Three of the four officials who testified to the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on Tuesday resigned immediately after the attack, which killed one Capitol police officer and four others, including a female veteran of the United States Air Force. Testimony on Tuesday by former Capitol security chiefs was initiated by Democrats Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Gary Peters of Michigan.
Officials, including the former capitol police chief, have accused other federal agencies and each other of failing to protect the congressional building, the Associated Press reported. In particular, Acting Washington Police Chief Robert Conti told lawmakers, who are holding the first public hearings on the attack, that he was “stunned” by how long it took the Pentagon to deploy National Guard troops to neutralize the unrest. Conti said DC also “had no evidence of a coordinated attack on the Capitol.”
For his part, former Capitol Police Chief Stephen Sund said he was preparing for a protest, not a “coordinated military-style attack.” According to him, he expected the protests to be similar to two events in support of Trump, which took place in late 2020 and were peaceful. Sund said the improvised bombs that were planted at the edge of the security perimeter appeared to be designed to distract law enforcement from guarding the Capitol building. “The apparent lack of accurate and complete intelligence from several federal agencies, rather than poor planning on the part of the US Capitol Police, contributed to this event,” he added. According to Sund, the attack was not the result of poor planning, but “setbacks on the part of many security forces.” As Sund noted, due to a lack of intelligence, the police “were in the minority” at the time of the assault.
Officials also said that an FBI report warning that protesters were “preparing to attack,” for some reason did not reach Capitol security forces ahead of the siege of the building. Sund told lawmakers that it was only after the attack that he learned that his officers received a report from the FBI office in Norfolk, Virginia, detailing the chances of an attack on the Capitol by radical Trump supporters.
For his part, the head of the FBI unit in Washington said that after he received a warning about the attack through his channels on January 5, this information was immediately transmitted to other law enforcement agencies through the capital’s joint counter-terrorism task force. Sund explained that the task force officer had received this note and sent it to the sergeant in charge of intelligence in the Capitol police, but this information, for some reason, was not passed on to other leaders of the security forces and the Congress itself. Sund, in response to a question from lawmakers, said he only found out about the note after the attack. Commenting on the claim, Paul Irving, a former House sergeant who oversaw her security, said Sunda’s claims were “completely false.” According to him, the Capitol police are indeed faced with a lack of intelligence about the impending attack. During the hearing, Sund reported that he called Irving at the very beginning of the attack – at 13:09 to ask for help. However, Irving said that he did not remember this call and said that at that time he was on the same floors of the Capitol. Irving told lawmakers that he did not receive an official request from Sunda for support until 2:00 pm.
“This is certainly not the last hearing in this attack,” Amy Klobuchar concluded, adding that Pentagon officials will be called to Congress next week to testify about the deployment of National Guard troops outside the Capitol building. This week, the House Appropriations Committee will also hear testimony from Sund’s successor, Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman, and Irving’s successor, Acting Sergeant Timothy Blodgett.
According to Politico, this key “hearing on the defense of the Capitol” is likely to raise even more questions from Congress. Senator Gary Peters, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said the hearings would continue. Democratic leaders have called for the creation of a bipartisan investigation team on January 6, 2021, modeled on the 9/11 Commission that investigated the 2001 attacks, to comprehensively examine the reasons behind the attack.