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Former D.C. Police Officer Michael Fanone on January 6 Accountability
Former D.C. Police Officer Michael Fanone on January 6 Accountability
Former Washington, D.C., police officer Michael Fanone joins Daniella to discuss his experience defending the U.S. Capitol on January 6 and holding those involved in the attack accountable.
Part of a Series
This week, CNN contributor and former Washington, D.C., police officer Michael Fanone joins Daniella to share the harrowing story of his experience defending the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021; his calls for accountability for those involved in the insurrection; and his concerns for the future of U.S. democracy. Daniella also discusses MAGA extremist candidates in upcoming Republican primaries and the horrific consequences of new abortion bans across the country.
Learn more about the podcast here.
Daniella Gibbs Léger: Hey everyone, welcome back to “The Tent,” your place for politics, policy, and progress. I’m Daniella Gibbs Léger. Later this evening, the January 6 committee will hold a primetime hearing on what former President [Donald] Trump was and was not doing during the January 6 attack on the Capitol. So today, we’re talking to former [Washington,] D.C., Metropolitan police officer and current CNN contributor Michael Fanone. Michael lived through some of the worst horrors of January 6, and I’m incredibly moved by his story as well as his calls for true accountability for Donald Trump, his inner circle, and the violent insurrectionists that showed up that day. So, stay tuned. But first, you know we’ve got to get to some news.
Okay. If you’re like me, and you happen to live in the D.C. area—the “DMV,” as it is affectionately known—you’re probably grateful that Maryland’s primary was the other day, because the ads were literally taking over my television. So, let’s talk a little bit about the race to replace Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. On the Democratic side, you had a ton of really strong candidates, including Wes Moore and Tom Perez, former labor secretary and DNC chair. They all brought sharp, forward-thinking ideas to the table, but we’ll have to wait for the mail-in ballots to be counted before we know who actually won that race.
Now, on the Republican side, we saw a quick victory for MAGA candidate Dan Cox against his more quote unquote, “centrist” opponent Kelly Schulz. Dan Cox is the definition of a MAGA extremist. He literally organized buses to the January 6 insurrection on the Capitol and tweets that Mike Pence was a traitor. And he won the Republican primary in a very purple state. MAGA extremism is clearly at the core of the Republican Party now. And this is a dynamic we’re very likely going to see continue to play out in the next big wave of primaries that’ll take place on August 2.
In Arizona, Trump’s candidate for governor, Kari Lake (R), claimed recently that lawmakers should still be trying to decertify the 2020 election in her state—still, in 2022. But the other more quote, “moderate” Republican candidate running against her, Karrin Taylor Robson, also says the 2020 election was quote, “unfair” and donated a million dollars to Trump’s campaigns. In Michigan, all four leading Republican candidates for governor are election deniers and Trump loyalists—all of them. One of them, Ryan Kelley, was actually at the January 6 insurrection, had his home raided by the FBI, and he was arrested on a misdemeanor charge.
In Missouri, the disgraced former governor Eric Greitens (R) is running for the Senate after a host of scandals, including credible accusations of sexual assault, forced him to resign in 2018. In his latest campaign ad, he’s holding a long gun and encouraging people to go “RINO hunting”—“RINO” being the abbreviation for “Republicans in name only,” a phrase that, you know, Trump-y types use to describe Republicans who refuse to subscribe to the “big lie” about the 2020 election or anything else that they don’t support. So, here we have a candidate using threats of physical violence against his own party members to turn out voters in the middle of an unprecedented wave of gun violence. It just shows the dangerous lengths the MAGA mob will go to keep pushing their party further to the right.
Fact is, this is not your grandfather’s Republican party: MAGA extremism has moved beyond Trump to become the core of the GOP platform. Even if some of these Trump-y characters don’t win their primaries, Republican candidates across the board continue to support extreme policies like making it easier for people to buy guns, banning abortion outright, and eliminating many of our voting rights. That’s why November is going to matter more than ever. At this point, a vote for Republicans is a vote for MAGA extremism, no matter how you slice it.
And speaking of bad takes on abortion, in the three weeks since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a handful of states have moved quickly and aggressively to outlaw abortion. Many of these bans are truly outrageous, making no exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother. For more on the fallout from this decision, please be sure to check out our recent bonus episode with Alexis McGill Johnson of Planned Parenthood. But I want to share some stories of what’s happening in states because—to put it quite frankly—it’s a hellscape out there, and we should be angry and ashamed that these types of things are happening in our country.
No doubt, you’ve all heard the story by now of the 10-year-old rape victim in Ohio who was forced to cross state lines to get an abortion, and how the right-wing media said the story wasn’t true, slandered a doctor, even though her rapist confessed a few days later. But it doesn’t stop there. Doctors in these states are refusing to, or often are no longer allowed to, treat things like ectopic pregnancies, postpartum hemorrhages, incomplete miscarriages, and other life-threatening complications that occur in—let’s be clear here—people who wanted to give birth. A hospital in Texas told a woman with an ectopic pregnancy to wait until it ruptured before she could receive treatment, because the unviable fetus still had a heartbeat. Another hospital in Wisconsin let a woman bleed out for 10 days because they were worried that simply removing fetal tissue from an incomplete miscarriage was illegal. People are dying as a consequence of these laws. How the MAGA extremists who push for them can call themselves quote, “pro-life” is truly beyond me.
While all this has been happening, though, reasonable lawmakers have been fighting. The Biden administration put out an executive order that will expand access to emergency contraception, legally protect against states seeking to ban early abortion medication, and protect the privacy of patients seeking all kinds of reproductive care. Senate Democrats put forward a bill to protect people’s rights to travel to other states if abortion is illegal where they live—a bill which Senate Republicans shot down immediately in what was a stunning display of government overreach from the party that is supposedly about limited government. The House has taken up a number of measures and efforts to protect abortion rights and more, given the clear threat from the Supreme Court to all of our rights. They just passed a bill to protect marriage equality in this country. Here, too, House Republicans overwhelmingly opposed the bill. 157 of them voted against it. You know, this is 2022, not 1922.
Long story short, post-Roe America is here, and it’s brutal, and it’s tragic. And honestly, it’s everything that we were worried about. I know this is really heavy stuff. But we need to be getting fired up right now, if we aren’t already. We need to fight for the little girls who have already been through so much, only to be told if they can’t move on with their lives; to fight for the women who need critical health care services, while nurses and doctors are forced to look the other way. And we need to tell these stories loudly and often for every time that MAGA Republicans will deny them.
If there’s anything else you’d like us to cover on the pod, hit us up on Twitter @TheTentPod, that’s @TheTentPod. And please let us know what you think of the show. You can rate, review us wherever you’re streaming from, and we really, really, really appreciate your feedback. Stick around for our interview with Michael Fanone in just a beat.
Michael Fanone is a CNN contributor and a former D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer of more than 20 years. On January 6, 2021, he responded to the call to protect the U.S. Capitol from insurrectionists, only to be attacked by the mob and nearly killed. He has testified about his experiences before Congress, met with senators and representatives who refuse to acknowledge the severity of the events that day, and spoken in the media and public forums about the need for accountability. Michael, thanks so much for joining us on “The Tent.”
Michael Fanone: Thank you for having me.
Gibbs Léger: You’ve shared many times in the media and with Congress the really terrifying story of what happened to you on January 6. For our listeners who may not have heard or remember your story, can you briefly share a snapshot of what you experienced that day?
Fanone: Yeah, so I’m a D.C. police officer. I actually started my career in 2001 with the U.S. Capitol police just after 9/11. And then I lateraled over to the D.C. police department, which is a more traditional department in Washington, D.C., in 2002. I worked primarily in narcotics, in a variety of different special and small mission units. And I was actually working in a narcotics unit on January 6. I heard the distress calls coming from U.S. Capitol from various officers as well as agency distress calls put out not only from my agency, but also from U.S. Capitol police. And so, my partner Jimmy Albright and I made the decision to self-deploy.
We left the 1st District, which is where we were assigned at the time, down by Nationals Park and made the short drive up to the U.S. Capitol. I remember we pulled up to one of the barricades in our police vehicle and tried to get into the Capitol complex and were turned away by the Capitol police officers that were manning the barricade because we didn’t have proper authorization. We parked our car right around—I think it was—New Jersey or South Capitol and D Street and walked up South Capitol Street, if you’re familiar with that area. We passed the Longworth House Office Building. I remember how eerily quiet everything was until we got to Independence Avenue. Independence Avenue was flooded with police vehicles. You could see on the north side of the street the makeshift barricade with, like, bicycle racks that had been toppled by rioters.
And on the south side of the Capitol—the actual grounds—there were quite a few rioters, demonstrators just kind of milling about yelling, chanting, holding signs, a lot of flags. And Jimmy and I just kind of made our way through that group, up to the south side of the Capitol. We entered there, made our way to the crypt, which is the center of the Capitol, just below Statuary Hall. And I remember hearing a distress call—a 1033 is the code that we use—from the Metropolitan Police Department for the lower west terrace tunnel. And I thought I recognized the voice in the call. And I remember looking at Jimmy and saying, “Hey, there’s a 1033 at the lower west terrace. You know, let’s go.” We made our way down a set of stairs and found ourselves in the mouth of the lower west terrace tunnel. And it was surreal.
I remember the first person that I bumped into was a sergeant that I’ve known for most of my career, a guy named Bill Bogner. And he was an administrative guy at the 1st District for years and was now at that time working at the academy. And I walked up to Bill, and he couldn’t see anything. And he told me he had just been sprayed in the face with bear spray. And you can see the orange residual chemicals on his face and on his uniform. And the guy just looked like he had the [censored] kicked out of him. And I told him who I was, and he stretched out his hand in this kind of weird moment where he’s like, “Mike, you know, I’m glad you’re here.” And I just told him I was there to help. What can I do? And we ended up walking up to this set of doors—double doors—that leads out to the actual lower west terrace hallway. And I remember looking through the panes of glass, and I could see this kind of white residual, like, cloud that was lingering in the hallway just beyond the doors. And that was the C.S. gas, which—C.S. is actually a solid that’s suspended in a gas that you use to disperse it. And it was just kind of floating in the air. And I remember really wishing that I had brought my gas mask. I mean, that [censored] hits you like a ton of bricks.
And I could see, when I made my way through the doors, Commander Ramey Kyle, who was actually my partner from U.S. Capitol police 20 years prior. We had left around the same time to join [the Metropolitan Police Department] MPD, worked together at various points throughout our career. And Ray was the only command official, with the exception of Robert Glover, who was on scene from our department at that time. And he was commanding and orchestrating the defense of the Capitol from that hallway. There was about 40 police officers, some of them with protective gear, others who, like myself, had just self-deployed, that didn’t have any protective gear on and they were standing shoulder to shoulder maybe four or five rows deep, protecting the entrance to that tunnel. And if you haven’t seen the videos, you could not slot a credit card in between two police officers. That’s how packed in we were in that tunnel. And I think what’s lost on a lot of people as well is, in addition to the thousands of violent rioters that had surged at the mouth of the tunnel, there were also rioters behind us. So, we were literally caught between a rock and a hard place.
It was one of the most awe-inspiring moments of my career to see these leaders within our department act so calmly in the midst of that chaos, to organize these officers into a cohesive unit so that we could survive. That’s what we were doing at that point—was just fighting to survive. We weren’t trying to contain [censored], we were just trying not to die.
Gibbs Léger: I mean, thank you, obviously, for your bravery in defending the Capitol that day and for sharing those difficult experiences so people can really understand what happened. I want to follow up by just asking how you and your family have been doing since those events. You know, how are you holding up during these public hearings of the House Select Committee? I have to imagine that it’s bringing all of it back every time there’s a hearing.
Fanone: I’ve been fortunate. I’ve had a lot of help along the way over the past 18 months to get me to a point where, you know, I think that the most difficult aspects of the trauma that I experienced, I’ve, you know, put in my rearview mirror. But I feel like with every obstacle that I surpass, like two obstacles pop up. And right now, I’m just really hyperfocused on accountability.
Gibbs Léger: Yeah, I definitely want to talk about that. You know, I’ve heard you talk about how you were pleading with this mob for your life, that you were telling them that you had kids, and you think that’s one of the reasons why you survived. And at the same time that all this is happening to you, we know that Donald Trump was doing things like asking security at the ellipse to remove the mags so armed insurrectionists could watch his speech; telling those very same insurrectionists—who he knew were armed—to march to the Capitol. And we’ll hear more about this at Thursday’s hearing, but I’m wondering, like, what do you think of the evidence that we’ve heard so far, that Donald Trump knowingly encouraged the violence that you and your fellow officers live through on that day—did nothing to stop it? And you know, what would your message be to the Trump supporters out there who still support him and think that January 6 was, you know, just a normal protest?
Fanone: My message to Trump supporters that haven’t accepted the reality of who Donald Trump is and what January 6 was … I don’t have anything to say to them other than, you know, you’ve chosen your side: You can be on the side of America and its democracy, or you can be on the side of Donald Trump. Those two things cannot exist simultaneously. But you know, 18 months have passed. There was plenty of time in which I felt a great deal of empathy and compassion for those that had been caught up in, you know, the “big lie.” Now, I feel like, if you can’t accept reality, it’s because you don’t want to. So, I’m not here to educate you anymore. I’m here to make sure that you receive accountability for your actions.
Gibbs Léger: So, let’s talk about that. You know, what does true accountability for the events that happened that day—what does that look like for you and your colleagues who were harmed and injured and those who were killed? What do you think the next step should be?
Fanone: I mean, there’s different levels, I think, of accountability. Listen, you have 1,000 plus individuals that committed violent acts on January 6, I think we’re up to 800 plus that have been charged or indicted. And there are several hundred more that are still outstanding, or, you know, the [Department of Justice] DOJ is trying to identify those individuals so they can be criminally charged. Those individuals need to be tried. And if they’re convicted, they need to receive jail sentences that are in line with what it was that they did that day, not just the mere specifics of what—you know, they assaulted an officer, or they broke a window—but the totality of the circumstances. But, you know, yes, some individuals trespassed beyond a police line or secure area. But let’s think about, you know—and judges are allowed to consider this at sentencing—what was the totality of the event that they participated in? This wasn’t just a mere trespassing. They were participating in a coup, and whether their intentions were violent or not, they made law enforcement’s job damn near impossible on that day. And so, I think that, you know, we need to see sentences that reflect that.
We also need to see individuals within the Trump administration who broke the law, in which I believe there has been a hell of a whole lot of evidence that’s been put forward by the select committee showing that those individuals should be arrested. They should be indicted, and they should be tried. And if they’re convicted, they should receive prison sentences that reflect their actions in the weeks and months leading up to January 6, and on the day itself, and some in the days after.
And then there needs to be a level of accountability amongst Americans. Because ultimately, you know, everyone played some role or some responsibility in, you know, feeding into what resulted in Donald Trump being elected president in this country. And we need to heed that because, in my opinion—my humble opinion—I don’t think we’ve ever come as close to watching our democracy crumble before our very eyes, and not just because of what happened on January 6.
Gibbs Léger: Yeah, I think that’s a really poignant point. And are you worried that if there isn’t accountability—and maybe it’s Trump in 2024, but maybe it’s somebody else who’s smarter, more sophisticated than he is, but still believes the things that he does—like, are you worried that our democracy potentially is still at risk?
Fanone: Absolutely. And that’s exactly why the point you just made is incredibly important. You know, my background is policing. And most of the investigations that I was involved in were obviously criminal investigations. But there is a parallel here. Criminals learn. They adapt to law enforcement interactions, and somebody else is going to come along that maybe doesn’t have the flamboyance of Donald Trump and will learn from Donald Trump’s mistakes and pursue the same ends, but maybe do it in a little bit more of a savvy way, knowing now what law enforcement response to Trump’s actions or inactions has been. And that’s concerning to me. Because you see people, I mean, you see these elections that are popping up all over the country, in which the losers are questioning the validity of the election before it’s even completed. If you lose, you were robbed, it was stolen. And that’s incredibly dangerous for this country.
Gibbs Léger: It really is. I do like to try to leave all of these interviews that we do on a positive note. I know, there’s nothing.
Fanone: I have a nickname at CNN. I’m the “doom and gloom guy.” I don’t have anything on positive news.
Gibbs Léger: Oh, well, is there anything? Is there anything that gives you hope? Like, I would say I don’t agree with [Rep.] Liz Cheney (R-WY) politically on anything and [Rep.] Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) probably not much of anything politically either. But the courage that they have shown and just the patriotism to put country above party, that is something that gives me hope: That they may just be two out of hundreds, but at least there’s two. So, is there anything like that, that you can look at and say okay, there’s some people who are trying to fight for the right thing here?
Fanone: I mean, it’s hard for me to see the silver lining and the fact that there’s two Republicans that are willing to stand up against Donald Trump. It’s also hard for me to see that everyone up to this point, it seems, that has done so has lost their job, myself included. My hope is that Americans, you know, wake up and take this moment to reflect on how we got here and what we want going forward as a country. You know, I criticize the Biden administration for not taking that opportunity immediately after Biden took office. And I think I understand that individuals were looking to lower the temperature in the country, but it just hasn’t had the effect that I think many of them wanted. And I said in my first interview with Don Lemon: Indifference is what’s going to kill this country.
Gibbs Léger: Yeah, I think that’s right. And that’s why you telling your story is so important. And reliving that trauma every time that you tell it, I know, is really hard. And again, I really thank you for doing that. But people need to see and understand it, not become numb to it because I think what happened during the Trump administration is that a lot of people—people in the media—started becoming numb to the things that were not normal. And so that when this huge thing happens, there’s a group of people who said, “Where did this come from?” This had been brewing for the past four years, but we started normalizing this abnormal behavior. And I hope that January 6 is the wakeup call this country needs, because I have to hold on to that. And I have to hold on to the folks like you who are out there, fighting the good fight. So, I really want to thank you for joining me on this.
Fanone: Well, thank you so much. And I guess if there is a positive, it’s that I get to interact with people like you that are incredibly supportive. So, thank you.
Gibbs Léger: Well, thank you very much.
As always, thanks for joining us, be sure to check out our previous episodes and you know, we’re still pandemic-ing. Omicron is, like, popping out variants like … I can’t think of a joke that I want to make that’s, like, funny and appropriate, so I won’t—but just be safe. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself. So, you know, we have to talk about the “Bachelorette,” and I am thrilled to be joined by our digital producer Sam Signorelli to have this conversation. Hey, Sam.
Sam Signorelli: Hey, happy to be here. You know, longtime listener, first time caller.
Gibbs Léger: Okay, so let’s just get into this past episode for a minute, because I have lots of feelings about it and I walked away thinking that the “Bachelorette” producers are dirty, evil people.
Signorelli: Yes. Yes.
Gibbs Léger: You agree with me? Like, I just am like: How is this not going to end with everyone in tears? Like, it’s like they set them … I really did naively think that somehow, they were going to separate the guys at some point so that they wouldn’t be possibly falling for the same person, because why would you do that? Oh, because you’re evil.
Signorelli: I’m only holding out hope that like the way that they’ve edited the previews makes it seem a lot worse than it does. Like, I’m really hoping that—well, I do agree that the “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” producer are spawn of something—I’m hoping that Gabby and Rachel are choosing to choose themselves over these sorry men because I’ve yet to see one that’s, like, overly impressed me.
Gibbs Léger: Okay, we have to talk about that too, because I was like: What? Where did they get these folks from? These ladies deserve better. I’m like, the guys from, like, Michelle’s season, from what’s-her-name—Katie’s—season, unlike these guys, just don’t seem to really be leveling up in a way that I want for Gabby and Rachel. A hot take that I saw on Twitter is that they hope that what happens at the end is that Gabby and Rachel end up together.
Signorelli: That would be that would be a dream. It would be fantastic. Yes. What really blows my mind is, like, every season they bring on one or two men that identify as motivational speakers of some kind. And they’re always terrible. Like, that is the biggest red flag that a man can be, is a motivational speaker. And we saw it again. They sent him home because he sucks.
Gibbs Léger: Oh, I didn’t realize that Chris was a motivational speaker.
Signorelli: Oh yeah, or a lifestyle coach or something like that.
Gibbs Léger: Right? Something very vague and ambiguous. And the fact that he’s talking about his boundaries. And I’m like, again: People, if you have a problem with how the fantasy suites go down, don’t go on the show. You will not slut-shame people for this show that you volunteer to go on. It’s like, miss me with that B.S.
Signorelli: Yeah, it’s whatever … season 30. Like, we know.
Gibbs Léger: Exactly. You are not new here. But the fact that they told him to leave, and then he came back?
Signorelli: Oh, God. What a man.
Gibbs Léger: Oh, my goodness. Why are men—I don’t know. But when Sam—not Sam, you’re Sam—when Gabby and Rachel, like, got wind of that, I loved the quickness. They were like, “Oh, hell no. We told you to leave. Get out.”
Signorelli: I agree. I agree. I think they’re a good team. Yeah, even if there may or may not be a lot of drama going forward, I do enjoy their friendship a lot.
Gibbs Léger: I do, too. Alright, so before we wrap this up, like, are there are any of the guys do you think like, interesting at all or have potential?
Signorelli: Okay, the ones that I’ve been thinking about: I do like Hayden, the guy that gave Rachel the birthday card on the first episode. I thought he was sweet. I am worried that he’s a Republican. Someone on TikTok does go through all the contestants and figure out their voting history. I need to watch that before I get too invested in him. But I do like him. I thought he was really sweet. I really liked Jordan. I was so sad that she sent him home.
Gibbs Léger: I know. I could feel that something wasn’t clicking there. Like, even like when they first met up when he brought his race car. Like, he just—I don’t know—he seems very sweet but also very like, “I’m not really ready to get married.”
Signorelli: That’s a good point, very good point. I’m trying to think for Gabby. Who did she go on the date with? He was the dad. I did like him.
Gibbs Léger: Yeah, I liked him. Oh, I forget what his name was. But he has really nice teeth.
Signorelli: Is it, like, Nate?
Gibbs Léger: I think it is Nate.
Signorelli: Okay, yeah. I did really like him. I had high hopes for Mario, the guy that Gabby kissed at the beginning, but if he’s playing the both of them, maybe not.
Gibbs Léger: I know. And I understand why the guys might be hesitant and like, “I’m putting like all my eggs in the Gabby basket,” but like, you have to look at it from their perspective, from, like, the bachelorettes’ perspective, how that makes them feel.
Signorelli: So true. This isn’t “Bachelor in Paradise.”
Gibbs Léger: Like, no, it’s not. And that’s why it’s so messy, “Bachelor” producers. Anyway, I’m very excited for next week because apparently this is when we’re going to get the, “Actually, I’m here for the other lady.” I know, I’m feeling so tense already, but I can’t wait to watch it.
Signorelli: I’m excited to be active in our company Slack for the “Bachelor.”
Gibbs Léger: Exactly. Thank you so much for joining me for this, Sam.
Signorelli: Thank you for having me.
Gibbs Léger: Of course. And for the rest of you out there, like I said: Continue to take care of yourselves. And we will talk to you next week.
“The Tent” is a podcast from the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It’s hosted by me, Daniella Gibbs Léger. Erin Phillips is our lead producer. Kelly McCoy is our supervising producer. Tricia Woodcome is our booking producer, and Sam Signorelli is our digital producer. You can find us on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.
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Daniella Gibbs Léger
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Politics. Policy. Progress. All under one big tent. Produced by CAP Action, “The Tent” is a news and politics podcast hosted by Daniella Gibbs Léger. Listen each Thursday for episodes exploring topics that progressives are focused on.