President Biden fired the Architect of the Capitol on Monday in a brief, terse letter, bringing an end to the career of a Trump appointee that was mostly illustrious for its vibrant allegations of wrongdoing.
Trump nominated J. Brett Blanton to the position in December 2019.
Since then, Blanton has picked up criticism for refusing to come near the building on January 6, allegedly impersonating a police officer, allegedly misusing his government car, and apparently dissembling when questioned about it by lawmakers.
Blanton’s behavior resulted in bipartisan condemnation; even though he was Trump’s man, the allegations around his tenure appear to have been so egregious that House Republicans began to push for his ouster last week. Biden fired Blanton after Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) tweeted earlier on Monday that he did not have confidence in the architect.
Architect of the Capitol is an odd position in that it oversees the seat of the legislative branch, but is appointed by the President. The position itself comes with some responsibility including a seat on the Capitol Police board.
It also comes with some privileges, like a government car, with which, according to an inspector general report released in October 2022, Blanton went hog wild.
The inspector general opened its investigation after receiving a tip that two people were speeding in a black Ford Explorer owned by the Office of the Architect of the Capitol through a Walmart parking lot in Northern Virginia, traveling at around 65 mph in a 30 mph zone.
“The complainant claimed the driver made obscene gestures toward them while at the stop sign outside the parking garage,” the report reads. “The OIG later identified the driver and passenger to be the daughters of Mr. James Brett Blanton, SR-00, Architect of the Capitol.”
The report also found that Blanton and his family allegedly used three government cars for personal reasons, including vacations to South Carolina and Florida.
In one incident described in the report, Blanton used his government-owned Jeep Grand Cherokee to chase down a driver who hit a car belonging to Blanton’s daughter’s boyfriend. After purportedly “activating emergency equipment” on the car and reaching the driver, Blanton allegedly falsely identified himself as an “off-duty DC police officer.”
Blanton purportedly appeared at pre-trial hearings in the matter under that persona.
At a hearing of the House Administration Committee held last week, Blanton attempted to defend himself, telling lawmakers that he had avoided the Capitol on January 6 because he believed his car was a “mobile command post” and that it would not be “prudent” to approach the Capitol.
That earned him ire from both sides of the aisle, with Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK) calling it “mind-blowing” that Blanton “would not have been in this building ensuring the safety and security not only of the building but of the employees that you lead.”
At another point in the hearing, Blanton said that he took his government car to vacation locales that featured “military airlift” capabilities in case he had to return to the Capitol on short notice.
When asked about the allegations regarding the family use of his car, Blanton demurred. “That would be something that would have to be discussed with them,” he replied.