5 New Things We Learned (Or Didn’t) At First Jan. 6 Hearing With Current Capitol Security Officials

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 29: An eight-foot tall steel fence topped with concertina razor wire circles the U.S. Capitol January 29, 2021 in Washington, DC. The fence was built following the January 6 attack on the U.S... WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 29: An eight-foot tall steel fence topped with concertina razor wire circles the U.S. Capitol January 29, 2021 in Washington, DC. The fence was built following the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Donald Trump supporters that left five people dead and scores injured. In a statement Thursday, U.S. Capitol Police acting Chief Yogananda Pittman said a permanent perimeter fence should be built, among other recommendations. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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February 25, 2021 4:05 p.m.

The House on Thursday got its chance to investigate the security failures amid the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, as the current acting Capitol police chief and acting House sergeant at arms spoke publicly for the first time.

The hearing was a complement to one Tuesday in the Senate with the now-resigned officials who held those roles on the day of the attack. Thursday’s hearing was notably more tonally aggressive than its predecessor earlier in the week. 

Committee members grilled acting Chief Yogananda Pittman, the first Black and female officer to lead the force, on intelligence and communication failures that allowed the pro-Trump mob to waltz into the Capitol, leaving several people dead and others wounded, along with significant property damage. 

Here are five new nuggets of information we learned (or didn’t): 

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Phone Records Of Requests For National Guard Backup 

A big point of contention at Tuesday’s hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee was when exactly the call for National Guard backup went out and how it was handled. Members of the Guard didn’t arrive at the Capitol until the brunt of the violence had subsided, prompting many to wonder what caused the delay that left rank-and-file officers overwhelmed. 

Ex-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said Tuesday he first called Paul Irving, the former House sergeant at arms, to request Guard backup at 1:09 p.m. on January 6. Irving contradicted that account, saying that he had no phone records showing a call with Sund before 1:28 p.m. 

On Thursday, Pittman said that her team had gotten a hold of Sund’s phone records indicating that he first called Irving at 12:58 p.m. She said that the records indicate several more calls within the next hour.

There were many questions about what went wrong in authorizing and deploying the National Guard, with some attention given to a conversation between Sund and the two sergeants at arms on January 4, when the former chief asked permission to keep the National Guard on standby. Irving reportedly said that he didn’t like the “optics” of issuing a state of emergency before the rally, a comment lawmakers have repeatedly mentioned. Tim Blodgett, the current acting House sergeant at arms, said that Irving hadn’t realized it was a formal request for backup. 

Insurrectionists Making Threats Regarding State Of The Union 

Pittman dropped a startling piece of information toward the end of the hearing: that members of the militias who were present for the insurrection have been making threats in connection to the State of the Union.

“We know that members of the militia groups that were present on January 6 have stated their desires that they want to blow up the Capitol and kill as many members as possible with the direct nexus to the State of the Union,” she said.

She did not give further details on the severity of the threat, but recommended that Capitol police stay in a robust, aggressive security posture at least until the speech.

Biden’s joint address to Congress hasn’t yet been scheduled, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) indicating that it won’t happen until the COVID-19 relief bill is passed, likely March at the earliest. It’s also not clear if the event would be in-person or virtual. 

Better Idea Of Investigation Timeline For Officers Accused Of Jan. 6 Misconduct

Pittman said that investigations into officers accused of misconduct usually follow a 60 to 90-day timeline. Currently, 35 officers are facing inquiries into alleged misconduct on the day of the insurrection. Pittman said that she’d report out the results of those investigations when they concluded, adding that six officers have been suspended with their police powers revoked. 

The Capitol police union, which took an overwhelming “no confidence” vote on Pittman a little over a month after her elevation, is adamantly opposed to the investigations, calling them “an attempt by USCP’s upper management to divert the attention away from their significant leadership failures of January 6th.”

Don’t Hold Your Breath For Press Briefings 

Pittman flatly refused to agree to hold press briefings in the future, telling Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) that her primary commitment is to her officers’ wellbeing and answering to the congressional committees that oversee the force. She offered that the department has issued some press releases since the attack.

Chairman Tim Ryan (D-OH) encouraged her to be more transparent, saying that both reporters and the American people deserve to hear directly from her.

The Capitol police department is famously opaque, and there has been a notable lack of press briefings from the agencies involved after such a high-profile disaster. 

What We Can Expect Looking Forward 

There’s still an awful lot we don’t know. Even specific issues like delays in the National Guard authorization chain have yet to be fully explained. 

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), chair of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, has said that there will be another hearing next week on the Capitol attack featuring Pentagon, Homeland Security and FBI officials. 

In one tantalizing piece of new information, Ryan’s Communications Director Michael Zetts told TPM that security videos related to rioters possibly being given “reconnaissance” Capitol tours before the January 6 attack have been turned over to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

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