Key Capitol security officials to be grilled about what went wrong on Jan. 6

by Editorial Team

Six weeks after an angry mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, some of the key figures who were in charge of keeping the building secure on Jan. 6 will answer questions under oath about how the highly secure facility was breached during the electoral vote count meant to symbolize the peaceful transfer of power.

The hearing Tuesday before a pair of Senate committees will include testimony from three officials who resigned after rioters disrupted the joint session of Congress, imperiling lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the vote count that cemented Joe Biden’s win over Donald Trump.

The trio of former officials who are testifying publicly for the first time are Steven Sund, who was the chief of the Capitol Police; Michael Stenger, who was the Senate sergeant-at-arms, and Paul Irving, who was the House sergeant-at-arms. Also testifying will be Robert Contee, acting chief of the Washington, D.C., police.

Two other current officials, acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman and acting House Sergeant-at-Arms Timothy Blodgett, will testify Thursday at a virtual House Appropriations subcommittee hearing.

The riot left five people dead, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. Police were able to regain control of the building with help from the National Guard and federal law enforcement officers after several hours, and the vote counting was completed. Over 200 people have been criminally charged.

The joint hearing before the Rules Committee and the Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee is expected to focus on why officials weren’t better prepared for the attack and why it took so long to repel the mob from a building that had been considered one of the most secure in the world.

Tuesday’s hearing is the first of a series of hearings the committees will conduct as part of their investigation into the attack. More hearings are expected later, including a hearing with the acting heads of the entities that they will be talking to Tuesday, as well as a hearing at which they will bring in representatives from the federal agencies responsible for the intelligence-gathering and response.

The Homeland Security Committee has been conducting interviews as part of its investigation to inform members’ questions. It has conducted closed-door interviews with Sund, as well a Pittman, said a senator on the committee.

Committee Chairman Gary Peters, D-Mich., previewed some of the expected lines of inquiry: “Questions about intelligence, what did they know, what did they expect? Why were they not fully prepared to deal with what was a very large violent attack on the Capitol? Questions related to the National Guard. I mean, there’s a long list of questions that we’re going to be going through,” he said.

Sund has said he wasn’t warned about the possibility that demonstrators would try to take control of the building.

“Perfect hindsight does not change the fact that nothing in our collective experience or our intelligence — including intelligence provided by F.B.I., Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security (D.H.S.) and D.C. Metropolitan Police (M.P.D.) — indicated that a well-coordinated, armed assault on the Capitol might occur on Jan. 6,” Sund said in a letter to lawmakers obtained by The New York Times this month.

Sund has also criticized Stenger and Irving, saying they were slow to react when he said they needed to call in the National Guard, and he has said Army brass were slow to react, as well.

The hearing is expected to be contentious among lawmakers, too, and some Republicans are likely to try to cast some of the blame on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said Monday that the hearing will focus on “what happened at the Capitol and what we need to do to improve security.”


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