Finger-Pointing Begins Over Riot in Senate Hearing

'I was stunned at the response from Department of the Army,' says DC's police chief
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2021 1:57 PM CST
Top Security Officials Didn't See FBI Warning Day Before Riot
Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund testifies at a Senate hearing Tuesday.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Senators on Tuesday began trying to unravel why Capitol rioters were able to advance as far as they did on Jan. 6. On the hot seat for testimony: Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, former House sergeant-at-arms Paul Irving, former Senate sergeant-at-arms Michael Stenger, and acting DC Police Chief Robert Contee. The first three resigned under pressure after the riot. Some highlights:

  • FBI warning: The day before the riot, the FBI's field office in Norfolk, Va., issued a warning that said extremists were calling for violence on Jan. 6 and heading to DC "ready for war," reports the Hill. However, of the four security officials, only Contee actually saw the warning, per the Washington Post.
  • Didn't advance: "I actually just in the last 24 hours was informed by the department that we actually had received that report," Sund said. Underlings at the Capitol Police saw it, but it never got to Sund. Nor did the House and Senate sergeant-at-arms see it.
  • No phone call: Contee, the DC metro police chief, did see the FBI warning in the form of an email, but he said it was "raw information" and not "wholly vetted." He added that he believes a genuine warning of that nature would "warrant a phone call or something."

  • National Guard: As the AP sees it, a "remarkable breach" emerged between Sund and Irving (the former House sergeant-at-arms) about calling in the National Guard. For one thing, Sund says he made a request at 1:09pm, but Irving (one of Sund's superiors) says he didn't receive such a request until after 2pm.
  • Guard, II: Irving also denied the allegation that he resisted calling in the Guard because it would look bad. "I was not concerned about appearance whatsoever," he said. But in his prepared testimony, Sund said Irving shot down a request for troops in a Jan. 4 meeting. Irving "stated that he was concerned about the 'optics' of having National Guard present and didn’t feel that the intelligence supported it," Sund said.
  • Reluctance: Contee, meanwhile, said he was "surprised" and "stunned" at what he termed the Army's reluctance to send in the National Guard as the riot was unfolding, per the Hill. He told senators that he was on a call with Sund, Army representatives, and DC officials, and that Sund was "literally pleading" for troops, per the Post. "I have officers literally fighting for their lives," said Contee, but the talk "seemed like an exercise to check the boxes" instead of one focused on taking action. "I was stunned at the response from Department of the Army," said Contee, per the New York Times. Guard troops did not arrive at the Capitol until 5:40pm.
  • Failures across the board. Sund said the arrival of the mob was like nothing he'd seen in his 30 years of policing and argued that the riot was the result of failures across the board, not just by the Capitol Police, the AP reports. "No single civilian law enforcement agency— and certainly not the USCP—is trained and equipped to repel, without significant military or other law enforcement assistance, an insurrection of thousands of armed, violent, and coordinated individuals focused on breaching a building at all costs," he said.
(Read more Capitol attack stories.)

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