In the wake of the attack on Capitol Hill last week, and myriad questions about how rioters breached the building and what is happening in response, federal law enforcement agencies have yet to brief the public directly.
The US Capitol Police, FBI, Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security have yet to hold a press conference since Wednesday’s incursion into one of America’s most iconic buildings, prompting calls from lawmakers to call briefings for the public and Congress.
Most public appearances and updates have been left up to Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, who urged Americans to avoid the city during President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week during a news conference on Monday.
“It has been five days since the most significant attack on a branch of the United States government since British forces set fire to the U.S. Capitol in 1814, and yet the American public has not heard from federal law enforcement authorities,” Democratic Reps. Joe Neguse of Colorado and Veronica Escobar of Texas said in a letter Monday.
The two House Judiciary Committee members urged federal law enforcement authorities – including the FBI and Departments of Justice and Homeland Security – to immediately hold a briefing for the public, as well as schedule a briefing for members of Congress, to discuss last Wednesday’s riot at the Capitol.
Generally, after such an attack, it is common practice for the DOJ, the FBI and DHS to hold a media briefing to provide an official account of the incident to the American people, the lawmakers said.
In the days since the armed insurrection, the media and public have relied on first-hand accounts from Members of Congress, reporters on the scene, Capitol Hill staff, and Capitol Police officers, as well as pictures and videos on social media “to attempt to piece the events of the day together,” they added.
“Given that it’s 2021, what happened at the Capitol in terms of a communications plan was unacceptable,” Julie Parker, a law enforcement communications consultant and former spokesperson for multiple police departments, told CNN. “There is no reason that a police department with a half billion dollar budget that has a police PIO (public information officer) on staff, should not have put out anything that day.”
Parker said the same type of public communications response would “not be tolerated” at the country or local level.
“On one of the worst days in our country’s history, anyone who wanted to hear about what was happening and hear from the police department with the facts of the case, they were stymied,” she said.
A spokesperson for US Capitol Police did not respond to a request for comment.
DHS did not respond to questions on whether the department plans to hold a news conference in the coming days and why it hasn’t done so already.
Jeffrey Rosen, who became acting attorney general following the resignation of William Barr last month, has not spoken publicly about the attack on the Capitol, but issued a statement last week saying that DOJ is committed to ensuring that those responsible for the attack “face the full consequences of their actions under the law.”
DOJ spokesman Marc Raimondi told CNN that a press call would be likely on Tuesday to talk about additional criminal cases.
Acting DC US Attorney Michael Sherwin and FBI’s Steven D’Antuono held a press call last week.
“I think our response to the Capitol Police request for support has been well documented with the more than 520 DOJ personnel who raced to the Capitol and helped clear and restore operations there,” Raimondi said.
DOJ provided law enforcement personnel from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, US Marshals Service, Bureau of Prisons and FBI as well as leadership from the Department of Justice, according to Raimondi.
On Monday, the FBI said it wants the public’s help to identify the man seen in photos, widely circulated online, carrying a large Confederate flag inside the US Capitol. The agency has posted a number of bulletins asking for help in identifying dozens of others whose images were captured amid the attempted insurgency.
“The FBI is involved in this. They’re looking for information for the public. We can only help if we hear from them,” Parker said.
Homeland Security acting Secretary Chad Wolf, who announced Monday that he was stepping down, issued a sharply worded statement in the immediate wake of the attack, urging President Donald Trump and all elected officials to condemn the violence on Capitol Hill.
“While I have consistently condemned political violence on both sides of the aisle, specifically violence directed at law enforcement, we now see some supporters of the President using violence as a means to achieve political ends,” Wolf said. “This is unacceptable.”
Wolf, who was in Qatar at the end of a Middle East swing when the Capitol riot took place, has also not held a press conference. He returned from his overseas trip as soon as possible, and has been seen at least twice at White House several since last week’s incident.
His deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, has made several media appearances in the wake of the Capitol attack, trying to ensure the public that there will be a safe inauguration and promising that the federal government would bring charges against the people involved.
“We are fully – across the administration – pursuing every avenue of justice available,” he said on CBS News last week.
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the state Rep. Joe Neguse represents. He is from Colorado.
CNN’s Phil Mattingly contributed to this report.