House Republicans request hearing with Capitol Police Board for first time since 1945
Republican members of the House Administration Committee are requesting a hearing with the Capitol Police Board, which oversees the police force, to discuss security preparations leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection.
A hearing convened with all of the Capitol Police Board’s voting members — the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms as well as the Architect of the Capitol — would be the first since 1945, the GOP lawmakers noted.
“The events of January 6th highlighted significant problems with the [board’s] structure and responsibilities,” Republican Reps. Rodney Davis (Ill.), Barry Loudermilk (Ga.) and Bryan Steil (Wis.) wrote in a letter Thursday to House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).
The letter, released on Monday, added that the board’s “structure is flawed, leading to slow reactions to crises and politically driven decision-making.”
Ex-Capitol Police chief Steven Sund has said that he asked the now-former House and Senate sergeants-at-arms ahead of Jan. 6 for permission to request placing the D.C. National Guard on standby in case police needed reinforcements to help control the expected pro-Trump crowd. Sund has said both sergeants-at-arms turned down his request, with Paul Irving, the House sergeant-at-arms at the time, saying he wasn’t comfortable with the “optics” of formally making an emergency declaration ahead of the Electoral College proceedings.
The U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) chief serves in an ex-officio nonvoting capacity on the Capitol Police Board. Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton, meanwhile, has said that he was not informed of Sund’s request leading up to Jan. 6.
“When warranted, the [board] has the serious responsibility to make the decision to declare an emergency, a determination required to authorize the USCP Chief to call in the National Guard. However, on January 6th, the [board’s] bureaucratic structure and partisan membership crippled its rapid response capabilities and decision-making abilities, and the United States Capitol Complex remained in chaos and without National Guard assistance for hours,” Davis, Loudermilk and Steil wrote.
The House and Senate sergeants-at-arms are appointed by congressional leaders, while the Architect of the Capitol is nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Former President Trump nominated Blanton.
Irving was first nominated to his post by former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in December 2011 and remained in his post until his resignation shortly after Jan. 6. The Senate sergeant-at-arms serving on Jan. 6, Michael Stenger, was nominated to his post by Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in 2018; he also stepped down after the insurrection.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has since nominated William Walker, who was the chief of the D.C. National Guard on Jan. 6, to fill the vacancy left by Irving. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), meanwhile, tapped Karen Gibson to serve as the new Senate sergeant-at-arms.
Lofgren said at a hearing with Capitol Police inspector general Michael Bolton last month that the structure of the Capitol Police Board “needs to be reviewed.”
Bolton has been issuing a series of reports on the Capitol Police’s handling of Jan. 6 and issued recommendations to reform the force’s intelligence structure and maintenance of equipment. More inspector general reports are expected on the Capitol Police’s emergency response team, training and other topics.
Lofgren said Friday that Bolton’s latest report, which focused on threat assessment and counter-surveillance operations, “identified troubling deficiencies.” Lofgren said that she will convene another hearing with Bolton in the coming weeks to discuss his findings and recommendations.
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