Feb. 23 (UPI) — Four law enforcement and security officers who were on duty during the Jan. 6 mob attack at the U.S. Capitol testified in Congress Tuesday and revealed a portrait of several failures that allowed the assault to occur and cause several deaths.
Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, Washington, D.C., Metro Police Chief Robert Contee, former House sergeant-at-arms Paul Irving and former Senate sergeant-at-arms Michael Stenger appeared before a joint hearing of the Senate homeland security and rules committees.
The event is the first public hearing to examine the Capitol attack, which was organized and led by radical supporters of former President Donald Trump to disrupt Congress’ certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral win.
Lawmakers called for the hearing to find out about what intelligence existed before Jan. 6 to indicate that an attack was coming, what steps were taken to prepare for possible violence and why it took so long to call in the National Guard.
Sund said he made a request for help from the National Guard as officers struggled to maintain control of the perimeter around the Capitol, but said he wasn’t allowed to do it without an emergency declaration from the Capitol Police Board.
“It’s a standing rule that we have,” he said. “It’s just a process that’s in place.”
Irving said he didn’t get Sund’s request for at least 20 minutes, during which time the mob of rioters advanced on the Capitol.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said that because security is divided between the House and Senate, it may have created some of the confusion.
Contee said he was “stunned” by the hesitation in calling in the National Guard and described a phone call with military officials in which there appeared to be more concern about bad optics than protecting the Capitol Police officers.
He said Sund “pleaded” with military officials to send in the National Guard.
“In response to that, there was not an immediate ‘yes,'” Contee said. “The response was more about asking about the plan. What was the plan for the National Guard?
“The response was more … the optics and how would this look with boots on the ground in the Capitol. My response to that was I was stunned.”
Sund said no one thought that, based on intelligence, that the breach of the Capitol was foreseeable.
“Even if you look at some of our partner agencies, acting Chief Contee actually made the statement that the breach of the Capitol was not something anyone anticipated,” he said. “Nor do I think some of our federal partners expected it. I don’t think Secret Service who brought out the vice president (Mike Pence) expected it.”
In his remarks, Sund said some of the attackers were “prepared for war” and some even identified themselves as police officers to get inside the building.
All four who testified Tuesday said they agreed with the statement that White supremacist and extremist groups were involved in the attack.
Sund, however, said the Capitol Police were not unprepared for the assault.
“A clear lack of accurate and complete intelligence across several federal agencies contributed to this event and not poor planning by the United States Capitol Police,” he said.
Trump was impeached by the House for inciting an insurrection, but he was acquitted in the Senate when 43 Senate Republicans voted against the charge.