Former Trump chief of staff: Feds beefing up security at statehouses, U.S. Capitol

By: - January 12, 2021 6:31 pm

Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly appeared at the Land Investment Expo in Des Moines. (Screenshot from event)

Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on Tuesday said federal officials are amassing the kind of “just in case” police force they needed when riots broke out Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol, but still are concerned about the safety of the nation’s statehouses.

“You can tell they’re very concerned about Inauguration Day,” Kelly said of comments by the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C. “They will probably be all right in Washington because they have 10,000 National Guardsmen ready to go that will be trained in crowd control, which is different than almost anything else and is not normal. But it’s the techniques of, without using force, breaking up crowds. Force is always an option if it comes to that.”

Kelly, a retired U.S. Marine Corps general, said “every cop in D.C.” and “all of the federal agents” will be on duty. He and former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci appeared at the Land Investment Expo in Des Moines. 

The FBI has confirmed threats of armed demonstrations at the statehouses and in Washington, D.C., in the days before and during the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. A riot at the U.S. Capitol following an address by President Donald Trump on Jan. 6 left five dead and the Capitol ransacked.

Kelly said he thinks the nation’s capital will be well-protected. But federal officials are less confident that the statehouses will be secure around the inauguration, Kelly said. “They’re appealing to the states, every state, to take the same kind of precautions on Inauguration Day at their statehouses,” said Kelly, who ran Homeland Security and worked as chief of staff before Trump fired him. 

Scaramucci asked Kelly what went wrong on Jan. 6. Trump and many of his supporters had made it clear on social media they planned actions on the day Congress was set to certify Biden’s election victory, which Trump disputes. That certification was interrupted by the attack on the Capitol, but finished after authorities regained control of the seat of U.S. government.

Kelly said Capitol officials turned down offers of help from Maryland, Virginia and other sources. They failed to have extra police on hand in case they got surprised.

“We call that the ‘just in case’ force,” Kelly said. “If you think you need 1,000 soldiers, you order 2,000 just in case.”

Asked by an audience member about the biggest threats to the United States, Scaramucci said, “We’ve got to think of ourselves as Americans First rather than America First. We have to find more comity and more unity.” Scaramucci added that the “commercial threat” from China and other competitors and the “adversarial threat” from Russia, Iraq and other nations also are critical.

Kelly agreed with those points but added that tribalism is threating the United States. “We have to get better at looking at what is good for America, and what’s good for the world. And, yes, to address these issues of inequality. We have become tribalized. You almost never hear them talk up there in Washington about what’s good for America.”

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Senior reporter Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.