Lankford Letter (Special Edition): Rumor, or True?

Mike Seals - January 14, 2021 11:28 pm

Dear Oklahoma friends and neighbors:

After the unthinkable and horrific attack on the United States Capitol happened on January 6, rumors are flying on social media right now making many people  even more worried and fearful. The Capitol has always been a symbol of our freedom and the place where hard issues are discussed and every opinion is heard, not where a violent mob races through the building attacking, destroying, and trying to intimidate.

There is a lot of information that has circulated in the past week. However, I’ve been asked questions about rumors that are just simply not true. I would encourage all of us not to just accept every rumor as fact and to show personal restraint before sharing with others things we do not know whether they are actually true. This is a moment when we need to pour water over the fire, not gasoline.

Here are a few of the rumors I’ve seen and heard so far along with what I believe is at least one credible source to debunk or confirm the rumor:

Rumor: “There was a running police officer leading the mob in the Capitol” – Many have seen video of a Capitol police officer running up a staircase alone in front of a group of people illegally entering the Capitol. People have accused him of letting the mob in or even “enticing them.” That could not be further from the truth. I know that officer well, and we speak often. His name is Eugene, and he is a hero. He distracted the mob away from the Senate Chamber while staff and Senators were still in the chamber. His “leading” actually turned the mob away from the Senate floor and toward other officers, buying time to evacuate the building, and probably saved lives.

For a story in The Hill newspaper about Eugene’s heroism,  please visit: https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/533657-capitol-police-officer-hailed-as-hero-for-drawing-rioters-away-from-senate

For another story from the Washington Post about Eugene,  please visit: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/goodman-capitol-police-video/2021/01/13/08ab3eb6-546b-11eb-a931-5b162d0d033d_story.html

Rumor: “There were buses of ANTIFA members that came to the Capitol for the protest” – The rumor has spread across social media that the Capitol Police escorted in buses of ANTIFA protestors during the gathering at the Capitol. Video “evidence” is linked which shows multiple buses pulling up led by the Capitol police. While it is true the Capitol Police brought in buses during the riot, they were actually empty buses to evacuate staff and Members of Congress trapped in the buildings. The Capitol police had multiple options for securing the people in the Capitol, one of which was getting them out of the building entirely.

Rumor: “The federal government is about to declare martial law” – Fears of a declaration of martial law are some of the most quickly spread on social media. I understand Oklahomans’ concerns with the idea that a president could utilize our nation’s military service members and/or National Guard to suddenly act as national law enforcement. In recent days, the primary concern I’ve seen raised concerning martial law is that President Trump—or soon President Biden—could utilize provisions of the Insurrection Act inappropriately to control Americans involved in or even suspected to be involved in an insurrection attempt like the one being discussed at the US Capitol last week. The Insurrection Act reads:

Whenever the President considers that unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages, or rebellion against the authority of the United States, make it impracticable to enforce the laws of the United States in any State by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, he may call into Federal service such of the militia of any State, and use such of the armed forces, as he considers necessary to enforce those laws or to suppress the rebellion.

But in order to enact the Insurrection Act, a president is required by law to make a public declaration. This cannot happen secretly. For a detailed report from the Congressional Research Service entitled, “The Posse Comitatus Act and Related Matters: The Use of the Military to Execute Civilian Law,” please visit: https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R42659

To read one outlet’s reporting about the Insurrection Act and the rumors swirling about martial law, please visit: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/01/11/insurrection-act-trump-capitol-riot/6619972002/

The Oklahoma National Guard also recently shared one of these rumors on Twitter and assured us that it is completely false. To see the tweet, visit: https://twitter.com/OKGuard/status/1349085489903529984

Rumor: “There are two aircraft carriers off the East and West Coast preparing for military action” – Over the last several months, my staff and I have heard rumors of the presence of various numbers of military fighter jets, cargo planes, aircraft carriers or other increased military seeming to “await orders” in some area of the country or just off the coast. We’ve spoken to military personnel we trust, and they have not indicated that such military movements of aircraft are concerning or irregular. These are people we work with daily who serve our nation with integrity and whose information we trust.

Part of our normal defense operations include around two million flight hours and numerous training missions. To ensure readiness, our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines are always training. If you drive down I-40 in Oklahoma City, you’ll likely cross paths with an E-6 or a KC-135 taking off or landing. If you’re in Enid, it’s rare not to see a T-38 or a T-6 buzzing around the skies. This is part of our normal training, and there’s been no change in our readiness posture that would give credence to this rumor. My staff followed up on this rumor this week with our military liaisons just to be sure your fears were heard, and they assured us there is no imminent change in readiness planned at this time.

Rumor: “Seeing unusual increased military activity across the country” – There is a normal, increased posture of readiness in certain areas of the military around a presidential inauguration since we never want our adversaries to perceive weakness from our nation during a transition of power. To read more about the uptick in National Guard presence in Washington, DC, leading up to the 2009 inauguration of President Obama, please visit: https://www.nationalguard.mil/News/Article/573700/national-guard-details-support-to-inauguration/

Rumor: “The National Guard is being secretly called up all over the country” – You can’t secretly call up the National Guard. “Calling them up” involves thousands of decisions that directly affect our friends and neighbors.

To read the actual law that governs how and when the National Guard can be called via a state’s Governor, please visit: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/12406

At this time the National Guard is being asked to help preserve national security during the transition of power, and the area in and around Washington, DC, will have additional National Guardsmen and women on hand to ensure the safety and continuity of our government. To see some of the stunning pictures from the Today Show of hundreds of National Guardsmen and women protecting the US Capitol, please visit: https://www.today.com/news/national-guard-troops-seen-sleeping-capitol-striking-photos-t205738

To read more about the plans for National Guard deployment surrounding inauguration day, please visit: https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-army/2021/01/11/national-guard-inauguration-deployment-twice-as-large-as-troop-levels-in-afghanistan-and-iraq-combined/

Rumor: “The President is going to take over the Emergency Alert System since he was banned from Twitter” – Over the past weekend, we heard that President Trump was going to use the national Emergency Alert System to communicate with Americans. Despite being banned from or having material removed from social media sites, President Trump can still address the nation at press conferences, etc. as well as other websites and platforms. The Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Modernization Act of 2015 (read it HERE) clearly states that this system can only be used to transmit a message that is related to a national emergency. Presidential alerts are only sent on a limited basis if there is an actual threat to public safety.

Rumor: “There are armed attacks planned for every state capital on January 20th” – This is not a baseless rumor, and law enforcement is encouraging local, state, and federal agencies to exercise caution, particularly on and around January 20th to ensure personnel can be prepared and vigilant. Although no specific threats are being reported, after last week, we certainly cannot say “nothing’s going to happen.” I encourage all of us to be vigilant. My staff and I are in contact with local and federal law enforcement who continue to urge caution and vigilance around these national events.

If you hear that a person is considering carrying out acts of violence against the United States or any person, it is your moral and legal obligation to report that information to local law enforcement or the FBI before the plan is carried out. Let’s all watch out for each other during this volatile time, and let’s find ways to talk peacefully and civilly about our differences and resolve them before they spill over into violence. It is who we are as Americans.

I will be at the inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20th to represent all Oklahomans, just like I was for Presidents Obama (2013) and Trump (2017). Even when we disagree, we respect the peaceful transition of power in America.

In God We Trust,
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James Lankford
United States Senator for Oklahoma

 

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