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Senate bipartisan probe into Capitol riot to begin with close scrutiny of security failures

WASHINGTON – As House leaders negotiate the formation of a 9/11-type commission to investigate the Jan.6 attack on the Capitol, a bipartisan group of senators continue a series of investigative hearings to examine the blackouts security forces who failed to prevent the deadly pro-Trump rampage.

The investigation begins Tuesday with a joint hearing of two Senate committees to question officials tasked with securing the Capitol during the attack, when Capitol Hill police officers and District of Columbia police called in as reinforcements was invaded as the Vice President and members of the House and Senate were gathered inside.

The meeting of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and the Rules and Administration Committee will be the first time the public hears from the two senior security officials on Capitol Hill on the day of the assault, both of whom have resigned following the historical breach.

Paul D. Irving, the former House Sergeant-at-Arms, and Michael C. Stenger, the former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms, have come under scrutiny amid reports that they do not did not act quickly enough to call the National Guard. The committees will also hear from Steven A. Sund, the former Capitol Police chief, who also resigned, and Robert J. Contee, the chief of the Metropolitan Police Department.

“I support the commission,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota and chair of the administration committee, which oversees Capitol Hill security. “But it is important to disseminate the information under oath as soon as possible. While the 9/11 commission may be ongoing, decisions must be made about the Capitol, as soon as possible. “

“They are all participating voluntarily,” Ms. Klobuchar said of the witnesses.

The attack left nearly 140 police officers injured and several dead. Mr Sund previously said in a letter to Congress that the sergeants-at-arms rejected his request for a National Guard before Jan.6 and did not respond quickly that day when he called troops urgently to help his officers.

The hearing will be the first in a series of surveillance hearings hosted by Ms Klobuchar and Senator Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan and Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, as well as senior Republicans from both panels, Senators Roy Blunt of Missouri and Rob Portman of Ohio.

But already the decision to investigate the Capitol Riot – the deadliest attack on the building where Congress meets in 200 years – has become political. Republicans are resisting a proposal by California Democrat President Nancy Pelosi to form an independent bipartisan commission modeled on the one that investigated the 9/11 terrorist attacks, arguing that her plan would skew the commission toward Democrats.

In Ms Pelosi’s outline for the committee, according to two Democrats who know her, each of the four top leaders in Congress would appoint two members and President Biden would appoint three, including the committee chair.

“It is our responsibility to understand the security and intelligence failures that led to the January 6 riots so that we can better protect this institution and the men and women who work there,” said California Representative Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the minority. in a statement invoking the chairs of the 9/11 Commission. “A commission must follow the advice of Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton to be both ‘independent and bipartisan’, and to maintain this integrity, it must be distributed fairly between the two parties.”

The 10-member National Commission on the Terrorist Attacks on the United States, which was the product of an intense round of negotiations on Capitol Hill, was evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.

In the Senate, the next investigative hearing, whose date is not yet scheduled, will focus on the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense and the threat of domestic extremism, according to the senators and their collaborators.

“Decisions need to be made on how we can improve the coordination of security information,” Ms. Klobuchar said. “Decisions have to be made about who will be new to these jobs. You have to see the whole landscape here to find out what went wrong and how we can do better. “

Mr Peters said he believed there would be several inquiries into the Capitol attack. During Tuesday’s hearing, Mr Peters said he would question security officials about intelligence failures before January 6, communication failures and slow responses to calls for help.

“This will be the first time these officials have spoken publicly,” said Peters. “Obviously there was no adequate preparation. There has clearly been a leadership failure.

Mr Peters said he also expected lawmakers to question why the police presence was lower for the “Save America Rally” on January 6 than for the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer. . Mr Peters led a bipartisan group of senators in sending a letter to 22 agencies asking for detailed explanations of their security preparedness and response that day.

In a statement, Mr Portman said Republicans and Democrats wanted to get to the bottom of the security failures on Capitol Hill that day.

“I look forward to hearing directly from those responsible for securing the Capitol complex who made the decisions regarding the preparations and response efforts that led to the security failures that endangered the life of the Vice President. Pence, members of Congress, first responders and staff, ”Mr. Portman said. “This will provide information on the reforms to be undertaken so that nothing like January 6 happens again.”

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