“When you ask questions and get an answer, it usually leads to even more questions,” Homeland Security Senate Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich.) Said, adding that he personally had ” a long list of questions “for former officials and intends to hold a series of hearings on the subject.
Forty-eight days after assailants stormed the Capitol as lawmakers certified President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, the central details of the Jan.6 attack have remained shrouded in mystery. The lack of public accountability on the part of the agencies and officials responsible for overseeing the security response has become a sensitive issue among lawmakers targeted by the insurgents.
A major question: why do political considerations seem to have delayed approval to provide National Guard support to an overwhelmed police force, more than 100 of whom were injured during the siege?
Another area lawmakers are expected to address at the joint homeland security and rules committee hearing on Tuesday is the cause of death of Capitol Hill Police Officer Brian Sicknick. The first reports that Sicknick was hit and killed by a fire extinguisher have yet to be verified, but his death shook the Capitol community and became emblematic of the devastation rioters could have inflicted had the day taken a even darker twist.
A third unknown hovering above the discussion is the role of President Nancy Pelosi and then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in orchestrating the security response. Some details began to leak, suggesting the two leaders were puzzled by the failure of their chamber sergeants-at-arms to immediately seek National Guard help – as well as not having guards ready to go. advance – once the riot has become a clear threat to the safety of lawmakers.
“The failure of the country’s law enforcement apparatus to fully understand the gravity of the situation, coupled with the president’s dramatic and deliberate incitement to violence, has led to the failure of all previously planned plans. presented to Congress, ”said Drew Hammill, a Pelosi aide. .
Leaders on both sides agreed during the crisis that Capitol Police leadership “should have requested the physical deployment of the National Guard to protect the US Capitol complex long before Jan. 6,” Hammill added.
Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned after the Jan.6 attack, could shed light on all aspects of the security response. He suggested in media interviews that urgent efforts to elicit a response from the National Guard have become entangled in muddled chain of command issues, with House and Senate sergeants-at-arms delaying approval, and Pentagon officials worried about the “optics” of troops ring the Capitol.
These former sergeants-at-arms, Michael Stenger of the Senate and Paul Irving of the House, will testify alongside Sund at the hearing, in addition to Robert Contee III, acting chief of the Washington, DC Police Department.
Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the Rules Committee’s top Republican, said he wanted to better understand the nature of the conversations between Stenger, Irving and Sund. Blunt also said he wanted to examine whether the current Capitol Police structure “really works” – not just on a day-to-day basis, but in emergency situations.
Later this week, the House Appropriations Committee will hear testimony from Sund’s successor, Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman, as well as Irving’s successor, Acting Sergeant-at-Arms Timothy Blodgett.
Tuesday’s hearing comes as part of a national push by law enforcement at all levels to hunt down and prosecute the worst players in the January 6 insurgency.
More than 200 riot participants have been arrested – some for trespassing, others for assaulting police. More recently, prosecutors have laid conspiracy charges against nine members of the extremist militia known as Oath Keepers, alleging the group had mobilized and traveled to Washington to explicitly block constitutionally required efforts of Congress. to certify Biden’s victory. Although prosecutors initially indicated that some rioters could face even more serious charges of seditious conspiracy, none have yet been issued.
Still, the prosecution is expected to escalate. Biden attorney general candidate Merrick Garland told lawmakers on Monday he intended to make the investigation a top priority in the early days of his tenure. House and Senate lawmakers have also shown interest in continuing the links between rioters and white supremacists.