A Trump supporter holds a Trump flag during the attack on the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
The FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security failed to share intelligence with the U.S. Capitol Police ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, leaving the Capitol Police under-prepared for that day’s violence, the former chief of the Capitol Police told a U.S. House panel chaired by Georgia Republican Barry Loudermilk on Tuesday.
But Democrats at the House Administration hearing said the testimony by former USCP Chief Steven Sund didn’t change that former President Donald Trump bore responsibility for boosting baseless allegations that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen.
Trump then summoned supporters to the Capitol, urged them to disrupt then-Vice President Mike Pence’s ceremonial role in certifying the election and then stood by as his supporters attacked the Capitol, Democrats said.
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Sund told the panel: “Significant intelligence existed that individuals were plotting to storm the Capitol building, target lawmakers and discussing shooting my officers. And yet, no intel agencies or units sounded the alarm. We were blindsided. Intelligence failed operations. The January 6 attack at the Capitol was preventable.”
Sund told the House Administration Subcommittee on Oversight that besides intelligence failures, the U.S. National Guard had also been instructed not to assist Capitol Police out of concern for political “optics.”
Republicans on the panel, led by Loudermilk, used the hearing Tuesday to rebut the findings of the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol that Trump bore responsibility for the insurrection.
Loudermilk has a personal history with the Jan. 6 committee, and noted Tuesday he had been “a target” of the panel.
The committee asked Loudermilk last year to answer questions about a Capitol tour he gave the day before the attack. Some Democratic House members had said they suspected rioters used tours in the days leading up to the attack to gain a better understanding of the Capitol’s layout.
Democrats said Tuesday that Trump, who faces criminal indictments in connection with Jan. 6, is the main responsible party.
“The person responsible for directing the violence to the Capitol that day in order to undermine — to undermine — a peaceful transfer of power is the favorite to secure the Republican nomination for president,” subcommittee ranking Democrat Norma Torres of California said, referring to Trump’s 2024 bid to reclaim the presidency.
Intelligence breakdown and National Guard slowdown
Sund, who resigned from the Capitol Police two days after the Capitol attack, said that intelligence made public since the attack could have prevented that day’s violence if it was shared ahead of time.
“If the intelligence had been accurately reported and the FBI and DHS had followed their policies and established practices, I wouldn’t be sitting here today,” he told the panel.
“This could have been preventable if we had gotten the intelligence they had,” he later told Virginia Republican Morgan Griffith.
Sund’s department’s own intelligence operations also failed to note the potential danger in the days leading up to the attack, he said.
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The USCP Intelligence Division issued a Jan. 3 intelligence assessment, but didn’t highlight an imminent concern, Sund said. The division had intelligence available, but failed to include it, Sund testified.
Sund also told the panel that he was stymied in efforts to have National Guard troops assist U.S. Capitol police.
He’d asked the sergeant at arms of each chamber of Congress on Jan. 3 for permission to call in the National Guard, but was denied in deference to the “optics” of having National Guard troops at the Capitol, he said.
On Jan. 6, he asked House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving to call the National Guard, but didn’t receive approval for more than an hour, he said. The Guard’s arrival at the Capitol was delayed hours more by Defense Department officials, who also cited “the optics of the National Guard on Capitol Hill,” he said.
Memos on Jan. 4 and Jan. 5 from the Defense Department and Department of Army restricted the D.C. National Guard from being involved in responding to Jan. 6 pro-Trump protests, Sund confirmed in response to House Administration ranking Democratic Joseph Morelle of New York.
Sund was unaware of those restrictions until after the attack, he said.
Jan. 6 committee questioned
Loudermilk and other Republicans on the panel used Sund’s testimony to blame the attack on former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — not Trump, as the U.S. House committee that investigated the attack, found.
The Jan. 6 committee didn’t ask Sund to appear, the former chief said Tuesday, in response to a question from Loudermilk.
Republicans highlighted Sund’s testimony that Irving delayed National Guard backup and noted that, as the House’s top law enforcement officer, Irving reported to Pelosi.
“None of us in this room are saying what happened on Jan. 6 was correct,” U.S. Rep. Greg Murphy, a North Carolina Republican, said. “But I absolutely believe the conditions for that to occur rest at the former speaker’s lap and the two sergeant at arms, and complicit with other individuals. You know, it’s one thing for something to occur, but it’s another thing to create the conditions for that to occur.”
Trump has also called Pelosi responsible for the attack, a claim Pelosi rejected on “The Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart” on MSNBC.
“He knows he’s responsible for that, so he projects it onto others,” Pelosi said of Trump. “The assault on the Capitol building, the assault on the Constitution, the assault on our democracy. Shame on him.”
Morelle at the hearing disagreed with the Republicans’ effort to shift blame to Pelosi.
“I’m disturbed by that you don’t blame the rioters or the president,” Morelle said. “It’s like blaming a homeowner when he or she is robbed instead of blaming the intruder.”
Morelle added that Irving had been appointed and reappointed to his post by Republican former Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan.
Further, Sund’s account of the National Guard’s delay on Jan. 6 could not solely be attributed to Irving, Morelle noted. The Pentagon, which then was controlled by Trump appointees, also contributed to the delay in sending National Guard troops, he said.
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