The three senior security officials at the U.S. Capitol when insurgent rioters entered the building on January 6, interrupting Congress’ ballot counting, have since come under heavy criticism. And they did nothing to help themselves Tuesday when testifying before joint Senate committees investigating what was wrong.
The three men – former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, former House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving and former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger – have resigned or have been asked to resign shortly long after the riot.
They self-interestedly contradicted each other on Tuesday, admitted how crucial information predicting violence got lost in the departmental bureaucracy, and described an ossified chain of command where key decision-making under combat conditions took forever.
Conflicting Evidence in the Senate
Their fatally awkward performance is yet another reason a 9/11-type congressional committee is needed to fully examine the events of this crucial day. Here are some of the woes described on Tuesday:
►Information wasted. Sund said his agency, the United States Capitol Police, correctly planned the limited violence they expected. But he also admitted that the day before the building breach, an FBI report landed with hisagency, warning that extremists bent on war with the government were heading to Washington, DC But the report never reached Sund. It never got past a sergeant in his intelligence office, the former chief told Senators.
►Conflicting accounts. Two days before the riot, Sund said, he asked permission to bring in National Guard troops to help with security. But Irving dismissed him, worried about the “optics” of the soldiers on Capitol Hill. In his testimony on Tuesday, Irving denied all of this, saying there was no reference to optics, that Sund never even asked for the troops, but simply discussed with Irving and Stenger the idea of ‘use National Guard soldiers – which the three agreed was not necessary. .
►Conflicting stories. On the day of the riot, as Capitol Hill police defenses crumbled under the onslaught of rioters, Sund said he called Irving at 1:09 p.m. – Sund repeated that exact time on Tuesday – to ask to be authorized to summon National Guard troops to help defend the building. Sund said it took an hour, at the height of the assault, to receive permission. But Irving flatly contradicted this Tuesday, saying he hadn’t heard from the Chief until 1:28 p.m. – and even then that was just a suggestion it might be worth calling the guard.
This awkward response was not limited to these three men, either. Robert Contee, acting police chief in Washington, DC, testified on Tuesday about an emergency conference call he participated in with Sund, where the military was asked about sending troops.
“ Astonished at the response ”
Contee said the call was at 2:22 p.m., minutes after rioters broke into the building, and Sund was begging for help. But rather than immediately comply with the request, Contee said, military officials began asking questions about the overall plan and how it would look like it had troops on Capitol Hill. “I was amazed at the response,” Contee said.
It would take more than three hours before the arrival of the National Guard troops.
The violence that day left five people dead and temporarily interrupted a constitutional recount process. At least 200 rioters have since been charged.
The rampaging of the Capitol by American citizens is a stain on our democracy. It is imperative to learn how this could have happened, what was missed, and where senseless mistakes contributed to a massive security failure.