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Will we see the full Jan. 6 record? Ex-Capitol Police chief’s book raises questions

House Jan. 6 committee
Getty Images/Pool
The House Jan. 6 committee holds a hearing on Thursday, October 13, 2022 to focus on former President Trump’s efforts to remain in power following his 2020 election defeat.

New audio tapes and a pre-release book obtained by NewsNation’s “OnBalance” program offer further evidence of the House Jan. 6 committee’s having anti-Trump motivation instead of a good-faith effort to prevent another Jan. 6 tragedy. (The tapes and excerpts will air tonight on NewsNation at 7 p.m.)

The committee spent the vast majority of its public hearings examining then-President Trump’s role in the Capitol riot and his response once it began. We all remember the committee’s photos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) huddled in a secure room, on the phone desperately trying to summon help. If not for Trump, the committee’s narrative went, they never would have been in that situation — which may be true.

However, a book by then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, to be published in January, and tapes of his testimony to the committee both remind us that the committee seemingly ignored security decisions leading up to Jan. 6, including but not limited to intelligence failures and a critical decision not to call up the National Guard to protect the Capitol.

“OnBalance” obtained exclusive recordings of some of that evidence, which show significant differences between the Jan. 6 committee’s TV hearings and the testimony it received.

Fearing a riot on Jan. 6, 2021, Sund testified that he asked on Jan. 3 for the National Guard to help secure the Capitol but was rebuffed. “To feel more comfortable, I wanted more personnel on my perimeter,” Sund said in an audio clip of his committee deposition.

“I first went over, went to Paul Irving’s (House Sergeant-at-Arms) office at 9:24 in the morning, and asked him specifically, ‘I would like to request National Guard for Jan. 6.’ So he, he immediately responded ‘(I) don’t don’t like the optics.’ I responded, you know, I’d like him to help support the perimeter. And he goes, ‘The intelligence.’ The response was the intelligence doesn’t support that.”

To date, the Jan. 6 committee has not addressed what, if any, intelligence existed at the time warning of potential threats to the Capitol. But Sund’s book points to a list of warnings before Jan. 6; his testimony raises questions about whether Irving or others felt pressure to protect “optics” rather than the security of the Capitol and members of Congress. Various public accounts of these discussions differ between the men, and Irving specifically denies declining to call up the Guard because of Pelosi’s concerns.

Trump and other Republicans claim that pressure from Pelosi and Washington’s mayor and intelligence failures led to a poorly prepared, poorly defended capital.

“OnBalance” obtained an advance copy of Sund’s book, titled “Courage Under Fire,” which largely confirms this narrative and raises issues from before and during the Jan. 6 riot. This is not an excuse or an apology for the riots — but it does shed light on the House committee’s apparent focus on “getting” Trump rather than exhaustively, impartially reporting on events before, during and after the riot.

Sund claims Irving’s reference to “optics” was a direct order from Pelosi or, at the very least, an expression by the House sergeant-at-arms — a political, not a law enforcement, officer — of Pelosi’s wishes. If not for Pelosi’s refusal, Sund insists, he would have pre-positioned the D.C. National Guard and might have prevented rioters from breaking into the Capitol.

Sund criticizes the House sergeant-at-arms for allegedly blocking him and cites a lunch meeting with Michael Stenger, the former Senate sergeant-at-arms, discussing Sund’s Jan. 3 request. From Sund’s book: “He (Stenger) said Irving had called him and told him I would be coming his way to request the Guard. According to Stenger, Irving told him, ‘Sund just came here requesting the National Guard. We have to come up with another idea. Pelosi is never going to go for that.’ ” (Stenger died last June.)

Irving’s response to this should be in his Jan. 6 committee testimony. Yet, with the exception of a precious few snippets of the committee’s 1,000-plus interviews — for example, Sund testified before the committee for more than six hours, of which the committee never released one word — we don’t know what the committee was told.

According to The Washington Post, Pelosi’s spokesperson previously said “there had been no discussions between Irving and either Pelosi or her staff about National Guard deployment before Jan. 6. ‘We are not involved in the day-to-day operations of that office at all,’ he said. ‘We expect security professionals to make security decisions.’ ”

Lack of transparency remains a key criticism of the Jan. 6 committee, which is expected to issue its final report before Republicans take control of the House in January. NBC News has reported that the committee will release transcripts of interviews that weren’t used in hearings, but it is unclear if it will release everything or stick to its evident pattern of choosing only that which damages Trump.

Sund’s testimony corresponds with previously reported criticism about Jan. 6 security, including the delay in sending National Guardsmen to the Capitol. He says he called Army Gen. Walter Piatt on the afternoon of Jan. 6, telling him: “I need the National Guard ASAP. … Gen. Piatt said, and I will never forget this, ‘Yeah, you know, I don’t know, I’m concerned about the optics of the National Guard standing in line with the Capitol in the background.’ You know, here I am getting my officers getting beaten, and they’re worried about the optics of the National Guard. And he said, ‘My recommendation is to deny the request.’ I will not forget that. I was borderline getting pretty pissed off.”

The White House reportedly refused to promote Piatt in October because of his actions on Jan. 6.

Sund’s book clearly attempts to settle some longstanding grievances, especially with Speaker Pelosi, who asked for his resignation a day after the riot and said publicly that he had not called her during or after the Jan. 6 attack. Sund has said Pelosi is not telling the truth, and claims in his book that he called three times on the late afternoon of Jan. 6, including once with then-Vice President Mike Pence on the phone.

The back cover to Sund’s book promises explosive answers to questions such as “Why didn’t the FBI and Department of Homeland Security issue a joint intelligence bulletin regarding January 6th threats?” Whether the book lives up to a convincing standard of proof on that and other issues is left to the reader. That said, the book highlights that so much of the factual record — including thousands of hours of sworn depositions — remains known by the Jan. 6 committee but not by the American people.

Leland Vittert is a veteran journalist who joined NewsNation as an anchor/correspondent in 2021 and hosts “On Balance with Leland Vittert” weekday evenings. He has covered national and international affairs for 20 years, including the Arab Spring revolutions in Egypt and Libya in 2011 and war in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Tags Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer Donald Trump Jan. 6 Capitol attack Jan. 6 Committee Michael Stenger Nancy Pelosi National Guard Paul Irving Steven Sund Walter Piatt

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