Washington, DC – Former U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) Chief Steven Sund testified at Tuesday’s Senate committee hearing that he never received a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report that warned some protesters were preparing for “war” at the Capitol.
The FBI’s Norfolk, Virginia Field Office sent out an alert on Jan. 5 that detailed calls for violence at the Capitol complex the next day, including some that urged those attending the events in the nation’s capital to arrive “ready for war,” The Hill reported.
An officer at the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) forwarded the bulletin to the Capitol Police Intelligence Division, but the warning was never sent up the USCP chain of command from there.
Former Chief Sund told senators at the hearing on Feb. 23 that he only found out about the alert a day earlier, right before he was scheduled to testify before the committee, according to The Hill.
“No entity, including the FBI, provided any intelligence indicating that there would be a coordinated violent attack on the United States Capitol by thousands of well-equipped armed insurrectionists,” former Chief Sund testified in written remarks about a conference, according to the Associated Press.
DC Metropolitan Police Acting Chief Robert Contee and the now-former sergeants-at-arms of the House and Senate also testified that they hadn’t seen the FBI’s warning.
Chief Contee allowed that the FBI had sent an email about it to the DC police that was never forwarded to him, The Hill reported.
But he said he thought “something as violent as an insurrection at the Capitol would warrant a phone call,” and pointed out that his cell phone is on 24 hours a day.
“There was a failure to take this threat more seriously,” U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-Michigan), the Democratic chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said.
There was also a dispute about the communication between security heads in the days leading up to and during the Capitol riot, The Hill reported.
In the days immediately following the riot, former Chief Sund said he had asked six times for additional help to protect the U.S. Capitol that day ahead of the events but was turned down repeatedly, The Washington Post reported.
Then-Chief Sund called the sergeants at arms for the House and Senate two days ahead of the planned protest and asked them to request that the National Guard be put on emergency standby.
But despite all of that intelligence about what might happen, House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving said that he wasn’t comfortable with the “optics” of declaring an emergency ahead of time, The Washington Post reported.
Former Chief Sund said that Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger told him to informally contact the National Guard and asked them to “lean forward” and be prepared to back up USCP officers.
The now-former chief said he did as he was told and reached out to Major General William J. Walker, the head of the DC National Guard, and also conferred with new DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Robert Contee, whom he said promised backup for Capitol police if it was needed, The Washington Post reported.
Irving disputed the former police chief’s account and testified on Feb. 23 that former Chief Sund’s impression that the sergeant-at-arms had concerns about optics was “categorically false,” The Hill reported.
The former sergeant-at-arms for the House told the senate committee the decision not to call in the National Guard ahead of Jan. 6 was a “collective judgement” of the Capitol Police chief, Stenger, and himself.
There was also disagreement about communications timeline requesting National Guard help on Jan. 6, The Hill reported.
Former Chief Sund said that he reached out to Stenger and Irving at 1:09 p.m. to ask them to call in the National Guard but said he didn’t receive that approval until 2:10 p.m., 11 minutes after the Capitol building had been breached by rioters, The Washington Post reported.
But Irving told the senate committee members that he was on the House floor at 1:09 p.m. and his phone records don’t show he received a call from the police chief at that time, The Hill reported.
The former sergeant-at-arms for the House said he got the first call from Chief Sund at 1:28 p.m. and the chief didn’t formally request National Guard help until 2 p.m.
The timeline is important because some lawmakers have blamed capitol security chiefs and said an earlier request for help would have prevented injuries and deaths, according to The Hill.
U.S. Department of Defense officials who are scheduled to testify before the committee next week have claimed they offered National Guard troops to assist at the Capitol complex several days ahead of the riot but their offers were declined, the Associated Press reported.
Controversy erupted during the hearing over House Speak Nancy Pelosi’s (D-California) selection of retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Russel Honoré to head up the investigation into the Capitol riot, The Hill reported.
Honoré began blasting Capitol Police officers for being “complicit” in the Capitol riot just a few days after the attack on the building and said that a significant number of the officers were “Trumpsters.”
“I think once this all gets uncovered, it was complicit actions by Capitol Police,” Honoré told MSNBC.
He said officials needed to investigate whether former Chief Sund “was … complicit along with the sergeant at arms in the House and the Senate.”
All three former security chiefs testified that they were in no way complicit with the attack on the U.S. Capitol and the former police chief hit back, The Hill reported.
“I think it’s disrespectful to myself and to the members of the Capitol Police Department,” former Chief Sund said.
U.S. Capitol Police Captain Carneysha Mendoza, a U.S. Army veteran and 19-year veteran of the police force, testified about what happened when she responded to the emergency call for more help at the Capitol complex on Jan. 6.
Capt. Mendoza described the Capitol riot as “the worst of the worst” scene of her career, and said the chemical burns to her face that she got that day have still not healed, according to the Associated Press.
“As an American, and as an Army veteran, it’s sad to see us attacked by our fellow citizens,” the police captain testified.
The only subject that had bipartisan agreement was the need to take down the new, razor-wire-topped security fence constructed around the U.S. Capitol complex after the riot, The Hill reported.
U.S. Capitol Police Active Chief Yogananda Pittman said she wants to keep the fence up until at least September.
But both Republican and Democratic senators called for its removal during the Feb. 23 hearing, The Hill reported.
“This is a public building,” U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) said. “And you want the school groups, and you want the veterans, and you want people to be able to visit here.”
Klobuchar called for “some smart security changes to the complex” but said “no, it does not have to be barbed wire,” according to The Hill.