Senate committees holds first hearings on Capitol insurrection

WASHINGTON — Congress is set to hear from top law enforcement officials Tuesday in its first hearing on the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol last month, which left at least five people dead and delayed the ratification of President Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election win.

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The Senate Committees on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the Committee on Rules and Administration will hold a joint hearing beginning at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. Senators are expected to aggressively question officials about security failures in the lead up to and during the insurrection.

Three of the four officials scheduled to testify, former U.S. Capitol police Chief Steven Sund, former sergeant-at-arms of the House of Representatives Paul Irving and former sergeant-at-arms of the Senate Michael Stenger, resigned under pressure after the attack, according to Reuters and The Associated Press. Robert Contee, the acting chief of police in Washington, will also testify at the hearing.

On Jan. 6, supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers were gathered to confirm Biden’s election win. Video from the insurrection showed overwhelmed police forces attempting keep the violent mob from entering the Capitol. Rioters brawled with police, shoving aside barriers and using flagpoles, police shields and other items to break windows for access into the Capitol.

Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar told the AP that senators will focus on the timing of the National Guard deployment, which eventually helped police to restore order. Officials will also focus on how security agencies shared information ahead of the attack and if the command structure of the Capitol Police Board, which includes the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms, contributed to the failures.

“It was a horror what happened, we all know that,” she told the AP. “But if we are going to have solutions and a safer Capitol going forward, we have to identify what went wrong, what the issues were, and the answers we’ll get are part of that solution.”

In an interview last month with NPR, Sund said he spoke with Irving on Jan. 4 about getting help from the National Guard, but he said Irving turned the request down because he was concerned about the optics. He added that Capitol Police did not get intelligence from the FBI or other agencies of any orchestrated attack, according to NPR.

However, The Washington Post reported that the FBI office in Norfolk, Virginia, issued a warning about extremists gathering in Washington with violence in mind one day before the Capitol riot. Days before the attack, on Jan. 3, an internal intelligence report from Capitol police also warned that “Congress itself” could be targeted by angry Trump supporters on Jan. 6, according to the Post.

Authorities have arrested more than 200 people on charges connected to the Jan. 6 unrest. At his confirmation hearing Monday, Biden’s pick for attorney general, Merrick Garland, said prosecuting “white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol” would be among his top priorities.

The riot prompted lawmakers to launch a historic second impeachment of Trump, who was previously impeached by the House of Representatives on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in 2019. The House impeached Trump for “incitement of insurrection,” though the Senate voted to acquit him.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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