said Cassidy.

He said that kind of behavior cannot be ignored.

“It is what happens in Third World countries, it should not happen in the United States of America. It was an attempt to disrupt the Democratic constitutional process. It should not be tolerated, and it will not be tolerated and as soon as this capitol is cleared, we should return and complete our constitutionally ordered responsibility which is to have a peaceful transition of power,” Cassidy stated.

GOP House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, also of Louisiana, denounced the violence.

“United States Capitol Police saved my life. Attacks on law enforcement officers trying to do their jobs are never acceptable. Period. We can passionately protest without being violent,” he tweeted.

And later Scalise said during a broadcast interview he was working with others to get Congress back to work after the mayhem.

“I’m with some of the other House and Senate leadership and we are working to get things back in order. . . We were talking about that — about getting things back going tonight and keeping on doing our job. But, you know, I was in the chamber when they ultimately started to shut it down and the reports were pretty clear that there were people overtaking some of the doors and storming the Capitol. And there’s no place for that,” said Scalise.

Earlier in the day Scalise spoke on the House floor criticizing how some states carried out the presidential election. While Trump claims he was cheated out of a reelection win, his lawsuits have not been successful and recently resigned Attorney General Bill Barr said there was no evidence of widespread election fraud.

Jim Bernazzani served as Special Agent in Charge of the New Orleans Division of the FBI and following the 911 terrorists’ attacks, he served as Deputy Director for Law Enforcement at the Counterterrorism Center.

He was stunned by what took place.

“We have to reassess our intelligence strategy through lawful means to find out where was the failure because this was a failure of intelligence,” said Bernazzani.

He expressed astonishment that such an assault at the capitol building could happen.

“I tell you right now the one thing that I found very perplexing relative to this event is the fact of the lack of intelligence. How can you have that many people in the capital of the United States, and I’m talking about all agencies that wouldn’t have a human source of intelligence telling law enforcement what was going to transpire and it is really perplexing and confusing because intelligence drives operations. This should have never happened,” said Bernazzani.

Dr. Robert Collins is a Dillard University political analyst who worked in the U.S. Senate on Capitol Hill. He spoke of the cavernous nature of the building and how that might have presented challenges for finding all of the protesters who forced their way into the building.

“The challenges, having worked in the Capitol Building is that it’s not really one building, from the outside it looks like one building but it’s really a whole bunch of separate chambers inside a large complex so you have the Senate side, you have the House side which are separate chambers but then you have a maze of tunnels and rooms and offices that connect those two chambers together,” said Collins.

Former New Orleans Police Supt. Ronal Serpas said in responding to the protesters, safety would have been top-of-mind for law enforcement. Members of Congress were in their chambers when the security breach occurred.

“As a police official or a police officer you’re thinking about safety, you’re thinking about the safety of the people in the building, you’re thinking about the safety of people walking around the building who have nothing to do with of any of the events going on,” said Serpas.

Collins thinks more Capitol Police should have been around the building beforehand because the protest had been widely publicized.

“What is a surprise is that they would send such a small security force to meet them. The U.S. Capitol Hill police are a very trained force, they’re trained in crowd control but they’re a very small police force,” said Collins.

Serpas said while peaceful protests are a part of democracy, law enforcement has an obligation to react when things go awry.

“Our nation lives, breathes and dies on the notion to peacefully protest but anything that’s not peaceful has to be dealt with in a way of protecting life,” said Serpas.

Cassidy was asked whether President Trump is to blame for what happened at the Capitol Building.

“President Trump can speak to these people like no other. I tweeted earlier the president needs to go on television; he needs to ask the folks to stand down, for the rioters who are breaking into the Capitol [Building] without any sort of equivocation, without any sort of justification, he should just say stand down,” said Cassidy.

Bernazzani said the gaps in intelligence that allowed the breach to happen must be addressed before January 20, when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are inaugurated.

“Exactly right we have to reassess this real quick, figure out where our deficiencies and improve and move forward accordingly,” said Bernazzani.

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